*UPDATED* You can shop at Costco WITHOUT a membership!

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This post was written just a month shy of 3 years ago, it’s been one of the most popular posts on TFF still getting daily visits!  I’ve heard mixed reviews from readers (as you can see in the comments) about whether or not it worked for them, is still working, etc.  However just this weekend a reader named Celeste left a comment saying that Costco verifys that you CAN use a Costco Gift Card to shop their store WITHOUT a membership!  Are you ready for this?  Head on over to their website and see it for yourself…

Costco has created another convenient way for members to pay for their purchases: The Costco Cash card. 

You must be a Costco member to purchase or reload Costco Cash Cards.  Members and non-members may use the cash cards to shop at any Costco location in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and online at Costco.com or on Costco.ca. Costco Cash balances may be used toward membership or merchandise.

Here’s the original post I wrote back on April 28th, 2010:

I had heard this from many people so I decided to go into Costco yesterday to verify it, sure enough it’s true!  I asked at the customer service desk if this was true and the lady said absolutely and began to tell me the ins & outs.  It was verified by several people behind the counter as she asked them for a few specific details.

Here is how you do it:

Purchase a Costco Cash Card (gift card) at the Customer Service desk, must be a minimum of $25.00.  Use that gift card as your “member’s card” to get into the store. Shop as you normally would. When you go to pay, you pay first with your gift card but any remaining balance must be paid with cash or debit (no American Express). That’s it! You’ve just shopped at Costco for free and saved the $50 a year membership fees.  Of course you don’t get the Costco Member benefits, cheap gas, etc but your items are still protected under Costco’s very generous return policy.

UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that you must be a Costco member to purchase a cash card, but the rest of the shopping trip remains the same.  So give a friend or family member some cash and you’re set!  You could consider asking them to purchase (4) $25 cash cards to use on separate shopping trips.  Then buy them lunch for being so kind.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This is exactly why I love my readers!  Reading through the comments I’ve learned that you CAN buy gas with a cash card and you can also purchase liquor and use the pharmacy to fill prescriptions, all without a membership!   You DO NOT need any type of card to enter the store if you’re using the pharmacy or purchasing liquor, it’s prohibited by law to require membership for those services.

Our family DOES have a membership and this is why we bought one.  With that said you need to know how to use it wisely.  Here are a few of my most recent Costco shopping tips and tricks posts:

  1. Everything You Need to Make 20 Meals at Costco For $150 & Utilize Your Slow Cooker
  2. This OR That? The Ketchup Edition.
  3. Tips for Saving Money by Buying BULK Canned Foods at Costco
  4. My Costco Kid’s Lunchbox Snack Ideas – $0.25 or less per serving!
  5. (Updated List!) Items I would NEVER buy at Costco…
  6. (Updated List!) Items I WILL buy at Costco…
  7. How to find Clearance items at Costco

Have you tried this?  I’d love to hear your experiences!

Leave a Comment


  1. I agree with Paul.

    It’s just plain stupid to pay a corporation for the privilege of giving them your money.

    Support the local farmers and small mom and pop businesses that made America great. These greedy corporations are thriving because of stupid Americans that don’t truly care about the country or the people. Support people, not corporations. Save your silly membership fee and use that money locally.

    • The reason for the “silly membership fee” is because Costco on average only markes their products up 10-13% so they make moste of their profits off of the fees. As for supporting the small business and helping the local guy. I for one have rarely seen a family owned grocery store. And when I do they often offer sub par products at high prices. The only people who benefit from this small business is the owner and their family. As their employees often make minimum wage and many are part timed to avoid health care costs. Costco does order local products in huge quantities by the truck load where as the local guy may order one or two pallets….So who helps out the local businesses more? Furthermore the “greedy corporation” that is Costco employs over 177,000 people. These employees, even part timers get great health care coverage, free executive membership, paid holidays off, time and a half on Sundays, 5 weeks of paid vacation a year, and earn an average of 20$ and hour…..so who is helping the economy more?…So who cares about the county or people? I think Costco does

    • Greedy? No, sorry, It is the small “mom & pop’s” who end up being greedy.

