Don't Make These 22 Mistakes When Shopping At Costco

Is Costco one of your favorite places to shop to get the best deals on everything from fresh fruit, frozen meals, personal care items, products for your home, and so much more? Or are you contemplating signing up for a membership to the wholesale club for the first time? The club is known for having a wide selection of products from a range of national manufacturers available in bulk quantities. When you make the right choices shopping at Costco, you can save a lot of money.

However, not everyone makes the right choices when they shop at Costco. Whether you're gearing up for your first shopping trip there or you shop on a weekly basis, you'll want to avoid making some of the most common mistakes that many shoppers make. These mistakes could not only cause you to spend more money than is necessary on your shopping trip, but they could also prevent you from taking advantage of everything that Costco has to offer.

Trying to checkout without joining the club

If you want to shop at Costco, you need to sign up for a membership. While you may be able to get through the door without a membership card at some locations, you won't be able to check out and actually purchase the products in your cart without one. Unlike some other wholesale clubs that offer free shopping passes or allow guests to pay a fee to shop for just one day, Costco does not offer this option.

Costco offers both personal and business memberships, allowing you to choose the best one based on your reasons for shopping there. It also promises a satisfaction guarantee and believes that it offers top-quality products and savings for its members. If you decide that being a Costco member isn't worth it for you, you can request to have your membership canceled and refunded.

Forgetting your membership card at home

Beyond simply signing up for a membership to Costco, you also won't want to try shopping at the club without your membership card. You will not be able to check out at the registers if you do not have your card for them to scan. Costco employees will not be able to look up your account using your driver's license or another form of ID. You can visit the customer service counter to request a temporary replacement for your card. However, if you don't realize you're missing your membership card until you're ready to check out, it will be a huge hassle to leave the checkout area with your cart and items to grab a new one.

Not downloading the Costco app

Neglecting to download the Costco app is another mistake you'll want to avoid when shopping at Costco. First, there is one workaround to the membership card problem shared above. If you have the app downloaded on your phone, you can pull up a digital copy of your membership card to avoid the hassle of running to customer service if you forget your hard copy.

Beyond the security of having a copy of your membership card, the app also offers several other benefits to customers. It will store copies of all of your receipts, making it easy for you to look back over your purchases or make returns. You can also shop online to compare deals or have select products delivered directly to your home through the app. With the app, you'll also be able to check on the latest coupons and sale opportunities at Costco to help you plan your shopping trip. Users can make shopping lists, check current gas prices at Costco stations, manage prescriptions through the Costco pharmacy, and more.

Not paying attention to the store's coupons and discounts

It is always a good idea to check on the current sales being offered by Costco before shopping in the club. Every few weeks, the items that are on sale will change, and a new ad will be released highlighting the new savings opportunities. You can find deals in nearly every department, helping you maximize your savings on Costco's already low prices. Many of these specials are available both in-store and online. 

However, some of the online prices may be a bit higher than what you'll find in the club. If one of the items you regularly purchase goes on sale, it might be a good idea to stock up and save even more in the long term. You could also be close to running out of something and miss getting it on sale by waiting until the next time you shop, when the sale may have changed.

Not bringing an acceptable method of payment with you

There are some restrictions to how you'll be able to pay for your order when you check out in a Costco warehouse. Most notably, you cannot pay using any credit card other than Visa Cards. If you only have a MasterCard, American Express, or Discover credit card, you will need to make sure you bring another acceptable form of payment with you. Costco will accept cash, most debit cards, personal checks or business checks from current Costco members, traveler's checks, and mobile payments, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. If you shop online, MasterCard and Discover Cards are also accepted. Keep in mind that Costco will not accept checks or credit cards from non-members, even if they are shopping with a member.

Assuming that Costco has the best deals on everything

While Costco's prices are often the best, that is not always the case. It is always a good idea to do some price comparisons between the club and your local grocery stores to make sure you are getting the best deal. There may be times that select products that are less expensive to purchase in the grocery store, especially if they are on sale. A few products that are often less expensive in a grocery store include laundry detergent, organic milk, certain produce items, and some cereals. Especially when they are marked way down at the grocery store. Just keep your phone with you to compare prices when shopping, and you'll always be able to get the best deal.

Walking by the free samples

One of the reasons many people love shopping at Costco is all the free samples it offers, especially if you shop on a weekend or during some of the busier hours. Not only can free samples make your shopping trip a little more enjoyable, but it also gives you the chance to try select products before buying them. The samples offer the ideal opportunity to see if you'll like something without committing to buying a huge package of it. This can save you money and reduce food waste if you don't actually like something. You can also discover new things to try that you might not have even thought about if it wasn't being offered as a free sample.

