(Updated 2/17/20) My family loves to shop at Costco. In terms of savings, we basically get our Costco membership for free. From the Kirkland deals, to the giant play-structure that unmercifully snatched 3 days of my life, the Costco warehouse provides some great ways to save money.
These techniques essentially get you a Costco membership for free. Either by granting you access to the warehouse without having to pay for a membership, or simply by helping you save a quick $60 by shopping smart and getting discounts.
Here are the 7 ways that’ll basically score you a free annual membership to Costco.
Buy Kirkland and Easily Save $60/year
The Kirkland brand at Costco is pretty stellar, and by consistently opting for the in-house brand, your savings will easily surpass $60 annually.
As a matter of fact, many Kirkland products are actually manufactured by the popular (and expensive) name-brand. Here are a few to be aware of:
Kirkland Signature Craft Beer = Gordon Biersch: I love Gordon Biersch beer, and guess what, I love Kirkland craft beer too. Go figure.
Kirkland Signature Premium Small Batch Bourbon = Buffalo Trace: From Insider Louisville, “Kirkland is from Buffalo Trace and tastes like Jim Beam — a little bit, anyway.”
Kirkland Vodka = Grey Goose: The fact that we’re even having the conversation tells me to always buy the WAY cheaper Kirkland brand vodka.
Kirkland Scotch = Macallan 18: A great way to save money on a quality Scotch is to buy the Kirkland brand.
Kirkland Tuna = Bumble Bee: According to a bunch of Amazon reviews, Kirkland Tuna tastes just like, or better, than Bumblebee Tuna.
Kirkland Diapers = Huggies: Apparently the Kirkland brand of diapers is made by Huggies.
Kirkland Laundry Detergent = Good chance it’s made by Sun.
Gotta love the Kirkland brand. What are some of your favorite items?
See Also: 12 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco
Buy The Right Stuff
Perhaps the best way to make up for your $60 Costco membership is to buy the items that provide the most savings. Here are a few of the best Costco buys that are no-brainers.
Tires: Not only does Costco have excellent prices and instant rebates on tire brands like Goodyear, BF Goodrich, and Bridgestone, but they offer awesome add-on services.
These include lifetime rotation and balancing, lifetime warranty replacements, and nitrogen tire inflation which keeps pressure much better than air.
Wine: If you’re a wine connoisseur and buy at least 5 bottles a month, the savings on wine at Costco will quickly pay for your annual membership.
On average you can save $5 to $12 per bottle depending on the original price of the wine. Check out the Costco Wine Blog for terrific independent reviews of the wines found at Costco.
Movie Tickets: The best way to save on tickets to your local movie theater is to buy tickets from Costco.
You’ll find killer deals like 10-packs of AMC or Premiere tickets for $89.99 and a 10-pack at Cinemark Theaters for $84.99.
Nutella: At $0.18 cents an ounce, you’d be a fool to buy it anywhere else.
Amazon can’t come close at almost twice the cost. Walmart is a little closer at almost 25 cents per ounce.
Gift Cards: Costco has some killer deals on bulk gift cards with savings in the 25%-35% off range.
The gift cards typically come in 4 or 5 packs and make for great gifts for friends, teachers, stocking stuffers, and coaches.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Kirkland EVOO rates very highly and is 15-20% cheaper than the name-brand.
Keep in mind that the Kirkland EVOO that says “Toscano” on the label is the higher quality oil.
Pure Vanilla Extract: The Kirkland variety is the cheapest price you’ll find anywhere.
What items at Costco provide you with the most savings? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my list.
Shop With a Costco Cash Card
While you must be a Costco member to buy or reload a Costco cash card, anybody can redeem one at ANY Costco location as well as at Costco.com (they’ll take an extra 5% when shopping on their website).
A fantastic way to shop at Costco, without dropping $60 on an annual membership, is to have a friend or family member, who is a Costco member, buy you a Costco cash card in the warehouse or online.
You can buy a card with a value up to $1,000 so be sure to get an amount that won’t require a reload for a long time.
