Frugal Hack #27: 8 Cool Things You Can Do at Costco Without a Membership

June 29, 2015 by Kyle

(Updated 12/05/17) Costco is full of stuff you had no idea existed, but clearly cannot live another day without.

What if you’re on the fence about paying $55 for an annual membership? Perhaps the bulk aspect has you concerned you’ll end up wasting a lot of stuff. Or maybe you just aren’t sure if the savings is enough to justify the membership. If this is you, I have good news for ya. I recently discovered a bunch of really cool ways to take advantage of Costco without paying a dime for a membership.

8 Cool Things You Can Do at Costco Without a Membership

Here are the cool things you can do, and buy, at Costco without a membership:

Shop Via a Costco Gift Card

If you have a friend or family member who’s a current Costco member, you can have them buy you a Costco gift card which can be used to buy all items in the warehouse.

This is a great option if you’re a college student or just want to test out the savings the warehouse could provide before diving in with an annual membership.

See Also: How to Essentially Get a $55 Costco Membership for Free

Buy Prescription Meds from the Pharmacy

The pharmacy at Costco is available to members and non-members alike. Just bring the prescription from your doctor, tell the greeter/card checker that you’re using the pharmacy and they’ll let you in.

You can even get your prescriptions filled online and have them delivered to your home at NO extra cost.

Get an Immunization Shot

Along with filling prescriptions, Costco also offer immunizations to members and non-members. Be sure to call your local Costco ahead-of-time as an appointment may be required.

If you don’t have medical coverage that covers basic immunizations and the flu shot, Costco has the reputation of being a very affordable option.

Get Your Eyes Checked

Most Costco locations have an independent optometrist in, or near, the warehouse who you can call and schedule an appointment with.

No membership is required, but you’ll need a membership or gift card to buy contacts and glasses.

See Also: The 12 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco

Buy Alcohol

Due to state laws, many states allow you to buy alcohol from “membership clubs” like Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, and Sam’s Club without a membership.

Currently, according to Consumerist, membership is not required to purchase alcohol in the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Vermont.

Browse the Store Before Deciding to Join

If you simply ask the greeter/card checker at the door if you can walk in and peruse the warehouse they’ll send you to the membership desk.

Once you make it to the desk, you can pick up an application and get permission to walk around before signing-up.

This is a great way to see if the warehouse club is right for your needs before dropping $55.

Chow Down at the Food Court

If your local Costco has an outside food court you can absolutely take advantage without official membership.

Makes for a great lunch stop for the $1.50 hot dog/soda meal deal or a couple slices of cheap, but quite good, pizza.

If your location lacks an outside food court, just tell the card checker you’re there to get membership information and head for the food court as well. Be sure to bring cash as that’s all they’ll take.

See Also: The Costco Return Policy: 7 Ways To Make It Work For You

Shop at

Anybody can shop on, but if you’re not a current member, you’ll be hit with a 5% surcharge on all online purchases except for prescription drugs.

So if you’re buying something over $1,100, you’ll want to buy the $55 basic membership, otherwise you’re losing money on the whole deal.

I’d also add that Costco has a strong reputation for treating their employees well and offering excellent benefits. They should be applauded for this and other companies should take notice.

One way to support what Costco is doing, would be to go ahead and get the membership as it’ll easily pay for itself if you shop smart.

By Kyle James

Photo by Portal Abras.

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27 Responses to “Frugal Hack #27: 8 Cool Things You Can Do at Costco Without a Membership”

  1. Denny hernandez on February 8th, 2016 8:59 am

    I want to buy the 9″ plushed bear, would i need a membership to do so?

  2. Colton Wicks, OD on February 16th, 2016 12:44 pm

    The comment about “Costco has an optometrist on staff” is incorrect!! Costco cannot legally employ a doctor. Please amend this fallacy. Thanks

    Colton Wicks, OD

  3. Kyle on February 16th, 2016 12:51 pm

    Thanks for the comment Colton. From the Costco website, “Most Costco Optical locations have an Independent Doctor of Optometry in or near the optical department.” So I guess “independent” is the key work here. I amended the article as such.

  4. Colton Wicks, OD on February 16th, 2016 8:34 pm

    Thank you. Like the site by the way!

  5. Sofiya Alibhai on August 8th, 2017 10:48 pm

    Actually, this varies from state to state. I am a doctor in WA and am an independent optometrist as per the state law. However, in certain other states, Costco does employ doctors.

  6. Jr on March 8th, 2016 9:30 pm

    You actually do need a membership to go inside the store to the food court.

    Members privileges & Conditions states:
    You will be required to show your membership card when entering any Costco warehouse and when checking out at a payment register.

    Your facts are misleading and down plays the need to becomes a member.
    Costco is a business and they as all business’s have a right to be profitable.

  7. Kyle on March 9th, 2016 9:31 am

    Maybe you didn’t read the article all the way through. If your Costco has an outside food court, like many do, you don’t need a membership to eat there.

  8. emj on August 18th, 2016 7:26 am

    You don’t need an active membership card to get in. I use one that expired 8 years ago to get inside to eat at the food court. I also shopped there using Cash Cards until recently. They no longer allow you to shop there with a Cash Card unless you are a member.

  9. LOURDES on April 15th, 2016 5:06 pm

    If I shop with a gift card, but go over the gift card balance, can I pay the rest in cash? I was given a gift card, but I’m not a member. It’s not worth it for me to get a membership since the closest Costco is about an hour away from my house.

