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Your Costco Membership Can Save You Big, Here's How to Get the Most Out of It

Costco has great prices on a lot of items, and here's how you can maximize your savings on your next trip.

Robin Mosley Former CNET writer
Robin Mosley (she/her) formerly wrote commerce deals for CNET about beauty, fashion and other essential gear. Before that, she freelanced for Healthline, Simply Recipes and Nerd Street. She is a Chicago native living on the East Coast who is a fan of all things beauty, food, gaming and tech. When she isn't writing, she's at a restaurant, shopping online or making YouTube gaming videos.
Robin Mosley
4 min read
Costco Wholesale exterior sign

Shopping in bulk at Costco or another wholesale store can save you a ton of money.

Getty/View press

Odds are you know what Costco is, but you may not already be a member. You may be curious as to whether it's worth it or not to spend $60 or more a year to shop somewhere, but the truth is that the membership easily pays for itself for most Costco shoppers. As a one-stop-shop, there's a lot to buy and a lot of money to be saved by signing up for your own Costco membership.

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The most obvious advantage to joining Costco is the opportunity to stock up on necessities such as groceries, electronics and more in bulk at affordable prices. But did you know about the different types of Costco membership and the additional perks just waiting for you? 

Even after being a member for a year, I had no idea how much value was built into my membership. But now that I do, I'll tell you everything you need to know about Costco membership perks so you can save every visit. If you want to learn how to save at other retailers, check out our additional shopping tips to save at Best Buy Outlet and Amazon's subscribe and save.

How to sign up for a Costco membership

Before I dive into the perks of a Costco membership, you should know you have the option to sign up for one of two Costco memberships. There's the Executive Gold Star membership for $120, and the Gold Star membership for $60. 

In order to get a Costco membership, you need:

1. A membership number (you'll get an email from Costco when you register online)

2. Valid government-issued photo ID

Both of these are needed when you visit a membership counter in person to fully sign up. You can also just do what I did, and sign up in person by skipping the online membership number. Only do the prelim scheduling if you want to save some time in line; either way, you have to go in person to complete the membership process.

When you sign up and it's confirmed, you'll take a picture and have a Costco card in minutes. Plus, the Executive Gold Star and Gold Star membership comes with one free card for anyone over the age of 18 who lives at the same address. 

Gold Star vs. Executive Gold Star membership 

List of Costco perks

A few Costco perks that are available to both Gold Star and Executive Gold Star memberships.


Although you'll save every time you shop at Costco with either membership, there are differences between the two. As a Gold Star member, you have "everyday value" access. This includes:

1. 100% satisfaction guarantee.

2. Two membership cards.

3. Ability to shop online and in warehouses worldwide.

A Costco Executive Gold Star member gets all three perks from the Gold membership and two additional perks:

1. Costco services discounts (e.g. auto insurance program, home insurance).

2. A 2% annual reward up to $1,000 on eligible Costco and Costco travel purchases.

No matter which membership you choose, you'll get Costco gasoline, electronics and appliances, prescription, tires and grocery delivery at cheaper prices.

Get 2% back, here's how

The 2% annual reward is capped at $1,000 for one year. Only purchases made by the primary household member will apply toward the reward. If the primary cardholder is no longer on the account, their purchases will not apply to the reward. About three months before your renewal, you'll get the 2% reward.

Annual rewards

Annual 2% rewards breakdown is easy to understand for Executive members.


How to upgrade to an Executive Gold membership

Maybe you're already a Gold Star member and you want to upgrade to the Executive membership. Here's what you need to know:

1. Costco will prorate the upgrade based on the months remaining in your previous membership.

2. Any purchases made before the upgrade doesn't count toward your 2% reward.

3. The following year, you'll be charged the full $120.

4. And if you want to upgrade, you can visit the membership counter at any Costco to do so.

Which membership is best for you?

To answer this question, ask yourself how much money on average you think you'll spend at Costco. If you're not shopping at Costco regularly, then regular Gold Star membership is likely the better option. However, if you're buying in bulk, plan on making your shopping trips exclusive to Costco, and if you want to earn rewards, then the Executive Gold Star membership is your go-to for extra savings.

Since you're aware of the perks available to you, now you're ready to become a Costco member or upgrade for more rewards. To save money at other retailers, read our other shopping tips on getting Costco delivered without a membership and getting your money back with this holiday return policy cheat sheet.