Shopping without a list

Shopping without a list isn't a good idea at any grocery store, but it is an especially bad idea at Costco. If you don't have a list, you're going to have a hard time remembering everything you need. The store is so large that it isn't realistic to say that you'll just walk down every aisle to jog your memory about what you want to purchase. Another downside of not bringing a list with you to Costco is that you won't have anything to help temper your purchases. You may make more impulse buys, making your shopping trip more expensive and potentially leaving you with more items that you won't really want once you get home and think about it more. When you have a list, you'll at least be able to help curb impulse buys.

Not trying Kirkland Signature products

If you haven't tried any Kirkland Signature products from Costco, then you've been making a mistake. Kirkland Signature is the club's private label brand. The brand produces food, toiletries, home goods, clothing, and much more — with a total of over 300 different items. Beyond the wide range of products available from Kirkland Signature, the brand is also known for its high-quality products. Many of the food items taste incredible, even rivaling the taste of some more expensive national brands. Part of the reason for this is that many Kirkland Signature brand items are actually produced by national retailers. For example, Starbucks makes some of the Kirkland Signature coffee blends, and Bumble Bee makes the brand's canned tuna.

Buying an item in bulk that you won't be able to use up

Buying grocery staples in bulk can offer significant savings. That is unless you end up wasting part of the purchase. Some products available in bulk from Costco, such as toilet paper, won't expire. So, you're fine purchasing ahead and letting the extras sit in a closet until you need them. This is not the case with food items. Consider this example. If a 1-pound package of strawberries costs $3.50 at the grocery store and Costco were to sell a 2-pound pack for $5, the Costco package would be the better deal because you're getting twice as many strawberries for only $1.50 more. However, if you are only going to be able to eat about half of the strawberries before they spoil and end up throwing out the rest, you would be better off buying just 1 pound at the grocery store for $3.50.

Not taking advantage of the discounted gift cards

The next time you're in Costco, make sure to stroll by the gift cards. They are often towards the middle of the store, but the location can vary in each warehouse. These gift cards offer an amazing savings opportunity. You can often save 20% or more off of the full value of the cards. For example, you can get a four-pack of $25 Domino's or Papa Johns gift cards for just $79.99, a savings of 20%. 

You can also purchase $100 worth of Landry's gift cards which are good at several chains, including Joe's Crab Shack, Chart House, Bubba Gump, and Morton's, for $79.99. The selection is available in each warehouse location may vary. You can also find several discounted gift card options available for purchase through Costco's website. In addition to restaurant gift cards, Costco also offers discounted gift cards for several retailers, spas, travel, sporting events, concerts, and more.

Not considering signing up for an Executive Membership

Once you've gotten a taste of shopping at Costco, it is easy to become addicted. And, with all the money you can save on products that you and your family need anyway, it can be a good financial decision to do as much of your shopping at Costco as possible. If you find yourself shopping at the club frequently, then you'll definitely want to consider signing up for an Executive Membership. 

While you will need to pay an additional $60 per year for an Executive Membership, you can quickly recoup the investment — and then some — with all of the membership perks that are offered. The biggest perk that executive members receive is a 2% back on all qualified Costco,, and Costco Travel purchases. This works out to $2 back for each $100 you spend, which can add up over the course of a year. Executive Members are the only ones who can earn rewards on Costco Travel purchases. So, if you're planning any travel through the club, that right there should be reason enough to sign up.

Forgetting to spend your Executive Membership rewards

The 2% reward you earn as an Executive Member is the main reason to sign up and pay the extra $60 per year. But you definitely don't want to forget to spend the rewards that you earn by being an Executive Member. It would be like throwing away free money. Keep an eye out for your rewards check; it should arrive about two months before your membership renewal date. Once you get the rewards check, put it in a safe spot so that you'll have it on your next visit to the store. While the rewards never expire, you don't want to put your check somewhere that you'll forget to use it.

Not realizing how great Costco's return policy is

Costco's return policy is simply amazing. As a Costco customer, you won't need to worry about fighting to get your money back for a damaged product or even one that you decided you didn't like after trying. The club offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on nearly everything it offers. This means that if you try something out and it isn't for you, you can simply return it to the club for a refund. This goes for opened food items, even those that you may have eaten a large portion of. 

The return policy simply can't be beaten. Just bring the items you purchased to your local warehouse as well as the receipt if you have it. In most cases, the money for the refund will be credited to the same method of payment you used to make the purchase. If you purchased something online, you can also request a return through the website and receive a return label to ship the items back.

