Author Topic: Costco membership fee question  (Read 5838 times)

PindyStache

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Costco membership fee question
« on: November 25, 2013, 09:26:46 AM »
Hello,
"Inspired" by MMM/folks on the forums, we went to Costco for the first time ever yesterday and came out with $350 in staples & groceries for Thanksgiving. Plus good people watching. When signing up for the membership I was prepared to just get the $55 version as I don't think we'll shop there enough to make up the difference on the 2% membership reward (location is not so convenient & requires driving, we don't use much gas/wouldn't drive there just to fill up, smallish family and some items are cheaper/same price in bulk at local co-op). I only see going there 3-4x per year and spending a similar amount--enough to save more than the $55 membership, but will not spend more than $2750 total at Costco.

Then they said they will pay back the difference on the membership if you don't make enough through the rewards!? This seemed nonsensical to me--why even have a cheaper membership at that point, just for the folks who can't put the extra $55 up front? I figured there must be some hidden catch and I didn't have time yesterday to read all the small print (note to self--do not return to Costco with toddler...) so I just stuck with the $55 membership. Does anyone here know why they are doing this or if it just a temporary promotion/what other "catch" there may be?

I also didn't want to sign up for the Costco AmEx mostly because, as above, we don't plan to spend too much at Costco and for general life simplicity. We currently just use one general rewards credit card and have a debit card with PIN that Costco takes (obviously no rewards, but we're only talking $10-20 in lost rewards per year).

Am I missing something here or do most folks just spend more to make these bells & whistles worth it?

Thanks!

hybrid

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2013, 10:11:50 AM »
We have the upgraded Costco membership and the Costco AMEX (which we pay in full each month).  Had them both for a few years now.  We tend to get most things we can at Costco including a lot of food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, clothes, etc. so the upgraded plan is a better option than the basic plan in our situation.  Their gas is usually cheaper as well so we usually fill up when we are there.

If you have a rewards card already then you won't need a Costco AMEX, but for us it has been a very good deal indeed.  Including both upgraded membership and the AMEX we got back something like $500 last year.  And of course Costco is much cheaper than the competitiors, getting that $55 back in savings over the course of the year isn't very difficult.

You have the math right.  If Costco isn't a place you see yourself dropping $250 a month (and if you don't grocery shop there you probably won't) then skip the upgraded membership.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2013, 10:14:58 AM by hybrid »

seattlecyclone

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2013, 12:31:05 PM »
We were in about the same boat as you: not planning to spend more than $2,750/year at Costco. They talked us into the upgraded membership the first year anyway because of the guarantee. Our cash back at the end of the year ended up being well under $55, so we went to customer service and they refunded the difference as promised. There was no "catch" to it the first time. But the customer service agent said they generally don't want people in the higher tier if they are going to claim a refund year after year, so they just switched us to the standard membership at that point since we didn't plan to increase our spending enough for the higher membership level to pay off.

davisgang90

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2013, 12:37:44 PM »
A new Costco opened about 2 miles from our home.  We get most food at the base Commissary,  but some stuff is significantly cheaper at Costco and we shop there 2-3 times a month.

We opted for the executive membership and the AMEX which we pay off each month.  It is our only regular use rewards card for now.

Catbert

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2013, 12:43:45 PM »
My experience was the same as Seattlecyclone, i.e., when we got the yearly refund check we took it to customer service and they refunded the difference.  The only "catch" is that you do have to remember to go to customer service.

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2013, 12:56:40 PM »
I lurve Costco.  You've already touched on the high points, but here are a few more you might not have considered:

1.  The pharmacy and optical can be really good deals.
2.  If you get the Costco Amex, you also get the added protection of the Amex on everything you buy with it, not just at Costco.  For instance, I had purchased a Nook from Barnes and Noble 2 1/2 years ago.  At the time I bought it I bought the additional 1-year extended warranty.  Naturally, five months after the extended warranty ended the Nook died.  American Express gives you an additional one-year warranty past the manufacturer's warranty or extended warranty on anything you buy with your Amex card.  They also give you 90 day protection against theft and breakage.