      Here’s an example. Our area has maybe 5-6 places you can buy vitamins and natural/organic products. IF they all got together and pooled their purchasing/renting a warehouse they could get deep, deep discounts on what they buy/sell and offer better prices to the consumer.

      But, they are GREEDY. It’s not like I would ever go to the health food store that’s 22 miles away, BUT, the small business owner is TERRIFIED of the other stores getting ANY business.

      Stupid and self-defeating.

      Similarly larger families ALSO could get together, pool resources, get a vendor license under a family limited partnership (or similar structure) and get products ordered in much cheaper. (Which is, essentially, how Costco got started).

      Blaming Costco for the bad business decisions of the local small businesses is just venal and trite.

  2. michelle says:

    They should take the membership fee out. This is why i dont go or sign up

    • Lovina rodriguez says:

      I agree , I used to be a member in Cosco but its been expired because I don’t go there all the time so I didn’t renewed my card. One time I went there and I bought a gift card to use it because I don’t want to spend fifty dollars to renew my membership for just thirty dollars amount what I want from there, the supervisor name Marco was so rude and loud telling me by the register that I cannot buy a gift card and used it( embarrassede the hell out me) I know they have policy but , these people should learned a respect and a costumer service as well, very bad experienced from there employee I hope the management inBridgewater cosco will check their employee once while for their costumer service.

      • That was at that ONE store and not the policy of Costco.

        Of course you can do it and of course that supervisor was wrong.

        Don’t blame the entire idea because a few people are less than intelligent or they want to grief on people.

      • Richard says:

        These people are lowlifes. I don’t know your economic status but I find the Latino people are not lowlifes. The people who run Costco are. That is really all I know about it. I don’t know why, I just know wherever you go, the Costco people are the worst.

    • Lovina rodriguez says:

      I agree , I used to be a member in Cosco but its been expired because I don’t go there all the time so I didn’t renew my card. One time I went there and I bought a gift card to use it because I don’t want to spend fifty dollars to renew my membership for just thirty dollars amount what I want from there, the supervisor name Marco was so rude and loud telling me by the register that I cannot buy a gift card and used it( embarrassed the hell out of me) I know they have policy but , these people should learned a respect and a costumer service as well, very bad experienced from their employee I hope the management inBridgeWater Cosco will check their employee once while for their costumer service.

  3. marie-claire says:

    I agree that:
    1. it simply is not cheaper at Costco, even when you are buying in bulk..
    2. Why would a company make you pay to shop in their store, most stores would pay you to shop there.
    3. If you buy from them online, ask a friend for their membership number then go ahead and make your purchase in your name, using your own credit card and your own address. Shows they really don’t care, the membership is just a marketing tool, to make customers feel they are privilidged.

    I have a friend who would go there to look around, she would walk in near a man who was going in by himself….saying married people usually walk in apart from each other anyways, so they looked like they were a couple.

    • You can shop online without a membership. You will pay a slightly higher price. I think 5% more. You can use a credit card like Visa which you can not use in the store. The only credit card they take there is American Express.

      If you do get the gold membership, you will get a percentage back in the form of a check. We buy enough there that it pays for us to do this. We get it all back plus a little more.

      • Please explain the details of what you say
        About getting it all back and how much
        $ do you spend? Thank you

        • It takes about $5500 or $105 a week to get enough of a rebate back to cover the $110 Executive membership. ANYONE can get an Executive membership you are not required to be a business or business owner/executive to purchase one.

          Since we buy a LOT of meat, eggs, cheese, coconut water (best price in town by about $1.50 a liter), salad fixings, maple syrup, vinegar (white, apple and balsamic), olive oil, baking soda, laundry soap (their Free version is the best I’ve ever used in 40 yrs of laundry), dishwasher and dish soap, and other things in bulk we easily spend that – not to mention things like Michelin tires for the hubby’s truck (saved about $210 at the cash register and got a Michelin $70 rebate on top of it).

