Do You Need A Membership To Shop At Aldi?

Scrape Hero claims there are more than 2,000 Aldi locations in the United States, but since 11 states don't have one, it's likely that millions of Americans aren't familiar with the ins and outs of the chain. Perhaps you're one of those shoppers without Aldi experience, but a location has recently popped up near you, or maybe you've moved close to one. Chances are you have some questions about the store.

Aldi certainly moves to the beat of its own drum, at least, in comparison to other grocery stores. Each store is smaller than the average food store, has fewer aisles, and charges less for certain items that most competitors don't (via Aldi). Moreover, up to 90% of the products are Aldi-exclusive brands, which many would say gives the bigger brands a run for their money.

Many shoppers have written about their first-time Aldi shopping experience, with one blogger implying that some shoppers may consider the store "unfamiliar territory," and as you can imagine, this prompted a lot of questions. According to the website, one of the most frequently asked questions from shoppers involves whether a membership is needed to shop there.

Some stores offer big grocery savings in exchange for a paid membership

If you'll soon be a first-time Aldi shopper, you'll be happy to know that a membership is not required to shop there. One thing that many seasoned Aldi shoppers instantly take note of is the store's low prices, compared to other stores — a topic that Business Insider has explored. And many customers have shared their shopping experiences on YouTube to let the public know how much money they saved. 

In some cases, the savings percentage can be compared to that of wholesale stores that sell items in bulk, a concept covered by The Penny Hoarder. The fact that certain money-saving stores like Sam's and Costco require a paid membership could be one reason leading customers to suspect that Aldi might have the same requirement.

So if, like some others, you've been under the impression that you need a paid membership to shop at Aldi, take solace in the fact that you don't. But, there are a few things you do need (or might need, depending on how long your shopping list is) for your Aldi visit.

What you need to shop at Aldi

As you approach an Aldi for the first time, you'll notice the carts locked up at the front of the store. That's because the stores use a coin-operated locking mechanism that requires the insertion of a quarter to unlock one, but don't worry; you'll get the quarter back after you return the cart. What happens if you forget your Aldi quarter? You might get lucky and find a loose cart, otherwise, you'll have to carry your items in bags or empty cardboard product boxes from the store.

Speaking of bags — that's the next thing you'll need to bring. Although Aldi carries paper and plastic bags at the registers, they're not free. You can expect to pay roughly 7 cents for paper and 10 for plastic, on average, according to Aisle of Shame. Don't want to buy bags but forgot yours? Aldi offers the aforementioned cardboard product boxes you can use.

One final thing you'll need is the ability to bag your own groceries after the cashier loads them into your shopping cart. And instead of bagging them at the register, you'll need to move to a designated bagging area at the front of the store.

So although you don't need a membership to shop at Aldi, you do need to bring a quarter for a cart, and bags for your groceries, which you'll need to bag yourself.