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Tips and Tricks for Shopping at Costco

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Did you know that you don’t need a Costco membership to shop at Costco? Do you know how to tell if an item has been marked as clearance? What if you could walk into Costco knowing you are guaranteed to pay the lowest price?

Keep reading to find out about a few tips and tricks for shopping at Costco.

Costco, the second largest retailer in the world-second only to Wal-mart, is a club warehouse worth shopping at. But do you know the tips and tricks for shopping at Costco? You may be surprised by a few of these Costco shopping tips.

A Membership Isn’t a Must

You may be thinking to yourself, what? Yes, you have to purchase a membership to shop at Costco but surprise, you don’t! Stay with me here, I’ll tell you how.

Non-Membership Services

There are a few services that you do NOT need a membership in order to access.

You don’t need a membership to order and pick up prescription drugs. Even though the pharmacy is inside Costco, you don’t have to be a member to utilize the pharmacy.

The optometrist again is inside Costco but is independent of Costco. Which means you don’t have to be a member to get an exam at any of the locations. As well as having your hearing checked. If you have a hearing center inside your Costco, you can have your hearing checked without being a member.

However, if you want to purchase contacts, glasses or hearing aids you will need a membership.

The food court is yet again inside Costco but you don’t need a membership to purchase food. So you can go in, get your eyes checked, pick up a prescription and get lunch without having to be a member.

Alcohol-Membership Prices-Without a Membership

This may be a shocker to some, in fact, it was a shocker to me when I learned this, however, it’s true! In some states, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Vermont, Costco can’t limit alcohol sales to members only. Which means you don’t have to be a member to shop and purchase alcohol. Plus you won’t pay more as a nonmember. You’ll still receive the Costco price for all alcohol.

Costco Cash Cards

This next tip, you will have to know someone who does have a membership in order to utilize it. If you have someone who has a membership and is willing to purchase Costco Cash Cards for you then you’re lucky. You can shop and purchase items with your cash card because you don’t need a membership to pay with a cash card.

Prices and What They Mean for You

Let’s get to it. The whole reason for wanting to shop at Costco is for the prices right?

Have you ever noticed that the prices have a different ending? For example, $24.99, $24.97, $24.00, $24.88. How do they come up with different amounts? And what does that mean for you?

Prices Ending in 97

Any time you see an item that has the price ending in 97 you might want to grab it ASAP. Those items ending in 97 mean that they are marked as clearance items. Once those items are gone, they may or may not get them back in the store.

Prices Ending in 00 or 88

When you see prices ending in 00 or 88 these are manager markdowns. Items that are the last in the store are often seen with these endings. Again, grab them ASAP because they are trying to sell the rest of the merchandise and may or may not get them back in the store.

Prices with an *

You may have seen this little asterisk on prices and wondered does that mean something and if so what does that mean?

It means that the warehouse will no longer be stocking those items. Once the items are sold out, that’s it. You won’t be seeing the items being restocked in the future. If it’s a product you love, grab as many as you can afford because once they’re gone, they’re gone.

No Need for Clipping Coupons

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any coupons it just means you don’t have to clip them. Costco doesn’t accept manufacturer coupons but they do have Costco coupons with deals that change monthly. The great thing about these coupons is that you don’t have to worry about clipping them because the discounts ring up automatically at checkout. Super easy and a great time saver!

Rebate Apps

By using apps such as Ibotta and Checkout 51 (more about them here) you can save even more money! Since these apps are utilized after the purchase you can easily earn cash back from shopping at Costco.

Kirkland Signature vs Name Brands

Kirkland Signature, Costco’s store brand, has amazing products. I like that the Kirkland brand is more affordable than the name brands and the quality is second to none.

In fact, it’s been rumored that some of their items are actually made in the same facilities as the name brands. One such item is the Kirkland Vodka which has been rumored to be made in the Grey Goose facility. Something to think about the next time you’re shopping at Costco.

Gift Cards

You can usually find great deals on gift cards. It’s not uncommon to find gift cards valued at $100 but are being sold at or around $80. It may not be something that you would think to look for at Costco but you’d be surprised at the deals you can find.

Price Protection Policy

Costco has a 30-day price protection policy. This policy means that if a price drops within 30 days of purchase just bring the receipt into a Costco to the membership counter and they will provide you with the price difference. So hold on to your receipts so you can get money back if the items should drop in price.


I want to start by saying they have an amazing return policy! They will accept many items at any time if they don’t perform to expectations. No questions asked they’ll refund the full amount of your purchase.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not, however with that said, I have seen numerous people returning clearly used items or half-eaten food products, used mattresses, dead Christmas trees after Christmas and so much more.

Despite their very generous return policy, it’s truly a shame to see consumers abuse it. It would be terrible for Costco to have to amend their policy because certain individuals choose to abuse the policy.

See Something You Want? Buy It Now

One word of advice, since this has happened to me more often than I care to share. If you see a product you want or you find your favorite products BUY them when you see them. I can’t tell you how many times I bought a product that I loved and could never find that product again.

It’s so disappointing to go back the next time to only find they don’t carry it any longer. It’s a major bummer!

Costco isn’t always the most consistent in what brands they carry so to be on the safe side; buy as much of your favorites as you can afford (and have room for) since it’s not a sure thing they’ll carry it in your future visits. (I’m not encouraging hoarding, but it’s something to consider while shopping).

Some items from the Kirkland brand temporarily disappear only to show up months later. It’s a better bet that you’ll find Kirkland brand items in future visits but you may have to wait until they order more.

What are Your Tips and Tricks for Shopping at Costco?

I’d love to hear about your tips and tricks. Comment below with your favorite tips for shopping at Costco.

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