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Costco: Our best tips for saving money at the warehouse

To the point

Check out our tips and tricks to save money at Costco. And the best credit cards for Costco!

You can save a lot of money at Costco warehouses. However, it is important to know these different Costco tips and tricks.

And at the end of the article, you’ll discover the best credit cards for Costco to replace your Capital One Costco card! Remember, this card will be soon replaced by a CIBC Mastercard credit card.

Costco tips to save money at the warehouse

Which Costco membership to choose?

There are two types of membership:

Privilege Member Executive Privilege Member
Fees $60 $120
Free Household card Yes
2% annual cash back Yes
Additional offers Yes
Bimonthly magazine Yes

Executive Privilege Membership gives you a 2% annual cash back on most of your purchases (up to a maximum of $1,000 – or $50,000 in annual purchases).

A Costco membership pays for itself if you spend more than $3,000 per year at Costco (a $60 rebate), and is fully refunded if you make $6,000 in purchases per year (a $120 rebate).

Costco Tip: You may be able to get a refund on the difference between the $120 Executive Privilege Membership card and the $60 Privilege Membership card if you don’t fit in!

If you do not expect to spend more than $3,000 per year at Costco, perhaps it might be helpful to ask a friend or family member to provide you with a Costco Shop Card.

Costco Membership

Costco tip: buy without being a Costco member with the Shop Card

With the Costco Shop Card, anyone can shop at Costco, member or non-member. To buy it, however, you must be a Costco member.

Non-Costco members must register for a one-day shopping pass at the Membership Counter each time they access a warehouse to use a Costco Shop Card.

While for a Costco member, there is an advantage to getting a Costco Shop Card online : to pay with a Visa credit card instead of a Mastercard credit card! Read the end of this article to know more about this tip.

Costco shop card

What to shop at Costco?

Many people may think that Costco is only for large families. In fact, everything at Costco is in large quantities.

However, if done properly, it is possible for even a childless couple to shop at Costco and still save money.

Long before we had our children, we were already shopping at Costco. For example, buying meat and then separating it into freezer bags. The price per kilo is unbeatable and the quality is there. Practical for barbecues!

Costco tip: Buy Kirkland products – Costco’s house brand – which are a great value. Very often, it will be big brands that will be behind the Kirkland products (like Duracell for batteries, Huggies for diapers or Danone for yoghurts)!

If you can’t find discounts at the grocery store, Kirkland’s tissue boxes are of much better quality:

Costco handkerchiefs

Here are most of the products that are always cheaper in Costco stores than in grocery stores:

  • Coffee
  • Nutella, peanut butter, Bonne Maman jam jar
  • Cooking accessories (baking paper, aluminium)
  • Snacks and other sweets
  • Condiments
  • Cheeses (and for French people, that really counts!)
  • Fresh pasta
  • Butter
  • Meat, fish (including salmon)
  • Frozen salmon steaks
  • Frozen fruit (handy for smoothies)
  • Choice of organic products
  • Propane for the barbecue
  • Layers
  • Drugs
  • Printer ink refill
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Gift cards (for Spas, some restaurants and especially for the Apple App Store)

Not to mention: gas at unbeatable prices!

On the other hand, there are things we don’t buy or buy very little of at Costco like :

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables: too much of them. Better go to your local market.
  • Snacks
  • Soft drinks
  • Detergents
  • Cans of food

In general, we avoid buying too much food (that cannot be frozen). Sometimes it’s best to pick up specials at your local grocery store!

Costco Tip

Also avoid anything in the warehouse center: prices will often not be competitive! And avoid going with your children 😉

Costco tip: look for Costco price tags

Only Costco experts – and employees – know the Costco price tag trick.

Costco price labels help distinguish real bargains from regular rates. Here are the 5 types of prices indicated by these labels:

Price Tag Meaning
xx.99 Regular price
xx.89 / xx.79 / xx.49 Lowest Costco Price
xx.97 / xx.88 / xx.00 Warehouse discount
(in order to liquidate the stock)
asterisk (*) Product that will not be renewed
(last chance to get it)

Costco Tip: As long as you don’t buy products ending in xx.99, you know you’re getting a great deal!

Nevertheless, even the products at xx.99 already have excellent prices compared to the competition!

Costco tip: 30-day Costco price guarantee

How many times have you bought a product and then seen it discounted the following week?

Fortunately, Costco Canada offers a price adjustment: you can request a refund of the difference up to 30 days after purchase. To do so, go to the Membership Counter.

Buying online or from a Costco warehouse?

Costco’s website, Costco.ca, often offers the same products as in the warehouse (and there is even a new grocery section).

Often, rates will be higher than what you can find in the warehouse.

However, it is a quasi-obligatory passage for the purchase of household appliances! Costco’s prices are often very competitive, and the warranty included is superior to what is offered elsewhere.

The Costco Extended Warranty

The advantage of shopping at Costco for your appliances: there is often a 2-year warranty included. Ditto for televisions!

In addition, the extended warranty (up to 5 years) is often very affordable (between $29 and $99 for a television).

Costco's Refund Policy

In addition, Costco is known for having the best refund policy in the country. This extends to 90 days for most products, even electronics! Clothes can be returned within 30 days.

