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

June 29, 2015 by Kyle

(Updated 8/01/17) 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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20 Comments on "Frugal Hack #27: 8 Cool Things You Can Do at Costco Without a Membership"

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

The FC in kauai is outside guy

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

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.

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”)

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