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If you have a family and want to save money, you’ve probably heard at one point or another that you should shop at one of the wholesale club membership stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. But will shopping at one of these two retailers actually save you money? And how should you choose between the two?

We’re going to break down the differences between Sam’s Club and Costco, so you make the best choice for you and your family.

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Membership Fees

Costco vs Sam's Club
Jeff Bukowski /

While it may seem a bit silly to pay a membership fee just to go to a store and then spend even more money, loyal Costco and Sam’s Club shoppers swear that they get their money’s worth. So, what can you expect with each membership?

Costco offers four different membership options: Gold Star, Business, Gold Star Executive and Business Executive. The first two are $60 each, and then the latter two are $120 each. 

Gold Star is the most basic membership you can buy and basically just gets you into the store. The Business membership is obviously for business owners. When you upgrade to the executive version of each membership, you receive some additional perks, such as the ability to earn cashback on your purchases.

Sam’s Club offers two memberships: Select Club for $45 and Select Plus for $100. As with Costco, upgrading to the Select Plus membership gives you the ability to earn cashback on purchases, but also free shipping and special store hours.

The winner? Sam’s Club. It’s just cheaper to get into the store with the basic membership. 

Related: The Top 5 Blenders For Smoothies

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Co-Branded Credit Cards

Both stores offer their own co-branded credit cards, which some members may find helpful, especially since these cards double as your membership card and give you an array of perks. 

The Costco Anywhere Visa comes with no annual fee and you can earn 4% cashback on gas (up to $7,000 of gas purchases per year), 3% back on restaurants and travel purchases (with some limitations), 2% back at Costco and 1% back on everything else. 

The Sam’s Club MasterCard also comes with no annual fee and you can earn 5% cashback on gas (up to $6,000 of gas purchases per year), 3% back on restaurants and travel purchases and 1% back on everything else.

The winner? Costco. That 2% cashback at Costco stores is valuable, especially considering that it’s double what you can earn in-store with the Sam’s Club MasterCard. (Regardless, either card would be valuable to anyone looking for a cashback credit card that allows you to earn more cashback at the gas stations next to the store.)

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Prices

Busy Costco Center
dennizn /

Obviously if you’re considering shopping at either of these stores, you’re somewhat concerned about the price of your groceries. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be trying to get the best deals possible on bulk purchases of things like granola bars or ketchup. 

However, it’s difficult to say which store is more budget-friendly. They come out about even in most cases, especially considering they offer quite a few different brands. Costco, for example, offers more of its in-house brands, like Kirkland Signature, whereas Sam’s Club offers more popular, household name brands. 

At the end of the day, you’ll be able to find good deals at both stores, so if you’re making a decision between the two memberships based solely on price, you really can’t go wrong with either. 

The winner? Both.

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Beyond Groceries

Optical Center
Joni Hanebutt /

Both of these stores offer services and products beyond groceries. 

Costco has a full pharmacy that provides flu shots and optical and hearing services. They also offer optical care with a variety of eyeglasses to choose from. Costco auto services include not only gas but tire and battery services. Members can purchase business services, travel and even insurance through Costco. There’s also an in-store restaurant.

Sam’s Club offers the exact same.

So, the winner? Both.

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Other Benefits

Both Costco and Sam’s Club obviously want their members to remain happy so that they stick around and keep paying that annual membership fee. Because of this, both offer very similar satisfaction guarantee policies. 

Members can cancel and refund their membership costs at any times, if they just don’t like the services and aren’t finding the value. 

The winner? Both.

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Locations

Costco Wholesale
Alastair Wallace /

Of course, if only one or the other of these stores are located in your town, then that makes your decisions a whole lot easier. 

There are approximately 600 Sam’s Club locations around the globe, with most being on the East Coast. International stores are located in Mexico, China and Brazil. There are still six states where you will not be able to find a Sam’s Club store: Alaska, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Sam's Club is also owned by Walmart, so sometimes you will see Sam's Clubs in cities and Walmarts in the suburbs. 

There are more than 750 Costco locations around the world, located all across the country as well as in a variety of foreign locales, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Spain, France and even Iceland. 

The winner? Costco. There are just more local Costco stores and it’s more likely you’ll be able to find one in your neck of the woods (even if you’re somewhere like Iceland). 

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Who Wins?

Who wins when it comes to Costco vs. Sam’s Club? Let’s take a look.

Costco wins in these categories:

  • Co-Branded Credit Cards
  • Locations

Sam’s Club wins in a singular category:

  • Membership Fees

The two warehouse memberships tie when it comes to prices and extra member benefits and services. 

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Who Should You Choose?

All in all, when it comes to choosing between a Costco membership and Sam’s Club membership, you can’t go wrong with either. You’ll just have to make the best decision for you, based on which store is closest to where you live, how much you want to spend on a warehouse club membership and which offers the brands you like and prefer. From Kirkland brand to brand-name items, both warehouse stores offer thousands of options for their shoppers. 

While you can order most things with two-day delivery these days from Amazon, you can't get a bulk supply of toilet paper, paper towels and swing by the food court for a slice of pizza or a hot dog in the same shopping trip!

You might also be interested in: 17 Tips to Save Money at the Grocery Store

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Jun 18, 2020

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