5 Things You Should Know About Costco Price Tags, According to an Expert Shopper

published Sep 1, 2022
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It’s no secret that Costco offers club members great deals, but not all Costco pricing is created equal. In many cases, the secret to knowing the depth of a Costco discount is hidden in plain sight — on the price tag.

Costco price tags carry a bevy of information for savvy shoppers who know how to read them, including whether or not an item will be restocked, how deeply it’s discounted, and even which food items are organically sourced.

To help you learn how to decipher Costco’s color-coded price tags, I spoke with Marie Clark, editor of CostContessa, a shopping site focused on Costco and big-box retail. A stay-at-home mom who turned her love of Costco and its organic food deals into a business, Clark is an expert Costco shopper who blogs regularly about how to not just save pennies with a Costco membership, but also how to save big bucks by scouring price tags for extra pricing info. Here’s what she had to say.

Credit: Marie Clark of Cost Contessa

1. If you see an asterisk, it’s a sign an item’s time is limited.

“On Costco price tags, if you see an asterisk in the upper right-hand corner, this indicates an item won’t be restocked,” Clark says. You may have heard this tip before, but it’s helpful to always keep in mind, particularly when it comes to staple items you might want to stock up on.

“The item might be full price or it might be discounted — an asterisk alone doesn’t tell you more than that,” she says. “But if it’s something you want and you were thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll come back and get it next week instead,’ you might want to think twice and purchase it now.” Fun fact: Costco employees and those who shop regularly at the store often refer to the asterisk as the “death star.”

Credit: Marie Clark of Cost Contessa

2. Standard pricing ends in nine.

If you’re looking at a price tag and the number ends in a nine, you can feel confident that this is the basic Costco price and it hasn’t been marked down. “It could end in .79, .89, or .29. It doesn’t matter — if it ends in a nine, it’s a regular price. It will generally be below retail price because Costco negotiates embedded discounts in their products, but for Costco it’s a full-priced item,” says Clark.

Credit: Jessica Prudenti-Montalvo

3. Organic items get their own color-coded tag.

If you’re on the hunt for organic produce or meat and not sure where to look, go green. “White tags are placed on conventional food items, and green tags go on organic ones,” Clark said. The system isn’t foolproof, however. “Not 100 percent of Costco’s organic stuff gets flagged as organic, but they do try, and most of the organic items will have a green tag,” she says.

Credit: Marie Clark of Cost Contessa

4. Sale items end in a double zero or seven.

While 007 means Bond in the rest of the world, in Costco, 007 means Sale. Big Sale. “If you see an item marked down and its price ends in .97 or in an even .00 (say, $5.00), then you know it’s on clearance,” Clark says. What’s the difference between items that end in seven and those that end in .00? “You tend to see the .00 price tags on clothing,” she explains.

Prices are the only identification of clearance items in Costco stores — there are no red lines or special clearance tags, and no dedicated markdown section for shoppers to sift through. So only those armed with knowledge on how Costco handles its pricing will even be aware they’re looking at a sale item.

Credit: Patty Catalano

5. The date on the bottom right of your price tag has meaning, too.

Just because an item is on clearance doesn’t mean it won’t be further reduced. But how does a shopper know? A good rule of thumb, Clark says, is to look at the date on the bottom right-hand corner of the price tag. “That will tell you the last time the price tag was updated,” she says. If it’s been a while, and there’s no asterisk on the tag, there’s a good chance there’s a further reduction just around the corner.

Got a tip about Costco’s price tags? Tell us about it in the comments below.