Here’s the situation. If you love Costco, but don’t want to shell out the money to pay for an annual membership, there are a number of ways around it! And while you’re here, I’ll also show you how to get a free 30 days on Amazon Prime (6 months if you’re a student!).
1. If you use a Costco Cash Card, you’ll never have to pay for a membership
You have to get a family member or a friend to buy you a $50 or $100 (or really of ANY denomination) Costco Cash Card. The Costco Cash Card is exactly what it sounds like – and works just like a gift card. You can also find Costco Cash cards on eBay, but buyer beware.
You can get in the door with just the Cash Card (no need for membership) and you can pay for your goods, as long as you use your pre-loaded card. Once your card runs out, a friend or family member with a membership must reload it. This is especially useful if you only want to buy a few items a month like pizza, beer, wine, or toilet paper at Costco. It’s also great for buying gas, which is oftentimes .10-.15 cents per gallon cheaper than local competitors.
Convenient Cash Card features:
- A convenient payment option in our warehouses, gas stations, and costco.com
- No expiration date
- Are rechargeable at any Costco warehouse location, but it can only be recharged by a member
- Can be purchased in denominations from $25 to $1,000
- A supply card or gas card for businesses
- A means to provide students with money for food, gas, or school and dormitory necessities while being able to limit their spending
- Balance can be accessed on costco.com, the warehouse “red kiosk” or by calling the toll-free number on the back of the card
2. You can shop with an existing Costco Member
- With the first option (a Costco Cash Card), you can shop without another member and buy everything you need as long as you have enough credit on the card
- If you don’t want to go through the trouble of getting a card and just want to pick up a few things, shop with a friend who has a membership and pays cash in a separate transaction from them. Sometimes, they might make you do one transaction and if that’s the case, just separate your goods and get a subtotal so that you can still pay in cash.
3. Shop for alcohol, in pharmacy, or at the optometry department
There are certain items that are mandated by state or federal law that cannot require you to have a membership.
- Alcohol –You will need to inform a Costco employee that you will only be purchasing alcohol. Typically they will issue you a temporary pass which limits you from purchasing anything other than alcohol. You will need to pay with cash.
- Pharmacy – The pharmacy does not require a Costco member.
- Optometrist – Typically, the optometrists are independent, so you don’t need to be a member to see one.
4. Get a member to give you their 2nd card FREE
Regular Costco members are given a two-card membership, which isn’t limited to spouses. You can give the 2nd card to anyone. If your friend or family member already has a membership and hasn’t allocated their 2nd card, ask them for it! If they agree…. here’s what you do.
- Head to the membership counter with your friend or family member who is an existing member and only has one card on the membership
- Have your friend or family member request a 2nd card for you
- Viola! Fill out a form, get your photo taken, and experience Costco membership!
If your friend or family member isn’t excited about just forking the 2nd card over to you, you could always agree to pay half of the membership fee, but remind them that the card they are not using is an untapped resource for someone else!
5. Shop on Costco.com
You don’t need a membership to shop on Costco.com anymore, but you will be hit with a 5% surcharge. If you’re buying something over $1,100 – get the membership and try to split the cost with someone for that 2nd card.
Coupon Wisely at Costco
Costco only accepts their own coupons, not manufacturers coupons from newspaper or those printed online, but you can use rebate apps! (see below)
- You can shop at the Food Court if it’s outside and enjoy really cheap, unhealthy food. But hey, if you were planning on going to a fast food joint, you may as well eat here since it’s much less expensive. If the Food Court is inside, just let the clerk know that you’d like to check out the store without a membership. But make sure you bring cash for the Food Court as that’s all they’ll take!
- Use the Costco Cash Card to buy gas (it’ll save you a lot over time)!
- Costco refills ink cartridges for $7.49 (how’s that for savings?!)