          We bought leather euro-loungers this year when they went on sale for $399 each. We had been waiting for that sale and had saved up for it. Beautiful sturdy leather couches that double as sleepers for visitors.

          It’s like anything else. You HAVE to plan your trip. You HAVE to read the magazine/online site for what’s new in-store, look through the Costco coupon mailer (you don’t even have to clip them they are applied automatically) and MUST plan your expenditures for the next few weeks to a month (which is budgeting and should be done anyways).

          So, in theory, if you’re diligent and do your homework you could not only save tons over the local grocery and quick-stop store, you could get the some or all of the cost of membership back in a rebate check at the end of the membership year.

          Sister and brothers can go in for a card together since at the Executive level you can get cards for family members. You can combine purchasing for several families in one trip.

    • Read up people says:

      You cannot shop online at Costco.com with someone else’s membership, the order will be canceled.

  4. Just got back from Costco empty handed..Ran in to buy a $5 cooked chicken after work. Waited on line because they never have an express checkout ( at least in the Marlboro,NJ store), to be told that my membership expired 1 week ago. In order to get the chicken I would have to renew for $55 on the spot. I asked if I could renew next time and was told NO..Even paying taxes in NJ has a 10 day grace period! I have been trying to decide if Costco is important when it is just 2 people in household now..Picked up large blueberries afew weeks ago and they were awful..Well thanks Costco for making my decision for me! Terrible customer appreciation…

    • Its a year membership. Not a year and “whenever I want to pay again” membership. If that’s the reason you dont like costco then you have no respect for any business big OR small. You CAN return food and anything else including memberships 364 days of a full year. (gold /executive) and get your money back. That includes keeping your rewards check from Exec Membership. Wich you can cash out. That’s part of them taking care of thier members. 100% satisfaction garanteed.

  5. I purchased a Costco membership once and never renewed it! There is not much worth paying a large corporation for the priveledge of shopping there. I believe we all stop paying these large corporations for this “so called” privelidge”. They are not out there to help struggling families make ends meet by offering high priced bulk items. Some people think that becuase it is COSTCO, it must be inexpensive: compare prices and you will see that they are not offering a discount that you are paying for.

    • High priced bulk is a misconception.

      The ONLY way to figure out if there is a savings or not is by unit. Ounces or pieces. How much per ounce of cheese? How much per egg?

      If YOU want to pay an additional $.05 to $.25 per ounce/piece/unit on all of your products over the course of a year – then by all means – do so.

      Those of us who shop at warehouse stores know that all those pennies add up to paying off a big bill, or are savings towards vacation, or … but we do not waste our money.

      Paying more at the local grocery is STILL making someone else rich. Buying at the warehouse store is keeping more of your money in your pocket.

      • Anonymous says:

        unless you stockpile and use coupons

        • I agree… It is MUCH cheaper if you are smart and put in the effort to coupon. I would much rather pay 20%-30% of the item’s shelf price using a coupon than having to pay more and end up throwing out a portion of that expired bulk stuff. I don’t mind having to go to 3-4 different stores to get almost everything super cheap, or even FREE most of the time. All it takes is smart shopping. Warehouse stores are a complete ripoff compared to smart couponing.

  6. People pay the membership fee because unlike most stores that can mark their products up to 35% above wholesale, costco can only mark theirs up 14%. So you are only paying 14% more then they paid for it. The membership fee is also to help with the overhead associated with them. Costco employees are union employees and paid well.

    • Where does that 14% # come from?

    • Not only that, but it’s a price-point negotiating tool.

      If Costco can show the numbers that may buy a product because they will shop there due to membership – it’s better than any of the other loyalty programs that make big bucks selling the marketing information and don’t offer many deals at all.

      Costco get better deals because they can prove the numbers through memberships.

