How to Shop at Costco Without a Membership

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(Image credit: Mike Mozart)cc by 2.0

If you’re totally over hearing about how everyone else is buying entire legs of Spanish ham and cauliflower tots at Costco because you — unlike them — don’t have a membership to the warehouse store, well, we have some thoughts for you. While Costco membership starts at $60 and makes sense for larger households or people with enough storage space to stockpile two years’ worth of toilet paper and an extra freezer for all those taquitos, it doesn’t always make sense if you just, every once in while, want to get in on a few of the cool products.

Luckily there are some ways around the membership barrier — besides just begging your parents to take you while you’re home visiting.

1. Ask for a Costco Cash Card from a Member.

In many ways, the Costco cash card is the easiest way to gain access to Costco products for non-members and it’s the only way to enter the stores without a member or membership. Essentially a gift card, the catch is that it can only be purchased by a member. But once purchased, it gives non-members the ability to shop on their own at the stores or online (with the surcharge — see below).

If you’re just wanting that one-time go-nuts experience, this is the best way to do it: by having a member go get you one or asking for one as a gift.

As mentioned above, you don’t actually need to be a Costco member to order from Costco online — but you’ll pay for it. Non-members can order most of the items online (with the exception of member-only items and anything requiring same-day or two-day delivery), but they are charged a 5% fee for the privilege. Depending on the item and the frequency of shopping, that might still end up under the membership fee and be well worth it, especially if it’s a great deal on a Vitamix blender or KitchenAid mixer.

Sadly, the fast-delivery items include most of the foods, which makes this less good for getting groceries. However, there’s a way around that, too (see point number three.)

3. Use Grocery Delivery.

The fastest and most efficient way to get your hands on Costco’s grocery goods is using a grocery delivery service, like Instacart. As with the online shopping, you’ll pay a bit extra, but you’ll also get all the great Costco grocery options delivered directly to your door for a small fee — or free, if it’s your first order on Instacart or you are using Google Express and ordering more than $35 worth of goods.

4. Stick to the Non-Member Items.

If what’s actually been driving you nuts about not getting to Costco are the rumors of incredible hot dogs and super-cheap pizza, good news: the food court is totally open to non-members. Because of laws that govern such things, there are a few other items that fit this “available to non-members” category as well, including alcohol, in some states, the pharmacy, and optical exams.

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