The Useful Things You Can Do at Costco Without a Membership

Updated March 21, 2024 by Kyle James

Costco is full of stuff you had no idea existed, but clearly cannot live without. What if you’re on the fence about paying $60 for an annual membership? Perhaps the bulk aspect has you concerned that 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 some 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.

The Useful Things You Can Do at Costco Without a Membership

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

1. Shop With a Costco Shop Card

Costco Shop Card

If you have a friend or family member who’s a current Costco member, you can have them buy you a Costco shop 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 can provide before diving in with an annual membership.

Just show the card checker at the door your “shop card” and you can shop in Costco and use the card when checking out.

Important disclaimer….you can only use the card once in Costco. So if you have a $100 card and only spend $30, they’re going to give you $70 cash back.

Conversely, if you have have a $100 card and spend $125, you’ll have to make up the difference with cash or debit card. Also, depending on the Costco, they may not let you buy the complete order and may ask you to put $25 worth of merchandise back on the shelf.

Members can reload money on the card only at the membership desk.

Bonus Tip: You can also use the card to buy gas at Costco stations as well as online at

See Also: How to Essentially Get a $60 Costco Membership for Free


2. 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 card checker that you’re using the pharmacy and they’ll direct you where to go.

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

The one down side is you won’t gain access to the Costco Member Prescription Program Discount Card which is only available to paying members.

The discount card will save you up to 40% on your medications so it may be worth joining for the savings it provides.

3. 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.

To save time, fill out this Immunization Consent Form at home and bring it with you.

4. Get Your Eyes Checked

Did you know you can get your eyes checked at Costco without a membership?

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 shop card to buy contacts and eyeglasses.

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

See Also: Costco Liquor: 4 Things You Gotta Know Before You Buy

6. 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 $60.

7. Chow Down at the Food Court

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

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

8. 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 $60 basic membership, otherwise you’re losing money on the deal.

Final Note…

I’d also add that Costco has a great 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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Denny hernandez

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

Colton Wicks, OD

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

Colton Wicks, OD

Thank you. Like the site by the way!

Sofiya Alibhai

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.


Does it matter so long as there is someone there to give eye exams? Well to anyone other than a competitor, I guess.


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.


yes you need a membership to use the food court and it has been like that in California for a few years


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.


My Costco is 40 minutes away and I make a trip every week and a half. Food in my local area is very expensive and so I save like 30-40% going to Costco so it’s worth it to me. When I lived 5 minutes away from a Costco in Utah it was only worth it because of the cheaper gas because food around that area was cheap no matter where you bought it (except Walmart they’re expensive).

Trey Finn

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.


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


When you look at the layout of the Costco in Pottstown the main entry is on your left. The exit is on your right along with the costumer service, the tire center and the food court. Just walk in the exit to receive your pass or just buy food with cash or visa.


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.

Sofiya Alibhai

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


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.


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.


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.


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


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!

Jane Urmston

Good Samatarian Law doen NOT require someone to help, it only protects legal responsibility if they help and do harm.

Susan Messick

Can my friend with a membership pay for my prescription eye glasses?

John Curry

I think the RX has to be written by a Costco Dr.


No, that’s not true. I had my general eye doctor write the prescription and got it filled at Costco. Just like they were any other eyeglass place.


I was able to buy glasses at Costco using an outside Rx. However, I live with my 40 y/o daughter and I choose to share MY membership with her, my husband has no interest in shopping with me, let alone without me. For me to purchase glasses for him, he has to have his own membership.

CA il

Costco does NOT treat its employees well


Huh? I’ve read that they are one of the top employers.