All the Clever Ways You Can Shop at Costco Without a Membership

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From extra-low gas prices to unbeatable deals on rotisserie chicken, Costco members have it made. But we’d like to make that as accessible as possible for those who don’t have a Costco card, which is why we’re taking a closer look at exactly how to shop at Costco without being a member. Despite the consistent membership card checks at each store entrance, finding your way in is a lot easier than you think. Make note of the following useful tips and let the savings begin.

How much does a Costco membership cost? 

costco membership cards
Credit: Slickdeals/Costco

Like all good things in life, though, Costco benefits come at a cost, and there are two tiers of memberships that you can sign up for:

  • A Costco Gold Star or regular Business membership will run you $60 a year.
  • Gold Star Executive and Business Executive membership costs $120 a year.

Most people will do fine with the Gold Star tier, but some may want to spring for the Gold Star Executive. To see if the Executive membership is right for you, check out our recent article on if Costco’s Executive Membership Is Worth It for you.

Do you need a membership to shop at Costco? 

You might already be wondering if you can shop at Costco without a membership. The short answer is yes, you do need a Costco membership to shop there, but there are specific departments that allow non-members to make purchases. We will note that, by law, the following departments of Costco warehouse are open to the public whether you have a membership or not:

  • Pharmacy
  • Food Court
  • Alcohol
  • Optical Services

We’ll further detail how you can shop at these departments below, including other methods to shop at Costco without having to be a member.

8 Ways to Shop At Costco Without a Membership

hot dog from costco food court
Credit: Pixabay

1. Opt for a Costco Shop Card

If you want to make purchases, but would rather opt out of a year-long commitment, turn to the Costco Shop Card. It’s your golden ticket to being able to enter and shop the store, as the card essentially functions like a gift card. The thing is, it can only be purchased by a Costco member. While you’ll have to rely on an actual Costco member, the ask may be worth the amount of potential savings.

Slick Tip: Members can load up to $2,000 on each Shop Card, so you can certainly make this trick worth your while depending on how often you shop and if you plan to purchase big items like TVs or expensive electronics.

2. Accompany Family or Friends to Costco

One of the easiest ways to avoid the membership requirement is to head to the store with relatives, friends or anyone else you know who pays to be part of the Costco clan. Trust us, if you show up with one of them, there’s no chance you’ll get stopped at the door. However, you won’t be able to check out on your own. Once you’re done shopping, you’ll need a member to scan their card to finish the payment process. Make sure you don’t lose the person who hooked you up within the retailer’s aisles of bargains!

3. Place an Instacart Order

Even though you’re guaranteed to pay more than you would at the store due to fees and upcharges, placing a Costco order through Instacart is a convenient solution for shopping Costco’s grocery department without being a member. Plus, who wouldn’t want to have their groceries delivered to them in as little as one hour? Just remember to schedule the delivery for when you’re home because you’ll have to be present to receive your order.

4. Shop Online

Non-members should keep the online browsing going, as anyone can shop the Costco website. A slight downside is that non-members have to pay a 5% surcharge and some items may be marked an extra 5% to 20% higher than prices offered in-store. Additionally, some products are marked as Member Only Items and aren’t available for purchase by non-members. But even with those caveats, the retailer’s deals are still some of the best on the market. Be sure to check Costco’s website for a list of featured deals on all things tech, home and much more.

5. Purchase Some Alcohol

Depending on the state, the sale of alcohol can’t legally be limited to just members. In fact, some locations across the country have a separate entrance that allows non-members stopping by for booze to go easily in and out. The following are states where you can purchase alcohol without a membership:

  • Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Vermont

Double-check the laws in your place of residence or call your local Costco, and consider scooping up your go-drinks at a wholesale price tag.

6. Head to the Pharmacy

Similar to alcohol purchases, the Costco pharmacy is open to everyone; just let the customer representative know that’s where you’re headed when you walk in without a card. We love Costco’s pharmacy services for several reasons:

  • Low Prices: When it comes to prescription prices, the Costco pharmacy is unmatched, but convenience is another reason why you should consider making the switch.
  • Online Prescription Refill and Delivery: You don’t even have to step foot in a Costco to get your medicine. Everything you need can be filled online and mailed to your doorstep in no time. Costco pharmacies can even take care of your pet’s prescription needs.
  • Flu & Immunization: In addition, you can also get your annual flu shot and many other immunizations from the trained staff at your local Costco pharmacy, making it easy to handle your entire household’s health all in one place.

7. Schedule an Eye Exam

Costco Optical centers allow non-members to schedule eye exams with their licensed optometrists. They even accept most forms of major vision insurance. It’s a reliable establishment that won’t rip you off, but once you finish your appointment, the eyeglasses, contact lenses and anything else you might need are limited to members only. As mentioned above, if there are specific frames or other items you had in mind, just show up with a Costco Shop Card to be able to buy what you want.

8. Fill Up at the Food Court

Is a snack all you’re after? The mini Costco food court is usually located near the exit and if you ask, some employees will let you in just to get some food. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee, but it’s worth it for a chance to nab the famous Costco churros, sundae dessert, pizza, hot dogs and all the other super affordable food items on the menu.

Does Costco offer one-day passes or a free trial? 

costco shopping cart
Credit: Slickdeals

Unfortunately, one-day passes and free trials are not offered by Costco. However, Costco allows you to cancel your membership at any time within the year for a full refund. This tactic is especially helpful if you’re moving to a place with no Costco nearby or find that you simply tend to shop at other grocery stores more. The key to making this work is ensuring you cancel before your year is up, otherwise you will be charged the full amount.

Can I get a refund on my Costco membership if I’m not satisfied?

As we noted above, it is very easy to get a refund on your Costco membership dues with their “risk-free 100% satisfaction guarantee” if you have any mixed feelings about it:

  • Simply go to the membership counter or call 1-800-774-2678 to request a cancellation and refund

It’s important to note that any rewards you’ve accumulated with the Executive membership will be subtracted from the refund.

Does Costco offer membership discounts? 

If you do decide to go ahead and opt for a Costco membership, you may be eligible for some savings.

  • Military: If you were in the military, let Costco know when you sign up for a membership. A discount may not be what’s in store, but there’s a Military Membership Promotion that provides those who served with a $20 Costco Shop Card.
    • This offer is available for active-duty members, veterans and retired military, as well as their spouse or dependent. You just have to click here to verify your identity and service.
  • Teachers: Teachers also have their own introductory offers that make them eligible for $20 Costco Shop Cards.
    • For the teachers out there, you just have to verify your profession and identity via this link here.

Final Thoughts

Costco gas station
Credit: Costco

With eight ways to shop at Costco without a membership, you’ll likely be able to get all the bounty that the big warehouse has to offer. And you might even be convinced to opt for a membership after seeing the potential rewards you get from Costco Travel and the Executive Membership.

For more related content, check out our guide to returning items at Costco and our comparison between Sam’s Club and Costco memberships.


Author

Isis Briones
Isis Briones
Isis Briones is a freelance writer who covers everything from travel to video games, fashion and everything in between. From Manhattan to Muramvya, Burundi, she's also lived all over the world. There's actually no telling where she could end up next, but she's always ready with a carry-on packed for whatever adventure comes her way.

Our editors strive to ensure that the information in this article is accurate as of the date published, but please keep in mind that offers can change. We encourage you to verify all terms and conditions of any product before you apply.

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