  7. Hugely helpful, as I often have relatives and friends who want me to add them to my membership, which costs $$$. Thanks!

  8. This is not correct at all. I was excited when I learned about it but most locations will not and are not allowed to give cash cards to Non-Members. Only members can purchase them as apparently a membership is required to begin Any transaction.

    • Eddie, this is exactly what she was talking about under Update: It’s been brought to my attention that you must be a Costco member to purchase a cash card… so read carefully! :)

    • B.S. Membership is not “required to begin Any [sic] transaction.”

      Federal law requires Costco to sell prescriptions to everyone at the same price, membership card or not. If they refuse, they will be fined. In some states (TN), they aren’t allowed to charge more to non-members for gasoline.

      • Federal law however does not require Costco to give access to anyone. They are a membership only club. There are no separate “members” and “non-members” prices because they only allow those who are authorized to access their private facility.

        The Tennessee law is meaningless because members and non-members might be charged the same for gas but non-members aren’t allowed access to the gas period. It is entirely legal for them do prohibit access without membership or other authorization.

  9. I love Costco! Yes definately some things you might as well not buy from Costco and you can find a better deal at somewhere else. However, I live in Southern California so the stores here DO NOT double coupons and some stores LIMIT the number to 5 like coupons in one trip. Gift cards to the movies, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Jamba Juice, are always available and are 20% off regular price. I gain my membership dues back alone in just those. Also, they have an awesome store return policy. You can return just about anything, anytime! You don’t need to keep your receipt, they just look it up by your mbrshp #.

  10. Some of he comments above are just not true. We save a bundle at Costco. Having an exc membership (cost $100) we get at least $300 back in a rebate check every spring. Some of the things are the same, in bigger bulk. Some are Kirkland brand, which is store brand. But the Kirkland items are premium items, better than you can get at the reg stores. Produce isn’t really saving$, but you again get high quality. We never plan a Costco trip without planning time take care of the food when we return home, such as rewrapping meat in dinner size portions and freezing for each meal. Along with other items

    • Did you know that the kirkland brand isn’t really Kirkland at all! They don’t sit there and make all of these products! They have a contract with one of the other companies that makes them and partners with them. Then they just stick the Kirkland Brand on it! The toilet paper over here is currently Charmin! I have a friend that works with that.

      • Quote: “Did you know that the kirkland brand isn’t really Kirkland at all! They don’t sit there and make all of these products! They have a contract with one of the other companies that makes them and partners with them. Then they just stick the Kirkland Brand on it! ”

        So? ALL store brands do this now. It’s just disingenuous to suggest that Costco is the only one.

        However, I can say that Costco doesn’t simply slap a name on it. They go visit the factory, make a deal for a specific quality of product and only then will they close the deal.

        They do not put their name on garbage products or bad quality.

    • $300 cash back..? IIRC, the cash back is like, 2%. So, you spend $6000 EVERY year at Costco? Obviously most people are not going to have the same Costco experience as you, seeing that you are clearly far above the average income level..

  11. Costco has great saving all the time especially when combined with the clip out coupons they have or the instant rebates. You just have to buy at the right time when the item is the lowest possible price. For example i bought a brita pitcher which is regularly priced at 37.99 (Target) , i saw it at costco for 27.99 but when i actually went to buy it the next week it was 19.99 :) awesome saving ! As for the membership fee it pays for it self if you go often. what i do is i split the cost of the membership with my sister so we each are able to go with our families and only pay 27.50$

    • I tried doing that with my mom and the last two times we’ve been told it’s no longer allowed, I MUST have a membership! Doesn’t help that the two cashiers that continually say this are the ones I almost always try to avoid! (I think most people have those at select stores!) I may have to look into the cash card thing and see if I can just give my mom money to buy some. Think of it as “gifting”! Maybe :-/

      • Michael says:

        What she means is to have one of them be the primary and have the other get the 2nd card, not go in at the same time and share and split the membership that way. Then her family goes anytime they want and her sister’s family goes. I did this with my brother-in-law.

