Costco Membership for Free: Smart Ways to Make It Happen

Updated March 21, 2024 by Kyle James

My family loves to shop at Costco. In terms of savings, we basically get our Costco membership for free by shopping smart. 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.

Over the years I have discovered some out-of-the-box ways to save at Costco that can easily pay for your $60 gold membership in a couple short months.

These techniques essentially score us a membership for free or REALLY cheap. 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.

Costco Membership for Free: The Ways to Essentially Make It Happen

I’ve also included 2 new bonus tips at the bottom so be sure to scroll all the way down.

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 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey = Barton 1792 Distillery: This whiskey comes from the highly regarded Barton 1792 distillery.

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 membership cost 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.

See Also: Are Costco Tires Cheaper? Here’s How Their Prices Stack Up

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 also 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 Shop Card

While you must be a member to buy or reload a Costco Shop card, anybody can redeem one at ANY Costco location as well as at (they’ll take an extra 5% when shopping on their website).

A fantastic way to shop, without dropping $60 on an annual membership, is to have a friend or family member, who is a Costco member, buy you a Costco Shop 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”.”

See Also: Skip the Membership: All The Stores That’ll Price Match Costco

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 alone easily help my family recoup our annual $60 fee, often without us 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 New Member Deals

New Member Deal

Right now Costco is offering a $10 Costco Shop Card if you sign up for the $60 Gold Star membership bringing it down to $50.

Also, if you’d rather have the $100 Gold Star Executive membership they’ll give you a $20 Costco Card for signing-up.

Works like this. Go through the above links and buy your Costco Membership Activation Certificate.

They’ll then email you the actual certificate and you bring that into any Costco location to join. You must join in-person with a Costco representative.

Your Costco Shop Card will then show up in the mail in 4-6 weeks and is NOT redeemable for cash.

This offer expires on 12/31/24.

Fine print: Valid only for non-members for their 1st year of membership. Limit one per household and non-transferable. 

See Also: The Costco Return Policy: 12 Smart Ways To Make It Work For You

Savings from “Price Protection” is Substantial

If you regularly take advantage of the Costco 30-day price protection policy, you can easily save your $60 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 customer service desk and get some money back.

Lost your receipt? No problem as all your purchases are kept in their 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.

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.

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” 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.

Happy savings.

By Kyle James


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Denise Casados

How about the hearing center?


Amazing price for hearing aid batteries- 48 @ $8.49. Just this 1 product pays for the membership fee.


We have saved many times the membership fee by buying prescription glasses at Costco as we have 2 kids who wear their glasses as well as 2 adults. Buying one pair of glasses at the optometrist easily costs $100-300 more than our insurance would pay. Last time I bought from the optometrist, my one pair of glasses were $300 out of pocket; I got 2 pair (including 1 pair of prescription sunglasses) at Costco this year for under $175. My kid wanted a pair of frames that were $250 at the optometrist, and insurance only covers $100 of that. Kids’ frames run $40 to $60 at Costco – good luck finding any frames at an opticians for under $100. Adult frames I think are mostly under $80, they have a few designer pairs behind the glass for more They often have buy two pair (for the same person), save $30-40 coupons.

Your experience may vary but I saved the membership fee alone on one pair of glasses for myself.


I mean, you can do that at WM without Paying for membership

Kyle Parish

There is another way that wasn’t mentioned. You can order most stuff on with or without a membership.


Article claims to say how to “essentially get a costco membership for free”
Article explains that by buying items at the low Costco prices, you will save enough money over the year to pay for the membership
How about an article that tell us something about how to ACTUALLY get a free or discounted Costco membership? I HAVE seen such specials….few and far between…so tips on finding them would have been nice.
A whole article on, “OMG, you guys, Costco has such great prices, you’re totally going to save the price of the membership!!!” is just fluff.

p.s. their prices on tires are double what I pay at a local merchant.


So true Jen! I was about to write that myself and u beat me to it!

N kuiper

Haven’t seen a price I cant beat somewhere else on what I REALLY want yet!

Cindy Brooks

Price protection at our warehouse has been reduced to 14 days. The change happened quite some time ago. I buy my contacts at Costco. They are a lot cheaper than at Walmart! Non-members can use the pharmacy to save on prescriptions! As far as I know you still don’t need a membership to order food at the deli (Hello, $1.50 hot dog and soda!), but I heard a rumor that this is changing.


If I join Costco, and the pandemic ceases, will delivery service still be available? I am 90 and delivery is key.

john smith

Costco doesn’t offer a delivery service. This is done by instacart which not only charges more per item but then tacks on extra fees for delivery. I don’t understand the loyalty to costco but it’s still a semi free country. imo, there are better options. Sams club offers free delivery on some items and there are no fees if you order I think it’s $35 or more in groceries. You’ll have to check yourself because things change all the time. The great thing about sc is you can check stock of a store online, no driving around all over just to find they don’t have it. They have scan&go so no waiting in checkout lines and concierge service for seniors. You show up, show them what you want from your car and they shop for you. They also, I think, still have online/pickup which is great imo. You order online, pick the day and approx time you will arrive and they load your car for free; no extra charges or fees. You don’t have to go in the store. You just notify them thru their phone app when you arrive. And, I think walmart has this and also amazon has grocery delivery with $35 or more order and prime membership which is $12.99. I pay for it monthly and it more than pays for itself.

john smith

Forgot to mention that delivery is a local feature meaning one area might have it but another one. Or one part of your city may have it but another area won’t. Only way to find out is to go to costco online and try to order for delivery.


Sorry, but none of these showed how to get a free membership. I can literally get a free Sams club membership now, because it Costs $45, & they are giving a $45 Gift Card during their promotion for signing up. So it’s literally free.


A lot of incorrect statements here. I’m in California. First, Costco doesn’t essentially offer a free 365-day membership if you’re unhappy with it and want a refund. They’ll reimburse you the remaining portion of your membership. Second, I just got my membership with Costco in store a few weeks ago and they do not offer a $10 shop card. Third, if you walk in with someone while not having a Costco membership or vice versa, you still need to present someone’s valid membership at checkout for them to scan before presenting a payment method (which doesn’t require the members name on the payment card btw), and EBT Food/Cash is accepted at Costco, as well. … Still, thank you for the article. 🙂


whoopie, save 50 cents a ticket for movies. that’s not much. We bought the extra virgin olive oil, it tastes like crap and goes rancid quickly. Kirkland pure vanilla, used to be good, but then they changed it to Organic, and jacked the price up, and also, it didn’t even taste like vanilla, more like straight alcohol, and even a Costco employee told me that he noticed that too. It’s over priced and crap. You can get pure vanilla at walmart for 9$ or 8oz (Watkins). Even Walmart pure vanilla is overpriced.