Is a Sam’s Club Membership Worth It? I Rejoined Last Year — Here’s Everything You Should Know

published Jan 16, 2024
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The exterior of a Sam’s Club store with a shopper walking in and away from it.
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At times shopping at the neighborhood grocery store just doesn’t suffice, and only a stop at a warehouse club will do the trick. Choosing between Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s Wholesale Club for your bulk buying involves careful consideration of location, available products, and membership fees. 

After over a decade of membership at Costco, I rejoined Sam’s Club last year after a 15-year hiatus and have been exploring the array of benefits the club offers. Here’s a breakdown of how much it costs to join Sam’s Club and many of the benefits that members are eligible for. 

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How Much Does a Sam’s Club Membership Cost?

  • Club membership: This basic level of membership costs $50 per year for you and a second member of your household, and comes with a limited number of perks, including access to the tire and battery center and eligibility for the Sam’s Club Mastercard. 
  • Plus membership: This premium membership level costs $110 per year for you and another member of your household, and comes with the full range of membership benefits, including extra warehouse shopping hours, potential to earn Sam’s Cash, and free shipping on most items.
  • Add-on memberships: Members may add additional members to their account for just $45. Club members can add up to eight people, while Plus members can add up to 16. 
  • Membership discounts: Teachers, military members, medical professionals, students, seniors, and government employees may be eligible for up to a 60% discount on new memberships. Sam’s Club periodically offers membership discounts. I paid just $25 for my club membership after searching for “Sam’s Club membership deals” online.

How to Earn Cash Back with a Sam’s Club Membership

Sam’s Club offers a loyalty rewards program called “Sam’s Cash” to Plus members and members who have a Sam’s Club Mastercard. Here’s how it works.

  • 2% Sam’s Cash earned on purchase price of qualifying items (more on that below).
  • A maximum of $500 Sam’s Cash can be earned per membership year. 
  • Sam’s Club members can use their Sam’s Club Mastercard to earn up to $5,000 in Sam’s Cash each calendar year.

Here are a few of the highlights found nestled within the fine print of the Sam’s Cash program.

  • Purchases must be made in the club or with Curbside Pickup. Purchases made on do not qualify.
  • The primary and second complimentary household cardholder can earn Sam’s Cash, while purchases made by add-on members do not qualify. 
  • If items are returned, the Sam’s Cash earned on that purchase is deducted from the member’s accrued Sam’s Cash.
  • If purchases made inside the club with Sam’s Cash are returned, that value is refunded in a gift card or cash. 
  • Purchases of alcohol, tobacco, fuel, milk, gift cards, and other items do not earn Sam’s Cash.
  • Sam’s Cash doesn’t expire, but you have to have an active membership to redeem.
Credit: Joni Hanebutt/Shutterstock

What Makes a Sam’s Club Membership Worth It? 

A membership to any warehouse club goes beyond the big packages of toilet paper. There are perks throughout the store and online. Here are some that make a Sam’s Club membership totally worth the price of admission.

  • Gas: If you’re considering a Sam’s Club membership, there’s a good chance that you’ll use a car to transport your haul back home. Before you leave the lot, make sure to fill up on gas. The savings at the pump can add up for both Club and Plus members.
  • Online shopping experience: Prices on Sam’s Club’s website and in-store are the same. That makes comparison shopping and sticking to a budget so much easier (especially if you prefer the convenience of ordering online). 
  • Curbside pickup: The Sam’s Club app and website make it easy to place your order and pick up without ever having to set foot inside. This service is free for Plus members and costs just $4 per order for Club members. 
  • Scan & go: This brilliant bit of technology lets you scan items in the Sam’s Club app as you shop and pay without stopping by a register. Not only that, but there are also even bigger discounts marked throughout the store that you can claim only if you’re using Scan & Go.
  • Bulk buy name brands: One major difference between Costco and Sam’s Club was the latter’s focus on stocking more national name brands. This was most evident to me in the snacks and drinks sections of the warehouse, so it’s worth looking for the legacy brands that you’ve relied on for years.
Credit: Patty Catalano

What If You Live in a Smaller Household?

Smaller households have to think twice about whether buying in bulk is a useful money- and/or time-saving strategy for them. I hold the opinion that warehouse shopping can work for every home, no matter the size. Here are some strategies that smaller households can use to make shopping at Sam’s Club worth it.

  • Bulk buying = fewer trips to the store. If you rely on the warehouse store for your staple ingredients like proteins, frozen foods, and pantry ingredients, you’ll only have to replenish fresh fruits and vegetables as needed. This translates to fewer trips to the grocery store and more options on hand for meal preparation. 
  • Take advantage of perks. Even if you shop at Sam’s Club just a few times a year, the money you save can make a membership worth it if you take advantage of all the included benefits. Discounts on flat tire repairs, fuel center savings, deals on some prescriptions and eye glasses, plus the lower prices Sam’s Club can offer on appliances and entertainment equipment. 

Reasons You Might Pass on a Sam’s Club Membership

A Sam’s Club membership isn’t for everyone. You might want to skip a membership to this warehouse if the location is inconvenient or you don’t have extra pantry or freezer storage space. If your family’s budget needs to remain consistent week-to-week, a bulk shopping trip may leave your accounts too low for other bills. 

Can You Shop at Sam’s Club Without a Membership?

Non-members can shop without a membership by creating a guest membership online during the checkout process. A 10% surcharge will apply. Members can bring up to two guests to Sam’s Club per visit, but only the member may purchase items. 

The optical center, pharmacy, and food court are open to the public and do not require a Sam’s Club membership. 

Are you a Sam’s Club member? Tell us about it in the comments.