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Sam’s Club vs Costco (2024): Review and Comparison

When it comes to membership-based warehouse retail stores, Sam’s Club and Costco set themselves apart from the rest, each offering a treasure trove of products at wholesale prices to their loyal members. These retail giants have revolutionized the way consumers shop, providing access to an extensive array of goods ranging from groceries to electronics, often in bulk quantities. 

While both Sam’s Club and Costco share the common goal of delivering value and savings to their members, subtle differences in their offerings, membership benefits, and overall shopping experiences distinguish the two. 

What are Sam’s Club and Costco?

Both Sam’s Club and Costco are membership-exclusive warehouse retail stores.

Sam’s Club is a chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart Inc. It offers a wide selection of merchandise at discounted prices, including groceries, electronics, home goods, and more. It operates primarily in the United States and also offers memberships for businesses. Sam’s Club distinguishes itself with its emphasis on bulk purchasing and savings for its members, who pay an annual fee for access to the club’s offerings.

Costco Wholesale Corporation is a multinational corporation operating a chain of membership-only warehouse clubs. It is one of the largest retailers in the world, with locations primarily in the United States but also in several other countries. Costco offers a wide variety of merchandise, including groceries, electronics, appliances, clothing, and furniture usually in bulk sizes. It is known for its high-quality products and competitive pricing. Members pay an annual fee to shop at Costco, and the company emphasizes a no-frills shopping experience focused on value and savings.

Put simply, both stores cater to consumers who are looking to save money by purchasing items in bulk and are willing to pay a membership fee for access to discounted prices and a wide selection of goods.

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Sam’s Club and Costco Memberships

An overview of the perks and benefits that come with a Sam’s Club or Costco membership.

Sam’s Club Membership Benefits

Sam’s Club offers two membership tiers: Club and Plus.

Club Membership

  • $25 per year (terms and conditions apply)
  • Includes one card for the primary account holder and a free complimentary card for another member of your household
  • Add up to 8 additional members at a reduced rate of $45 each
  • Low member’s only prices with new Instant Savings offers throughout the year
  • Fuel savings at select gas stations
  • Scan & Go service that lets you scan items, pay using the app and skip the checkout line
  • Sam’s Club Mastercard lets you earn 5% Sam’s Cash back on gas for the first $6,000 per year (1% after), 3% back on dining, 1% back on eligible purchases at Sam’s Club and 1% on other purchases

Plus Membership

  • $70 per year (T&C Apply)
  • Includes all Club membership benefits with better perks
  • Add up to 16 extra Club-level members at $45 each
  • Free shipping on most online items for primary and household/complimentary cardholders
  • Free curbside pickup (costs $4 for Club-level members)
  • Same-day delivery for only $8 as opposed to $12 for Club-level members 
  • Extra optical and pharmacy discounts such as 20% off a pair of prescription eyeglasses and free shipping on contacts
  • Lets you earn 2% Sam’s Cash back on qualifying purchases up to $500 per year
  • Early shopping hours from 8:00 a.m. onward
  • Same benefits as the Club-level Sam’s Club Mastercard but you earn 3% back on eligible purchases at Sam’s Club instead of 1%

Costco Membership Benefits

Costco offers two membership tiers: Gold Star and Executive.

Gold Star Membership

  • $60 per year
  • Includes one free additional card
  • Access to Costco warehouses and online store
  • Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi lets you earn cash back rewards on eligible purchases, including 4% on gas and EV charging (up to $7,000 annually), 3% on restaurants and eligible travel, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% on all other purchases. 

Executive Membership

  • $120 ($60 membership fee + $60 upgrade fee) per year
  • Includes all Gold Star membership benefits
  • Annual 2% reward from the day you sign up as an Executive member—your qualified purchases start earning toward your annual 2% reward. Executive Members can earn up to $1,000 every year on qualified Costco, Costco.com, and Costco Travel purchases
  • Executive Members may save on additional service providers through Costco Services (travel insurance, pet insurance, cell phones and plans, and more)

Which is better, Sam’s Club or Costco?

As for which is better, there are several factors that need to be taken into account. First off, Sam’s Club offers a basic membership for $25 per year (T&C Apply), while Costco’s basic membership costs $60 annually. Sam’s Club Plus membership is priced at $70 per year (T&C Apply. See site for details), while Costco’s Executive membership is $120 annually. To put two and two together, Sam’s Club membership tiers are more affordable compared to their Costco counterparts.

Also, Sam’s Club tends to offer more frequent membership deals compared to Costco. It stocks more name brands as well, while the latter focuses on private brands and organic goods. Another thing to keep in mind is their location. It’s important to consider the proximity of each store to your home to maximize the use of your membership and save on travel costs.

In summary, when deciding between Sam’s Club and Costco memberships, factors such as cost, return policies, product offerings, additional perks, location convenience, and customer experience play crucial roles in determining which membership aligns best with individual preferences and needs.

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Is a Sam’s Club membership worth it?

Whether it’s worth getting a Sam’s Club membership or not boils down to how you shop.

The value of a Sam’s Club membership depends on your personal spending habits and needs.

Frequency of Bulk Purchases: If you frequently purchase items in bulk, such as paper products, cleaning supplies, or non-perishable food items, a Sam’s Club membership may be worthwhile and help you save more in the long run.

Services: Sam’s Club offers various services, such as optical and pharmacy discounts, which can save you money if you utilize these services.

Shipping: If you often purchase items online, the free shipping on most online items for Plus members may be a huge benefit.

Cost: Compare the cost of a Sam’s Club membership to the potential savings you would gain from the membership benefits.

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Verdict

While it’s hard to go wrong with both warehouse clubs, Sam’s Club has the edge.

While both Sam’s Club and Costco offer compelling membership-based shopping experiences with vast product selections and attractive discounts, a closer examination reveals unique advantages that tilt the scale slightly in favor of Sam’s Club. 

With its commitment to providing value and savings to members, Sam’s Club stands out with its competitive pricing and a wide range of offerings. Moreover, its focus on convenience, including the availability of Scan & Go technology for seamless checkout experiences, appeals to modern shoppers seeking efficiency in their retail interactions. 

As such, while both warehouse clubs offer substantial benefits, Sam’s Club’s dedication to affordability, convenience, and customer satisfaction positions it as a formidable contender in the world of membership-based shopping.

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.