There used to be a loophole whereby you could buy a costco gift card and a non-member could use it, and if the purchase exceeded the balance, the person could pay the difference on their credit card.
Does this still work? My Costco membership is up soon and I don’t go often enough to justify the annual fee, but if this works I’ll buy a few gift cards and go once every month or two and pick up a few things.
AFAIK, if you don’t have membership, you have to go to membership services, present the GC, and ask for a temporary membership card.
Don’t know how busy it gets at your Costco, but If you go every month the $ savings may not justify the expense of waiting for the card every time. Also a membership is good for 2 adults and in the past they didn’t care if the adults are related (I don’t know if they do now), so it’s really $30/yr/person.
Is this just to enter the Costco or to make the purchase? I still have my membership card. So I can get into Costco with my membership card at the door. And then when I make the purchase, shrug and say I got this as a gift and pretend not to be a member, because otherwise they might try to coerce me into re-upping my annual fee.
Actually if you have no membership card you can still enter with just the GC. And I’ve never gone to membership services. The register clerk calls over someone (“code 99”?) and then completes the transaction. I actually have a membership card but forgot it last time and didn’t want to waste 20 minutes getting a temp card so I just used a $10 giftcard. At least this is exactly how it’s worked in the 4 states I’ve used GCs in.
If you forget your actual membership card and need to use it to check out, THEN you must go to membership services for a temporary card.
So assuming I’m just going to buy food, on occasion at Costco, and don’t need to worry about the return policy, the strategy will be for me to purchase a handful of $10 to $25 giftcards to use and there’s no downside? No need to get a temporary card or do anything special?
And I suppose I have two possibilities. One is to buy a $500 GC and use that one card over the course of the next year. I generally spend $50 to $100 on food everytime I go.
Or I could buy several small cards and then pay for anything excess out of pocket. My only concern with this strategy is that they might limit me to using cash or debit cards for the excess money. I don’t know where I’ve heard this, but if you’re not a member, they might not let you use a credit card for the excess transaction price above the GC. If that’s true, I’d rather have a $500 GC up front because then I can get CC rewards for the full purchase of it, rather than having to use a zero reward debit card at checkout for the balance.
I’ve used a $10 Gc and excess to credit card about a dozen times total without issue. I’ve had a membership the last two years. Started with a half price groupon that they upsold to executive(at half price). Then after the year was up they refunded executive to a new year’s membership because I didn’t make back the difference in the 2%.
Recently they upgraded me for 6 months @$30 to executive again with a sheet of free items (and also added a few months to the membership).
I wonder what will happen if I downgrade again - if I’ll get $30 or $60(normal executive fee) applied to another gold star. I was upfront saying I just downgraded last year and the mgr doing the selling was still encouraging to upgrade and I could downgrade again if the 2% didn’t equal my fee.
This is partially how we do it. When our renewal comes around, we buy $500 in gift cards, and let the membership expire. When the money on the card runs out, or if we are about to make a significant purchase, we will renew. This gets us to about 18 months per membership year. We just don’t go that often.
Just remember that if you do let it expire, wait at least 3 (I think) months before renewing. Otherwise, they backdate your renewal to your anniversary date.
Great point about waiting a few months! I learned about that last time and it discouraged me from renewing. It’s pretty ridiculous.
As an example for anyone unfamiliar, suppose your Costco membership expires on January 31st. If you go on the very last day and stock up, and then think to yourself you’ll wait until almost the end of March to renew, so you can save 2 months of membership fees, when you go in on March 20th to renew, they backdate your renewal restart date to Feb 1st so you only get extended to Jan 31st of the following year.
Well, there are lots of new loopholes that Costco is doing beyond the gift card method.
The one in the media is Instacart. I don’t know exactly how much they are adding to the item price, but no membership needed.
The Costco portal also allows you to ship to any address and pay with anyone’s card. They are going to add a lot more dry food goods to this portal as announced on the last earnings call.
The easiest may still be those Livingsocial deals to get a membership.
I personally feel not having a membership reduces your budget spend (same issue with Amazon prime). I use OPM for both (Amazon allowed it until recently when it tightened to just same household except grandfathered ones). Costco seems to be embracing it to get more people to spend without allowing everyone through its warehouse doors.
True, I was referencing OPM which is much easier to use on-line than in-store for costco.com.
I agree that Instacart like Doordash and others mark-up items. I would keep watching this channel. I expect mark-ups to not survive the long-term play though (or watch for the flood of coupon codes). Google Express was supposed to be closer to in-store Costco prices.
Further, I notice that Google Express is discounting some Costco merchandise (appears to be some sort of slotting money from the manufacturer).
But then Google got a hiccup and decided to just disallow certain states where Costco can’t do a 10% mark-up (which didn’t really happen much for many popular items). If Google can’t do Costco in California without the membership friction, this will become a bigger problem.
What Google needs to do is remove the Costco label and sell the same merchandise.
I still believe membership programs at Costco and Sam’s Club are not going to survive another 5 years. Sam’s Club has pretty much credited back their membership fees via the Groupon and related channels. Costco is going to have to do something (they’ve also done a few of the deal site memberships as well). Oh, I forgot, they gave free membership via Visa to a number of entities like Navy Federal customers.