  12. I love Costco. I don’t mind the membership fee because it keeps out all the riff-raff with attitudes like the sulky people commenting on here. It’s like paying for a gym more expensive than 24-hour fitness. The equipment is the same, but the clientele is not. Worth every penny. Plus, alcohol, olive oil and batteries by themselves more than pay for the membership.

  13. You CAN purchase Costco gas with an American Express credit card – no membership needed. They also allow some ‘DEBIT’ cards (the ones you have to use with PINS), but not sure which ones – without a Costco membership. No cash accepted, at least at my NJ one.

  14. I have Costco cash card with me with a very little balance.I am not a member.Can I still purchase at Costco and pay the rest with my debit card or cash?

  15. Is this really true about just using gift cards w/ no membership? According to their website giftcards are $25 increments. Plus I just called a store in IL and they laughed when I asked this question.

  16. Cash cards can be used without a membership, says so on their website: http://www.costco.com/.product.10024438.html

  17. Stephanie says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Costco! I don’t mind paying the membership fee. I get my monies worth between clothes, books, sunscreen, sunwear that is much cheaper there and food. As a former Costco employee spouse, they do take care of their employees and families. Employees work hard and are rewarded for it as it shows most times in the overall happyvibe there.

  18. My son sent me a Costco gift card so I could purchase over the counter medication. My local Costco (Sample and Powerline in Pompano Beach) would not allow me to use it. I had to send it back to my son in Calif and he made the purchase and shipped it to me! So I beg to differ and please check your local store before investing in a gift card.

    • I would of went to the manager, it’s clear on their own website that a non member can use the card (Just a member has to fill it) it also does not say that it’s based by store, so the store would of had to accept the card. Sounds like an employee was not properly trained about these cards IMO.

  19. I don’t buy a ton of items at Cost-Co, but the ones I do I typically buy when they rotate onto the coupon book with the special savings…and I don’t believe if you’re shopping with a cash/gift card you would get those special prices. At least that is what my parents have told me, because they shop with Gift Cards purchased by myself or my sister since they don’t buy enough annual to justify a membership.

  20. I have been a Costco member for years. I have an executive membership and use their American Express card for ALL purchases at establishments taking AE, including travel, educational costs for my daughter’s college expenses, gas for both cars, and my work related costs including continuing education courses and professional membership costs. I get back 1% on all purchases, 2% on restaurant and travel expenses, and 3% on gas. PLUS the 2% cash back on the executive membership. Not only do I get back the $100.00 annual fee in my executive membership rebate, but I get a VERY substantial amount in cash back from the AE account. Just think for a minute……Most executive cards have an annual fee and offer the same type of rebate. With Costco you get the benefit of the rebate plus the savings of the items they sell. This year I got $536.00 back with the card alone, then got a rebate check for $103.00 ( 2% back for the executive membership purchases). I have a friend who purchased medical equipment for his office using the Costco AE card. He got back over $12,000. Another friend paid for his daughter’s college tuition and other expenses and got a fat rebate check as well. Of course, these 2 examples were people with awesome credit and the means to have a higher credit limit, but it certainly pays for itself if used appropriately. It amazes me to see people walk up with their checks and they have to call management to go to the safe or cut a check for the bank. That means they have such a high rebate, they don’t keep that kind of cash in the drawer!! Tip: Take the checks to the Costco membership desk and ask for the cash. Do NOT put it on a Costco cash card. You want to take advantage of every purchase made at Costco with your AE card so you get the cash back the following year. Most people make the mistake of having them put the rebate on a Costco cash card and don’t realize they can cash out the check. I look forward every year to getting those rebate checks! This year, I put my youngest daughter on my account with her Social security number and specific instructions on its use. (Must be 18 years old) I get her rebate and I can check her purchases on line to keep her in check. She is building her credit with this card as well. And for the people who don’t think purchasing a membership is worth it, awesome! Stay out. You’ll only clog the isles even more. LOL all the way to the bank.

