10 Ways Non-Members Can Shop at Costco

Inside Costco Wholesale Co. Ahead of Earnings Release
By Raechel Conover

When it comes to savings on household goods, groceries, and more, Costco (COST) has always been a winning solution in terms of slashing costs. Warehouse shopping is usually cheaper and Sam's Club, Costco and the like provide exceptional membership benefits. But what if you don't have a membership? All isn't lost. There are still ways to land discounts at Costco without paying the annual membership fee.

Shop with a Member. The good old-fashioned way is to visit Costco with a member and fill your cart. While the member will need to pay for your order at checkout, Costco will kindly ring up two separate orders; just have cash or a check ready for the member upon leaving the store.

Use a Costco Cash Card. Another option is to buy Costco cash cards in denominations up to $1,000 while at Costco with a member. Your member buddy will need to load the card for you, but then you can use it to enter the store and buy items without an escort. This is especially helpful for big-ticket purchases such as a TV, so you don't pay a membership fee for just one item.

Use a Business Account. If your employer has a Costco business membership, lobby to be one of the two people whose name is on the account. While you may get stuck with a few office supply runs, you'll also be able to use the card for your own personal savings.

Buy Alcohol. In about a dozen states, alcohol sales cannot be prohibited due to a club or membership. Check the laws in your state and, if it's allowed, explain to the door attendant that you are buying non-member goods. This can be a handy way to slash the cost of alcohol for parties or other events.

Take Advantage of Health Services. Health services such as optical exams and hearing screenings are non-member allowances that Costco makes. However, if you need to buy glasses, contacts or hearing aids, a membership is required. Find a member willing to purchase and be reimbursed for these items or use a loaded Costco Cash Card.

Use the Pharmacy. A Consumer Reports survey of generic drug prices found Costco to be the cheapest among more than 200 pharmacies, and prescription medications can be filled at the Costco pharmacy without a membership. Also available to non-members are immunizations such as the flu vaccine.

Shop Online. Non-members can shop on Costco's website to take advantage of the warehouse club's bargain prices on certain items. Gift cards, for example, can be purchased at a discount online without a membership -- currently, score a $100 iTunes gift card for $84.49. The disadvantage is that non-members may be hit with a 5 percent surcharge on some orders.

Use Instacart. The grocery delivery service Instacart will shop Costco on your behalf -- even if you don't have a membership. Consider this nice little loophole for Costco-priced groceries.

Enjoy the Food Court. A Costco membership is required to get in the door and into the food court at many Costco locations. Yet if you live in a warmer climate where the food court is outside the store, food can be purchased without membership. Costco is known for serving pizza, hot dogs, and other morsels for less than $5.

Buy a Membership. Although you can shop Costco without a membership, the $55 fee for a basic Costco membership may be worth the money if you expect to shop at the warehouse club regularly.
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