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Costco vs. Sam’s Club The Great Wholesale Comparison [2021 Edition]

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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 checkout (get it?) the differences between Sam’s Club and Costco, so you make the absolute best choice for yourself and your family.

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Membership Fees

Costco vs. Sam's Club, card comparison
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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 members and Sam’s Club members swear that they get their money’s worth. So, what can you expect with each membership?

Costco 

Costco offers four different membership options: 

  • Gold Star ($60)
  • Business ($60)
  • Gold Star Executive Membership ($120)
  • Business Executive ($120)

Gold Star is the most basic membership you can buy and just gets you into the store. The Business membership is intended for business owners. Executive members receive additional perks, such as earning cashback on your purchases.

Sam’s Club 

Sam’s Club offers two memberships

  • Select Club ($45) 
  • Select Plus ($100). 

As with Costco, upgrading to the Select Plus membership gives you the ability to earn cashback on purchases, free shipping plus special store hours.

The Winner

Sam’s Club. Both Select Club and Select Plus members pay less to get into the store. 

Related: 20 Healthy Food Subscription Boxes [For All You Foodies]

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. 

Costco Anywhere Visa

The Costco Anywhere Visa offers: 

  • No annual fee
  • 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 
  • 1% back on everything else

Sam’s Club MasterCard

The Sam’s Club MasterCard offers: 

  • No annual fee 
  • Earn 5% cashback on gas (up to $6,000 of gas purchases per year) 
  • 3% back on restaurants and travel purchases 
  • 1% back on everything else

The Winner

Costco. That 2% cashback at Costco stores and Costco.com is valuable, especially considering that it’s double what you can earn in-store with the Sam’s Club MasterCard. The 5% back at all gas stations for the Sam’s Club MasterCard is a huge added bonus, but in relation to shopping at either of these warehouse stores, the 2% cashback helps Costco win this category. 

Regardless of your preferences, either card would benefit 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: Price

People waiting to check out at Costco
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If you’re considering either of these stores, you’re somewhat concerned about the pricing of your groceries. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be trying to get low prices on bulk purchases of things like granola bars or ketchup. 

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 high-quality brands at lower prices. Costco, for example, provides more of its in-house brand products, like Kirkland Signature, whereas Sam’s Club offers more popular household name brands. 

You’ll be able to find good deals at both stores, so if you’re deciding 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

Both of these stores offer services and products beyond groceries. 

Costco

Costco offers:

  • Complete pharmacy that offers affordable shots such as the flu shot
  • Hearing services
  •  Complete optical care with a variety of eyeglasses to choose from for the whole family
  •  Auto services which include gas stations, tire and battery services plus rental car options
  •  Business service opportunities such as travel and insurance through Costco. 
  • In-store restaurant

Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club offers:

  • Complete pharmacy that offers affordable shots such as the flu shot
  • Hearing services
  •  Complete optical care with a variety of eyeglasses to choose from for the whole family
  •  Auto services which include gas stations, tire and battery services plus rental car options
  •  Business service opportunities such as travel and insurance through Costco. 
  • In-store restaurant

The Winner

Both. Many reviewers say that if they had to pick a winner, they’d settle on Costco for its group insurance offerings. However, the benefits offered outside of grocery shopping are almost identical, so it’s hard to pick a winner based solely on this category. 

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Other Benefits

Costco VS. Sam's Club: people holding flyers for both stores
@costco and @samsclub / Instagram

Costco and Sam’s Club offer very similar satisfaction guarantee policies and return policies.

Costco

Sam’s Club

The Winner 

Both. Costco and Sam’s Club want their members to remain happy so they stick around and keep paying that annual membership fee. Because of this, both offer very similar satisfaction guarantee policies and return policies. Costco may be considered to have a better return policy because they have less items that cannot be returned at all or have longer return time periods than Sam’s Club, but they are essentially the same. 

Costco Vs. Sam’s Club: Locations

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

Costco

  • More than 795 Costco locations 
  • Stores across the US
  • Locations also in the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Spain, France and Iceland

Sam’s Club 

  • Approximately 600 Sam’s Club locations 
  • Most locations on the East Coast 
  • Six states where you will not find a Sam’s Club store: Alaska, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington 
  • Locations also in Mexico, China and Brazil 
  • Walmart owns Sam’s Club, so you will generally see Sam’s Clubs in cities and Walmarts in the suburbs 

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?

Woman pushing a Costco cart
ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock.com

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 distinct 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 Costco’s Kirkland brand to household  brand-named items, both warehouse stores provide thousands of options for their shoppers. 

While you can order most things with two-day delivery on Amazon these days, 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

Holly Riddle

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