  21. If you have a family member or friend that would like to buy gas at Costco, you can buy them a gift card. The gas attendant at my local Costco said that they can use the card there but must ask the attendant to swipe their employee card first before using the gift card. That way, you don’t have to “loan” out your membership card to others.
    Check your local Costco to see if they also do this the next time you purchase gas.

  22. Debbie – how do you view your store purchase on line?

  23. Anonymous says:

    This company is the best for returns….years after you purchase it and they barely ask you any questions regarding your returns……which you make 2 percent cash back on your executive membership if you are too CHEAP to buy it. You can actually make money shopping there with this upgraded membership which pays for your membership and you can receive even more money on top of the FREE membership you just got with the difference. Costco will fight for you to have a lower price than anyone and stop carrying the product untill it gets the price lowered again so these monopolies and oligopolies don’t take advantage of us consumers. Stop being sooooo cheap peeps!

    • Nearly every credit card today has rewards and cash back. My Amazon visa has 3%. And amazon doesn’t charge sales tax or shipping. So I “make” 9 1/2% on every Amazon purchase. How does your crappy 2% sound now?

      • My 2% sounds pretty good considering it’s on the MEMBERSHIP card and not a credit card.

        You are mistaking the cash back from Membership – WHICH IS SEPARATE from the cash back from using the Costco American Express Card.

        Therefore Costco members who ALSO use the AE credit card are rebating more than you.

        How do you like your 3% now?

  24. I have been a Costco member for a long time. Over twenty years. I find the service ok. There are policies that are really annoying. Like making a primary card holder the only one able to cash a rebate check. Rude staff members. Pushy staff asking for Amex card signups and upgrading cards to Executive memember levels.

    Like everything you have to know your prices.
    The membership fees keeps a lot of control on thief so it keeps costs lower for the chain and the members.

    Not perfect, but acceptable.

    • Costco Employee says:

      Just put ” NO EXEC” on the back of your card, so when the member service goes to scan your card to see if you wish to upgrade, they see that and immediately know. I’m sorry they’ve been pushy. I tell that to everyone when the prompt comes up, and let them know that if they wish to have more information at a later time, to stop by membership desk.

  25. No teenage kids with attitudes working there. Best return policy ever. ( I believe that Costco will only sell for companies that will agree to eat the returns with no questions asked which is why there is NO hassle ), I always get more in the annual rebate then I spend on membership, cheap lunch, cheapest gas in town and I like a previous comment that mentioned that the class of customers is way above the Wal-Mart brand. That in itself is worth the annual fee. BTW – if you don’t like Costco don’t go. You are one less person I need to stand behind in line.

  26. I use the military commisary…LAFB, Fort Sam Houston etc..they don’t have a membership fee..just a small surcharge..no tax…..luv it…never been to Costco and never will go…

    • Costco Employee says:

      Since the government shutdown, Costco is offering FREE shopping for our military. Just stop by membership desk and show your Military ID. :) Just a small way to say THANK YOU for serving our country.

  27. I just walked into Costco and this rude Asian lady tells me I can not come in without a Costco card, I’ve been a member for some time and can’t even go in there to buy an item. You don’t see Kroger asking for membership cards and regulating who may come in and who can’t!

    • you should have gone into customer service, even if you forget your card they just print you a paper one to use for the day.

  28. They should give me an incentive to get me as their customer, not the other way around.
    It’s stupid to pay when it’s actually Costco the one that has the privilege of having us as as customers. Unless they waive the membership fees I will continue buying somewhere else where I do not have to beg for getting in.

    • Good! Don’t need whiny people in the aisles anyway! :-)

    • The incentive is a lower mark up, but I agree, dont shop there if you dont like their fee, sorry about $5 bucks or so a month to save about 20% off the average markup, I’m all for it..

