Stop any four shoppers on the street, and there is a good chance one of them is heading to Costco. Fully 81 million Americans – one-quarter of the population – belong to the warehouse store,according to the company.
Costco is filled with ways to save, but it is easy to overlook some of the less obvious perks.
So, if you are thinking about joining Costco – or if you already are a member who simply needs a refresher about some of the less conspicuous bargains to be found there – here are eight great ways to get the most from your Costco membership.
1. Get discounted movie passes and gift cards
Deals at Costco aren’t limited to buying in bulk. Take their gift card aisle — it offers a swarm of savings on everything from movie tickets and restaurant meals to theme park admission.
In fact, I recently paid $79.99 for four $25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift cards. For those of you without young children, this roughly amounts to one extra bear (or other stuffed pal) or a complete ensemble from hat to shoes.
2. Feed your family dinner on the cheap
The Costco food court is a great place to grab an inexpensive bite to eat. Where else can you get a ballpark-worthy hotdog and refillable soda for a mere $1.50?
My family of four likes to head there on Friday nights to enjoy a large pizza — it’s only $10! Perhaps best of all, you don’t even have to be a Costco member to take advantage of their cheap eats.
Don’t want to dish out any dough for dinner? Stock up on free food samples instead. The company actually encourages its vendors to offer up as many samples as customers can handle.
3. Book a vacation through the travel agency
Saving on a vacation makes the trip even sweeter. Costco members can rack up such savings when they book their getaway through Costco Travel. Go to CostcoTravel.com to find deep discounts on flights, hotels, rental cars and even cruises.
Costco Executive Members are eligible for even greater savings. Special extras might include a room upgrade, a shipboard credit, a spa credit or other value-packed benefit,” according to the Costco site.
4. Fill your prescriptions
A recent Consumer Reports survey found that Costco had the lowest-priced drugs of any retailer or pharmacy surveyed. Just how cheap are they? According to Consumer Reports: “At Costco … the retail prices were lower for certain drugs than many insurance co-pays.”
Check out the cost of your medications at the Costco Drug Directory, which “contains pricing details for prescription drugs, plus general information for a wide range of medications.” There’s even a convenient home delivery option.
5. Get free health care screenings
Costco offers free health care screenings to make sure your family remains in tip-top condition. Available screenings include:
- Osteoporosis. Uses ultrasound technology to assess a member’s risk for the condition.
- Heart health. Assesses risk for heart disease and includes a lipid-stick profile test and blood pressure check.
- Lung health. Uses a spirometer to identify member risk for COPD.
- Diabetes. Screens members through an A1C test.
You can find a schedule of upcoming screenings at the Costco website.
6. Buy lower-priced gas
Being a Costco member also pays at the pump. Many locations have gas stations in their parking lots that offer competitive member prices. Some people buy a Costco membership for the gas savings alone, which can more than offset the membership cost.
7. Purchase new tires
My family buys all of our tires at Costco, and we absolutely love that they throw in free balancing and rotation. Plus, instead of drinking stale coffee while waiting in a stuffy room for our cars to be serviced, we can grab a cheap bite to eat and cross several items off our shopping list.
And the price of Costco tires can be a bargain. According to GOBankingRates:
Sometimes Costco discounts name-brand tires by $70 to $80, which is enough savings to cover the cost of a membership and then some.
8. Tell nonmember friends they can buy booze at Costco
OK, so this one won’t help your own wallet – but it will help your friends and family and maybe boost your Costco karma. Some states require the warehouse giant to pass on alcohol discounts to nonmembers too.
According to The Penny Hoarder, those states include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Texas, among others.
Costco even offers its own label and hosts events, such as wine tastings, at many locations. Cheers to that!