Sam's Club vs. Costco: Which Membership Is More Worth It?

One significant difference could be your deciding factor.

<p>Israel Sebastian/Getty Images</p>

Israel Sebastian/Getty Images

Life seems more expensive than ever these days. One easy, reliable way to save money is by buying in bulk. So, if you’ve been thinking about joining a warehouse club, it’s probably worth the cost of membership.

Two of the most popular membership clubs are Costco and Sam’s Club, which is owned by Walmart. While they sell many of the same household items, you might be wondering which one makes the most sense for you and your family. Here are the differences between the two wholesale stores if you’re currently on the fence.

Related: This Costco Membership Perk Can Score You Huge Savings on Big-Ticket Items

Membership Cost

Costco has three membership options. The two least expensive tiers are the Gold Star and Business Memberships, which cost $60 per year. The only major difference between the two is that the Business Membership allows you to add affiliate cardholders for $60 each.

Costco’s Executive Membership costs $120 annually and offers additional benefits and savings for Costco’s services, as well as 2 percent back on all qualified purchases.

Sam’s Club has two membership levels: Club and Plus. The cost of the Club membership is $50 annually, while the Plus membership costs $110. The upgraded Plus membership gives you free curbside pickup, discounted same-day delivery fees, free shipping, and 2 percent back up to $500 per year. So, it may very well pay for itself.

In-Store Prices

According to a 2022 review by Business Insider, Costco has better prices. However, other sources say Sam’s Club is more affordable. That said, it doesn’t matter how good a deal they have on steak if you’re a vegetarian. If you’re unsure where you’re more likely to save, check the prices online for the products you intend to purchase most frequently.

Return Policy

Each store has a 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed return policy. However, there are exceptions, such as electronics and major appliances, which must be returned within 90 days. The only major difference is for cell phone returns: Sam’s Club gives you just two weeks.

Sam’s Club Has One Major Advantage Over Costco (And It Could Be a Deal Breaker)

Don’t like Costco’s notoriously long lines? You're out of luck. Sam’s Club, on the other hand, gives you two ways to get out more quickly. Sam’s Club offers curbside pickup as well as a “Scan and Go” option in the Sam’s Club app. It even gives you a running total as you shop, making it easier for those on a budget. These may be reason enough to opt for Sam’s Club over Costco.

Related: Don’t Make These 11 Sam’s Club Shopping Mistakes

The Verdict

Unless you’re very loyal to a specific product from Costco’s Kirkland or Sam’s Club’s Member’s Mark private label brands, it probably makes the most sense to join the one that’s most conveniently located or has the lowest prices on the products you buy most frequently.

However, it may also come down to convenience. Costco has more locations, with 876 warehouses worldwide, while Sam’s Club has approximately 600 locations. Either way, you’ll still save money shopping at these wholesalers versus traditional retailers. So, there’s really no wrong decision here.

Still Not Sure Which One to Choose?

If you have a friend who's a member of either store, you can go along with them to get a better idea of the shopping experience. Another option is to shop with a gift card, although gift card purchases are marked up 5 percent for Costco and 10 percent for Sam’s Club.

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