(Updated 3/23/20) There are many clever ways to save money when shopping at Costco and I have detailed them on this blog in the past. But I’ve never really talked about the Costco website and some of the nuances within their online shopping portal. Costco has invested a lot of resources in their online presence in recent months and it may be time to price compare their website before making a significant purchase on Amazon. Here are 6 ways the Costco online shopping experience differs from walking into their warehouse with your Costco membership card in-hand.
1. Anyone Can Shop the Costco Online Website
While a Costco membership is required to enter their warehouse, anyone can shop the Costco website.
The only caveat is that non-members will be hit with a 5% surcharge during the online checkout process.
But the Costco online price is still often cheaper than Amazon making it worth paying the extra 5%.
Bottom line: I recommend price comparing and doing the math to see if shopping the Costco website (without a membership) makes sense for you.
2. Online Inventory Differs from the Warehouse
If you visit your local Costco, and see an item that you might want to purchase, be aware that if you go home and try to purchase it from the Costco website it may not be available.
This comes down to the fact that every Costco warehouse has slightly different inventory.
Sure they’ll all have the same toilet paper and dog food, but the seasonal items that you often find in the center aisles of the warehouse typically differ.
Bottom line: If you see an item in the warehouse that you can’t live without, go ahead and purchase it and don’t count on the Costco website having it.
3. Online Prices Can Be Higher than Warehouse
This one will come as a bit of surprise to many of you.
If both the Costco website and warehouse stock the same product, it’s often going to be more expensive online.
This price discrepancy typically comes down to the extra shipping and handling costs associated with online purchases.
This seems to be especially true if the item is seasonal in nature.
4. Costco Offers More Products Online
To be specific, 10,000 online items compared to 4,000 items in the Costco warehouse, according to Bloomberg.
This makes sense as Costco warehouses are limited by their 4 walls while their online distribution centers are quite vast.
Even though the selection may be better online, Costco still prefers you to walk into their warehouse as they know you’ll spend more money in the long run.
5. “Costco Grocery” is Only Available Online
Costco currently offers a home-delivery service for grocery items appropriately called Costco Grocery.
The only way to sign-up and start getting deliveries is via their online portal.
They currently have 2 delivery options:
- Same Day Delivery: Requires a minimum order of $35 and is available in most metropolitan areas. Expect to pay more for items than you would at their warehouse. With this option you can get fresh produce and perishable household items delivered. You must be present for delivery.
- 2-Day Delivery: This option requires at least a $75 spend to qualify for free delivery. You can only select non-perishable items and household supplies.
Costco Grocery has been quite successful in recent months and is worth a look for the convenience factor alone.
6. Be Aware of “Member Only Items” on Costco.com
To try and entice consumers to join Costco they offer some items on their website to “Members Only”.
They call them “Member Only Items” and they actually hide the item’s price from non-members.
You’ll see these items most commonly in these departments: Electronics, appliances, and computers.
Ask the Reader: What has been your experience with Costco online shopping? Do you find their website easy to use and the pricing to be competitive?
By Kyle James
Photo credit to Mike Mozart.