Not asking for a price adjustment for items that went on sale after purchase

Another perk of being a Costco member is that it offers price adjustments. If you notice that an item is put on sale shortly after you purchased it, you can request a price adjustment. For example, if you purchased a pack of chip snack bags that cost $20 last week, but see that the same item only costs $16 this week, visit the returns counter at your local warehouse to request a price adjustment. For this example, you would be given $4 back to reflect the new lower item cost. If you bought something online, you can request a price adjustment directly through Costco's website. There is a bit of a catch, though. Price adjustments are only issued for items purchased within the past 30 days.

Shopping when hungry

Shopping at Costco on an empty stomach is not a good idea. You're just setting yourself up to walk out with a cart full of stuff that you may or may not actually want. There are just so many delicious foods at Costco, not to mention the samples that might taste extra amazing if you're already hungry. Making an impulse buy at Costco because you feel hungry can be more costly than doing so at a regular grocery store. Instead of getting a single serving of cake, for example, you could end up with an entire sheet cake that you'll be eating for days. Take a few minutes to grab a meal or at least a snack before you head into the wholesale club. Your wallet will thank you later.

Going at the wrong time

It is pretty well established that Costco is a popular retailer. Because of that popularity, the club is often very busy. And, even though employees at Costco work hard to keep everything moving smoothly, shopping during one of the busier times is not going to be ideal. You'll have a harder time finding a parking space, end up waiting longer to check out, and have to duke it out with other customers to make it to the front of the sample lines. When possible, avoid shopping at Costco on the weekends. That's when it's most likely to be very busy. A weekday morning should have fewer crowds. Of course, every warehouse is different. So, you might need to get a feel for your local Costco to help you decide when the best shopping times will be.

Not exploring the other perks of being a member

There are several other perks of being a Costco member beyond the savings on food, personal care, and home items sold in the clubs. One of these perks is the ability to save on travel. Costco Travel offers great deals on vacation packages, hotels, rental cars, and cruises. Costco also works with many different service providers to offer its customers savings on homeowners insurance, auto insurance, pet insurance, identity protection, and various home improvement projects. 

As a Costco customer, you can also work with the Costco Auto Program to save on a new or pre-owned vehicle or get discounted tires for your current car. Costco recently got rid of its Photo Center but has partnered with Shutterfly to offer customers a 51% discount on all orders.

Not stopping by the pharmacy to compare rates

While you don't have to be a member to have prescriptions filled at Costco's pharmacy, one of the benefits of a Costco membership is that you can save more on medications. Either way, you can search for your prescription name on the website to compare prices between the Costco pharmacy and other local pharmacies in your area. This will help you verify that you are getting the best deal. When you go to fill your prescription at Costco, just make sure you show your membership card to take advantage of the member discounts. Costco pharmacies also offer discounted pet medications to help you save money while keeping your furry friends healthy.

Driving past the gas station

Unless you like paying more for gas, driving by the gas station at your local Costco warehouse without filling up is going to be a mistake. Gas at Costco is often the cheapest option, sometimes $0.25 less than other gas stations. With gas prices as high as they are, even saving a few cents per gallon can make a difference. Saving up to a quarter per gallon — or a full dollar for every 4 gallons — puts real money back in your pocket. 

Part of the reason Costco's gas prices are so low is that it's trying to get more customers into its stores. If people stop for gas at Costco, they're more likely to head into the warehouse to spend more money. Another reason the gas is so cheap is that Costco wants to maintain its reputation of offering great deals to its customers — and you have to be a member to fill up at a Costco gas station.

Not stocking up on products you love with an asterisk on the price tag

Paying attention to the price tags when shopping at Costco is important. Beyond checking to see how much you'll be paying for a particular item, it offers additional information. For example, if you see an asterisk on a Costco price tag for an item you like, you might want to stock up and buy a few extra products. This is because the asterisk means that the item is going to be discontinued. So, if you don't stock up when you're in the club, the next time you visit, the product could be sold out and gone for good.

Not visiting a Costco Business Center if there is one near you

There are Costco warehouse locations, and then there are Costco Business Centers. If there is a Costco Business Center in your area, you'll definitely want to make a point of checking it out. You do not need to have a business membership to shop at a Costco Business Center; it's open to all club members. Compared to what you'll find in a typical warehouse location, the Business Centers offer a larger selection of bulk snacks, drinks, and candy. These locations also stock various commercial supplies. There are not as many Business Centers as standard Costco warehouses. In fact, there are only 23 in the United States, 10 of which are in California. But, if you're lucky enough to live close to one or happen to pass by one during your travels, make sure to stop in to shop.