This is also a great option for college students who doesn’t necessarily need to buy a lot of stuff in bulk as a cash card still provides a way to buy food, gas, and school supplies in the warehouse.
Also, I was informed recently by loyal reader, Bob J., that you can walk-in with a friend and immediately shop without a Costco membership.
Bob explained it this way, “The other day I went to Costco with my brother. who has a membership. I asked the person checking people at the store entrance if I could get in in order to buy a Costco gift card. I was directed to the C/S desk. I also asked if I could use it immediately and was told “Yes”.”
Use an “Instant” Costco Coupon
Costco has gotten very smart when it comes to coupons and it’s a beautiful thing. Not only do you not need to clip Costco coupons, but you don’t even need to have them with you.
Their monthly coupon book has a bunch of killer coupons and the discount is automatically taken at the checkout register.
So even if you’re not aware that an item has a coupon available, you’ll still get the price reduction when checking out.
These coupons can easily help recoup your $60, often without you even knowing it.
Costco “Anywhere Visa” Pays Your Membership Fee
The math on this one is simple. If you shop at Costco and spend about $230 a month, your membership will be completely free. Just apply for the Costco Anywhere Visa card by Citi to make it happen.
Not only will you get 2% cash back at Costco, but you’ll also score 4% back on gas including Costco gas, 3% back at eligible restaurants and hotels, and 1% back on everything else.
Also, there’s NO annual fee but you’ll want to pay your balance in full every month or get hit by 15.49% APR.
Watch for Living Social Deals
Just recently, the folks at Living Social.com had a pretty killer Costco deal that easily paid the $60 membership fee in terms of savings.
For only $55, the deal gave you a 1-year Gold Star Membership ($55 value), a $20 Costco cash card, AA Batteries 72-pack ($18.99 value), Food Court Pizza ($9.95 value), Organic Tortilla Chips ($4.99 value), and if that wasn’t enough you got a coupon good for $25 off an order of $250 or more at Costco.com.
This deal expired a while back, but the reason I share this is because they will have it again and I want you to be ready to jump all over it when they do.
Subscribe to the Living Social newsletter and then you’ll see it in your inbox on the day it’s released to the public.
Savings from “Price Protection” is Substantial
If you regularly take advantage of the Costco 30-day price protection policy, you can easily save your $55 annual fee. As a matter of fact, you’ll be playing with house money in no time.
Whenever you make a significant purchase, keep the receipt in your wallet or purse and check the price on subsequent visits over the next month.
When you see a lower price, just take your receipt to the Costco customer service desk and get some money back.
Lost your receipt? No problem as all your purchases are kept in the Costco system and can be pulled up with your membership card.
They’ll be able to easily access the amount you paid for the product and refund you if the price has indeed dropped.
Hopefully these tips will help you easily recoup your $60 Costco membership in a few short months. How do you save money at Costco?
BONUS #1: But I Want an Actual Free Costco Membership
Unlike Sam’s Club, Costco does not offer a free 1-day pass to check out the warehouse.
Well, actually they kinda do. To make it happen, just sign-up for a 1-year Costco membership and at any point, if you’re not completely satisfied, they’ll refund you the entire cost of the annual membership, no questions asked.
They call it their Risk-Free 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and all you have to do to get your refund is visit the customer service desk and let them know.
So in essence Costco offers a free 364-day trial to their warehouse. Not a bad Costco membership discount to say the least.
BONUS #2: Use the Ibotta App
It’s no secret that Costco doesn’t accept manufacturer coupons of any kind. But…a great workaround is to use the free Ibotta app on your smartphone.
Bonus: Sign-up now and get a $10 welcome bonus when you redeem your first Ibotta rebate.
The app has a ton of “instant rebates” good at Costco that can easily pay for your membership over the course of a year. Rebates on things you’ll be buying anyways like milk, eggs, fruit, produce, beer, and even health/beauty products.
All you have to do is shop like you normally would, scan your Costco receipt via the Ibotta app, and collect your rebate money.
Ibotta is one of my favorite apps and makes for a great money-saving companion whenever you enter the Costco warehouse.
By Kyle James