  29. Donald Moor says:

    Tried to get one day pass to Costco here in New Orleans and was told that the fire marshall would only allow members only in. WHAT A CROCK OF ****. As if the fire marshall care whether or not the bodycount is a member or not. I for one plan on test driving this car before I buy it.

  30. I do not have a membership but have seen and priced hearing aids for my Father there. They were the best in testing, diagnosis and fit, price and extras than Sam’s Club, or Miracle Ear. My question is: If I purchase these for my Father , does he have to be a member to take advantage of the services (repeat visits to adjust and update any of the equipment) or any warranties?

  31. Costco Employee says:

    Did you know that vast majority of my income comes from people paying memberships? I am grateful every day that I work for Costco. I don’t have to kill myself trying to make ends meet like I did at previous jobs, and my benefits are amazing, that I don’t have to see most my check go to.

    @Kat – The incentive of having a membership here is that you’re not paying outrageous prices like you would at normal retailers.

    Pharmacy is free to all. You can go in and buy alcohol without a membership, you just need to stop at the Membership desk and state you’re just buying alcohol.
    I have let several in without a membership, because they just wanted to “look around” to see if they wanted to start a membership, and after comparing prices, 9/10 wound up getting a membership at Costco.
    So to all those that want to “shop for free” think about all the employees, like myself who LOVE their careers/jobs at Costco. Because of PAYING members, we have stable jobs, lower prices for our members.
    One last thing, NON-members can only pay with Costco Cash Card or cash ONLY. NO debit, NO check, NO American Express. Costco card holders are the only one that can pay with all forms of payment accepted at Costco. If you are a PAYING member, and have a guest, they can either have their purchases subtotaled with your purchase, and you pay the full amount and/or they pay CASH only. In other words, if your name is on the card, YOU have to buy it. The guest is allowed to pay with cash only, to the cashier. It’s so we don’t have to charge a debit fee. We have that deal worked out with MasterCard and Visa debit.

    So in the end, think of all the people you’re potentially screwing over just to shop for free.

    Here’s a bit more information.

    • Anonymous says:

      How is it free if you’re paying for items? I would like to purchase some items once in a while at Costco but the $55 membership fee doesn’t make sense for me. I’m not a family of 4. If there was a 1% markup for non-members I would be OK with that. I don’t buy enough to make up the $55.

  32. Costco Executive Member says:

    IT IS WRONG of Costco to provide these dam Cash Cards/Gift Card usage to non-members and to people not related to members. Extremely bad people are coming into Costco. Gang members, and low class trouble makers. Seen non-members cause problems and threaten members at Costco. Absolutely unacceptable! Why should any of us pay the membership fees when anyone can get the same benefits. The miscellaneous benefits are used by few, and do not make up for the membership fee for most. Very disappointed in Costco.

  33. Bryan Smith says:

    As a Costco employee since 2008, I can tell you that (in the store) a membership card must be scanned at the register before it will even allow us to ring items. A cash card only works as a form of payment, not a membership. We have membership fees so that costco can make a profit and continue to provide quality products at (for the most part) unbeatable prices and pay a good wage to employees (keeping them happy enough to provide excellent member service). The executive level membership card we offer has benefits that pretty much make the membership fee obsolete as you are sure to earn all of that back and more. If you want to shop at Costco, you should just buy the executive membership (100$), if you are not satisfied with the savings at the end of the year, you will be refunded 50$ down to the gold star membership.

  34. I recently started getting my prescriptions @COSTCO, this is after trying to get affordable medication for my 97yr old grandfather.
    A very common medication was costing $98 @ Walgreen, $62 @Wal-Mart, and as a non-member the same prescription cost him $14.
    If he was a member, the cost would have been $8.
    .So I then took him for hearing aides, I priced around and he got a pair of hearing aides with the 2yr COSTCO warranty for $1600. The exact same pair at a local hearing aide center with a 1yr manufacturer warranty on parts only was $3700.
    That’s pretty significant on a social security income.
    He didn’t need to be a member to use the services, they just used my membership number to place the order, but used his debit card to purchase.
    COSTCO has always stood behind the products they sold and will let you know up front if its not COSTCO warranted.
    I also get the 2% rebate at the end of the year, its just like a DISCOVER card.