This refund policy even extended to 2 years a few years ago, but abuse has forced Costco to lower this to 90 days.

Shopping at Costco in the United States

Your Canadian Costco membership card allows you to shop at Costco in the United States (and around the world too!).

We have used it frequently in the United States, especially in Hawaii: handy for filling up with gas or buying camping equipment!

By the way, the Canadian Capital One Costco Mastercard is the only card that works in a Costco warehouse in the United States! However, a foreign currency conversion fee of 2.5% is added.

Otherwise, you will have to pay in cash or with a Visa credit card. To do this, choose the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card which does not charge any foreign currency conversion fee.

Facebook group on Costco

To find out what’s going on at Costco stores in Quebec, check out the Facebook group Les Accros du Costco. Over 290,000 members comment on new items, discuss discounts, post their finds and ask questions.

Using any Mastercard credit card at Costco

You may have received the flyer for the Costco Mastercard at the checkout or in your mailbox.

This card may seem like a good deal to you. But it only provides a 0.5% return on the first $3,000 of purchases and then 1% in Costco warehouses and all stores (except gas at 2% and restaurants at 3%). In addition, Costco has decided to end its partnership with Capital One in 2021.

Costco tip: you can use any Mastercard credit card at Costco! However, on Costco.ca, you can use both Mastercard and Visa.

Below, you will find a selection of the best credit cards to use for your purchases at Costco.

If you want the complete list per program (AIR MILES, Cash Back, travel points, hotel points), see this article on the best credit cards for Costco.

Hsbc Costco

The Best Credit Cards For Costco

To shop at Costco, we recommend one of these cards Mastercard credit cards, depending on the points you would like to earn.

Travel Points: the best credit cards for Costco

The National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® is a great way to earn travel points for all your purchases at Costco.

With this credit card you earn:

  • Up to 2 points per dollar spent at Costco
  • A welcome bonus
  • Up to $250 annual credit for some travel expenses
  • The best travel insurance on the market

Otherwise, here are several other MASTERCARD credit cards with travel rewards:

AIR MILES: the best AIR MILES credit cards for Costco

Our choice of Costco Mastercard credit cards to collect AIR MILES miles is the BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®*.

With this credit card you earn:

  • 1 mile for every $12 spent at Costco
  • A great welcome bonus
  • An excellent travel insurance

A good credit card for Costco.ca

The CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card is a great way to earn cash back on all your purchases at Costco. You can use it for all your Costco.ca purchases.

In addition, you can purchase a Shop Card which you can then use at the warehouse! Handy if you don’t have a Mastercard!

With this credit card you earn:

  • A welcome bonus
  • First-Year Free
  • 1% per dollar on Costco purchases
  • 4% per dollar on grocery and gas purchases
  • Excellent insurance

Other best credit cards for Costco stores

For Costco customers, there are many other credit cards that offer :

  • Cash back
  • Hotel points
  • Aeroplan Points
  • AIR MILES

To see the best, go to this article on the best credit cards for Costco.

Costco tip: how to use an American Express credit card for Costco purchases

American Express credit card holders can also shop at Costco (in a way).

The Instacart website includes a large majority of grocery chains, including Costco. Costco offers on this site the products found in its warehouses and delivers them to your home, but at an additional cost.

Instacart accepts American Express cards for purchases made at Costco and even accepts non-Costco customers!

On the Instacart website, you select the items you want, purchase them with your American Express credit card and they are delivered in a timely manner.

With this trick, you can earn 5 points per dollar with the American Express Cobalt® Card and the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card! In fact, Instacart is considered an eligible grocery store or food delivery service.

Instacart

However, the cost to use this service is higher than a store purchase.

Here are the disadvantages of Instacart:

  • High service and delivery costs
  • Cost of purchases not included in the calculation of the 2% cash back for executive members
  • Item cost approximately 10% more than in the warehouse

To lower the cost, Instacart has an Instacart Express subscription for $99 per year. This eliminates delivery charges and reduces service fees.

Costco tip: Instead of signing up for a $60 or $120 Costco membership, you can sign up for Instacart Express. It can be useful for people who want to save time, while making the most of the return on their American Express credit card.

Frequently Asked Questions about Costco

Where can I use my Costco membership card?

Your Costco membership card can be used at any of Costco’s 700+ warehouses worldwide and online at costco.ca.

What are Costco's business hours?

On Costco.ca:

  • select Find Warehouse
  • choose your warehouse to know its opening hours

Can a non-Costco member accompany me to the warehouse?

Yes

Costco members are allowed to bring up to two guests every visit. But only Costco members can make purchases.

How do I return an item to Costco?

You may return an item purchased from the warehouse or at Costco.ca to any Costco warehouse for a refund. The return of the item must be done:

  • within 30 days of the date of purchase
  • in its original packaging
  • with the receipt from Costco

If you don’t have a receipt, Costco will be able to trace your purchase through your Costco membership card.

How do I contact Costco?

Call 1-800-463-3783 or visit Costco.ca. Member services are open Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

What's the best Costco credit card?

There are many credit cards you can use to pay at Costco. Check out our ranking of the best credit cards for Costco.

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