  10. Trey Finn on June 15th, 2016 11:04 am

    This is not accurate. I tried to get food at Costco and was not allowed inside the store because I didn’t have a membership.

  11. Kyle on June 15th, 2016 1:26 pm

    The food court must be on the exterior of the Costco, which it is at some locations.

  12. tufur on August 24th, 2017 6:58 pm

    Please name the location. Santa Clara Valley and Colorado do not have outdoor food. Maybe you are confused with Home depot and Lowes.

  13. Kyle on August 25th, 2017 7:32 am

    1646 W. Montebello, Phoenix, AZ

    The food court is in a common area before you enter the store.

  14. Hutch on November 24th, 2016 4:55 pm

    Ask for manager 100% you will get in and you will get a sincere apology and that employee will get written up.

  15. Maria on December 28th, 2016 11:45 am

    You don’t need a Costco card to go in and look around the store. If you want to purchase you’ll need a Costco membership card or you won’t be allowed to purchase. Some items you can buy without membership like liquor or food court.

  16. Drew on August 26th, 2016 10:51 am

    The Costco on Kauai has the FC inside. There have been quite a few times where a friend and I let the greeter know we were going to eat and they let us in.

    Same here on the mainland as well.

    Maybe the greeter just didn’t care.

  17. Koa on April 9th, 2017 12:22 pm

    The FC in kauai is outside guy

  18. Drew on August 26th, 2016 10:54 am

    Couldn’t one just purchase a GC online for whatever price and completely bypass the 55.00 membership fee?

  19. Kyle on August 26th, 2016 11:11 am

    Unfortunately, you gotta be a Costco member to purchase or reload Costco Cash Cards. So just get a friend or family member, who is a member, to buy one for you and pay them back.

  20. Steve on July 6th, 2017 12:19 pm

    You should be able to use the optometrist, but I don’t think you would be able to purchase your glasses there without a membership.

  21. Sofiya Alibhai on August 8th, 2017 10:55 pm

    That is correct. In locations that have independent optometrists, you can get a full eye exam and walk out with a prescription. However, to buy glasses or contacts from Costco optical, you do require their membership. They have a good selection and with significant savings which could make up for the membership itself (along with the other ways suggested by Kyle in his article “how to get a Costco membership for free”)

  22. Judy on August 10th, 2017 5:13 pm

    I was injured at Costco! They told me I wasn’t shopping with a friend I don’t have a witness and that the Surveillance would be deleted I would never prove it. The cashier said Costco came to her house. The Quincy Costco manager Cameron said that Lena the cashier was threatened and that is why she lied in deposition. I had 2 surgeries on my foot. The manager at the Arvada Costco pushed a Flat Bed Cart onto my foot while I was paying for my groceries. I was in and out of passing out and they did not call EMS. What is wrong with COSTCO! Last Spring a young man took his truck to the same Arvada Costco to get tires. He walked around the store and went out to get his truck which was gone! Stolen! Costco says Public Parking Lot. We are not responsible. People need to know! We need to stand up against Costco! E-Mail Craig Jelnik the CEO of Costco. Deleting the Surveillance time and time again is wrong! Look up injuries at Costco. Employees or customers they never seem to have surveillance! Look up Colin Berry on youtube. Him and his wife have been fighting Costco for 14 years after washing machines fell on top of them. Costco has never paid them a nickel. Please e-mail them! Judy

  23. tufur on August 24th, 2017 7:23 pm

    In the future buy the $9 pizza instead of doing the trip and fall scam. Imagine how many go through Costco doors just to buy goods. Go away. Just go away.

  24. Judy on August 25th, 2017 10:49 am

    If you are not concerned about what is going on then you probably work there! I wonder who you are and what you got away with. Crawl back under your desk. I’m fighting for the next person that Costco will hurt and treat badly like they did me. Corporate Greed! Craig Jelinek I’m still waiting for you to contact me. I was injured by one of the Managers at the Arvada Costco. You know that. COSTCO deleted the SURVEILLANCE!!!! I believe that is a crime! Cameron is another manager of Costco she said COSTCO threatened Lena the Cashier! WOW!!! Lena told the truth to the police. This will make a great book.

  25. Judy on August 25th, 2017 11:12 am

    Thank you for telling my story. I tried to get channel 9 news to cover it. Everyone is afraid to stand up to them. It’s not right to hurt someone and lie about it. IT IS A CRIME TO DELETE THE SURVEILLANCE! They need to change those flat bed carts and put a safety device in front so they can’t hurt someone else. Those carts are heavy. The manager parked it on my foot while I was paying for my groceries. I was pinned to the floor. She finally yanked it off. I will never stop fighting for justice.

  26. NoJusticeforJudy on September 17th, 2017 9:43 am

    Perhaps you should not be so dumb as to get run over by a shopping cart. It is a crime to be so stupid.

  27. Judy on September 18th, 2017 12:35 pm

    I was paying for my groceries! She put a FLAT BED CART on my foot. Maybe you work at COSTCO! Maybe one of the managers that is covering this up is your wife. I was in shock with a seared off toe! Passing out! Maybe you have nothing else to do. Good Samaritan Law states you have to help the injured party! Lying in DEPOSITION is also WRONG! As well as Threatening the cashier to lie!

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