  35. In California, must Costco sell prepared foods (pizza, hot dogs, etc.) to non-members?

  36. Michael Duran says:

    I just went into a Costco with a gift card, went to the self checkout and the CSRep, provided an override on the membership scan, put the gift card back in my wallet, with the money that was originally on it intact, and paid with my debit card. No problem!

    This totally does work!

  37. So I have read your article and while you have definatly found a way to ship as Costco without a membership you fail to inform on the benefits to the membership. I have been an executive member for about 10 years and receive more back annually than it costs for the memberhsip. We were a family of 3 now that my child is in college thre are only 2 of us. Additionally I signed up for hte American Express card through Costco and get even more back. I average $500+ in rebates annually between the executive memberhip and the AmEx benefits, which means that Costco is paying me to sop there.. Who’s more frugal now?

    • You make a great point! The article Julia wrote is intended for those people who can truly not afford to shop at Costco on a regular basis, much less pay for a membership. There are definitely great reasons to shop at Costco and if you do a search of our articles, you will find that we write about these things too! Thanks for your input :)

  38. Looks like another one of those stupid work around things that you spend all this energy doing so you can feel good bout cheating someone out of something. Kind of like the scammers that spend all their energy ripping people off, but if they applied that effort to make a honest living, they would do pretty good.

    • Bill, the spirit of this post is not intended to promote any sort of cheating. Julia (the person who originally posted this article) has her own membership and has also written about the benefits of having one.

  39. I love Costco too! I especially love the exercise I get walking 3 miles to the front door. I love their samples of fake meat and other savory fair. I love the exercise I get in the store walking around aimlessly trying to find a product that I found last week but is no longer anywhere near the location I found it in before and that I can walk for miles trying to find someone to help me find that item. I love lugging around 50 pounds of hamburger that I saved (or did I save?) ten cents a pound on. But at least I saved money on those Michelins I bought that no one else sells (hmm I wonder why). Well anyway I’ve done my part in supporting big business since I know they have my best interest as their primary objective. So thanks Costco for the brain implant you’ve given me and seemingly all your loyal customers and employees.

  40. I wanted to know if I use the costco gift card being a non member given to me by a member. Can I purchase items which have manufacturers instant rebate. would I be able to get that rebate if I use the costco gift card? would I get the member discount on items???

  41. To all you sourpusses who won’t pay the membership fee, I have a great store for you. It’s called Walmart!

  42. canrockies says:

    I like to go to shop at Costco but not all the time I like to see what they have but for myself I don’t want to buy lots of stuff, like to much, wholesale stuff. why would I pay membership fees if I don’t shop all the time if I don’t buy to much stuff? and they say you have to be member in that store to shop, that just ridiculous

  43. Anonymous says:

    You have to be a member to by liquor.

    • Anonymous says:

      No you don’t… I’ve been to the liquor department in the Costco by us and they have on more than one occasion stated that you don’t. Even on the outside it says it is open to the public. That’s part of the reason it is separate from the main store.


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  8. […] I just discovered this little tid-bit that might be helpful for some – you do not have to have a membership to shop at Costco – yep, heard me right!  But you will have to know someone who does have a membership.  Just have them purchase a few Costco Cash cards for you and that basically is your membership card for a visit.  Here is the story where I discovered the details on this little secret. […]

  9. […] Julia sent this great post she wrote about shopping at Costco without a membership. I thought it might be of interest to many of you. My Costco is pretty far away and I might only get out there once a year. So I have no reason for a membership. Plus, I have dropped my Sam’s membership because I can do MUCH better couponing than the deals I get there. BUT, I do like the merchandise at Costco and it is fun to go. SO I am going to have to try Julia’s advice and give it a try! […]

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