Just to clarify -- you get the rewards from the AmEx on everything you buy, not just stuff at Costco, and you can use the cash-back rewards anywhere, not just at Costco.  They'll send you check and you just take it to the Customer Services desk to cash it.  I wasn't sure from your post if you knew that or not.  ;-)

3.  You can also get good deals on other services and goods.  We got new carpeting through Costco.  They subcontract it out to a local company.  They also have a tire department where we get our tires.  They do lifetime tire rotations for free and the tires are covered by a road hazard warranty.  We got a couple of nail holes in one of our tires and they replaced it when they couldn't repair it.
4.  They also offer discounted travel or special offers, like Costco gift cards when you book travel through them.

So anyway, when we started taking advantage of these additional services it made the executive membership a lot more valuable and we earn a lot more "rewards."  The first couple of years with the executive membership we would get part of our membership fee reimbursed because we didn't spend enough there to make it up in "rewards," but now that we get more through them we usually get enough to cover the cost and a little extra.

Regards,
Trina
« Last Edit: November 25, 2013, 01:02:13 PM by Trina »

netskyblue

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2013, 01:00:31 PM »
Oh thanks for your post about the optical.  I am looking to buy a new pair of glasses with the remainder of my Flex account money, since mine are 1) an old, no longer applicable prescription (my eyes have gotten worse) and 2) broken.  I'll look there the next time I am at Costco.

PindyStache

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2013, 01:12:05 PM »
Thanks for the replies all. At some point we may purchase other Costco services but that's not in the home maintenance plan for the near future so sounds like there's no reason to pursue an "upgraded" membership now. Interesting especially to hear how they "downgraded" (right-sized?) your memberships SeattleCyclone and Mary W.

schimt

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2013, 01:32:11 PM »
This may not apply for all the added bonus's of being a costco member, but this may be useful for someone who just plans to go and shop at costco from time to time.

According to the link below, you can utilize gift cards to costco, and shop there with out a membership and just pay the difference after the gift card value is used.

http://www.spoofee.com/how-to-shop-at-costco-free-without-a-membership/deals/814328

Interesting concept. Sorry this is too late for you all, myself included, but for those who are considering a membership, and next year for the rest of us! Please comment if you have experiance implenting this!? I would love to verify that it works

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2013, 07:13:45 AM »
I'm not a paid spokesperson for Costco (I swear!).  :-)

I forgot another benefit of the Executive membership.  When we opened our online money market account through them, as executive members we got both a higher interest rate than normal, and they deposited $50 into the account when we opened it.  That $50 alone paid for our executive membership for the year.

OK, I think I'm probably done.  LOL


hybrid

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2013, 10:03:03 AM »
I'm not a paid spokesperson for Costco (I swear!).  :-)

They could hire me to be one...  ;-)

On top of everyhting else, as has been mentioned in other threads, Costco takes care of their employees better than any other brick and mortar (retailer being the wrong word for them) that I am aware of.  A full time cashier makes close to 40K with good benefits after 5 years on the job.

So not only do you benefit from lower prices, the folks serving you do well also.  It's the ultimate win-win. 

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Costco membership fee question
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2013, 11:41:35 AM »
I'm not a paid spokesperson for Costco (I swear!).  :-)

They could hire me to be one...  ;-)

On top of everyhting else, as has been mentioned in other threads, Costco takes care of their employees better than any other brick and mortar (retailer being the wrong word for them) that I am aware of.  A full time cashier makes close to 40K with good benefits after 5 years on the job.

So not only do you benefit from lower prices, the folks serving you do well also.  It's the ultimate win-win.

Agreed - even though we had a Sam's Club near us I wouldn't join it.  I was elated when they built a Costco near us so I could support them.