I've shopped at Costco for nearly a decade. Here are the 8 biggest mistakes I see customers make.




 
  • I've shopped at Costco for about 10 years, so I know the rookie mistakes to avoid.

  • Buying packs of restaurant gift cards could actually save you money in the long run.

  • Knowing how to read the chain's price tags can help you make purchasing decisions.

Getting the wrong Costco membership

There are different tiers of membership at Costco.gg5795/Shutterstock
There are different tiers of membership at Costco.gg5795/Shutterstock  

Costco offers different levels of membership, but if you're a frequent shopper who buys most of your household goods at the chain, it may make sense to upgrade to the executive tier.

The executive membership costs $120 per year - an additional $60 from the base option - but it offers an annual 2% reward on qualifying purchases, up to $1,000.

So if you spend a minimum of $250 per month, you'll make back the additional $60 by year's end.

Only buying brand-name products

Kirkland
Kirkland's house-blend coffee is roasted by Starbucks.Olivia Yi  

Costco's Kirkland Signature line offers high-quality products for relatively cheap, often through relationships with large brands.

For example, Kirkland's house-blend coffee is roasted by Starbucks (as indicated on the package) but often sold for several dollars less than the name-brand beans. Other products, like Kirkland's batteries, are also reportedly made by a major brand.

But to ensure your getting the best quality, do your research before you opt for the bargain brand.

Not taking advantage of restaurant gift cards

Yellow and white california pizza kitchen gift card pack at costco
Yellow and white california pizza kitchen gift card pack at costco  

At the wholesale chain, the restaurant gift cards typically cost less than their value, so you can get more food than you're paying for.

For instance, a two-pack of California Pizza Kitchen gift cards contains $100 worth of restaurant credit but costs $79.99, leading to about $20 in savings.

 

Forgetting to carefully read the price tags

If a price tag ends in $0.99, then the item is being sold at the regular price.Olivia Yi
If a price tag ends in $0.99, then the item is being sold at the regular price.Olivia Yi  

Costco's price tags aren't meaningless.

If the price of an item ends in $0.99, then it's being sold at the regular cost. But tags with $0.97 indicate the product is discounted or on clearance.

Price tags ending in $0.00 or $0.88 signal a "manager markdown," which means the product may have been a floor model or return, among other reasons. Closely inspect the item before purchasing it to make sure it's not damaged or missing any parts.

An asterisk next to the price - often referred to as "the death star" by Costco regulars - indicates this item will not be restocked, so you may want to buy more than one.

Not knowing about internal price-matching

Keep an eye on Costco
Keep an eye on Costco's new discounts.Graham Drew Photography/Shutterstock  

If an item goes on sale within 30 days of your purchase from Costco, you can request a refund for the price difference.

Although it can be difficult to keep tabs on every product you buy, this may be especially helpful for high-cost items.

However, you can't use this policy to compare the price of online orders to in-store warehouse offers.

Improperly storing Costco's baked goods

You can freeze most of Costco
You can freeze most of Costco's baked goods.Olivia Yi  

Costco's bakery offers some great deals - you can find a dozen muffins or bagels for relatively cheap. But it can be difficult to eat them all before they get stale.

To avoid food waste, individually package each item in plastic wrap as soon as you get home. You can leave some out on the counter to enjoy over the next few days and store the rest in the freezer.

When you want to eat one, simply thaw the frozen muffin, bagel, or croissant in the microwave for 20 seconds, then toast it in the oven or air fryer at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about five minutes to let the outside get nice and crispy.

You can also take it out of the freezer the night before and leave it on the counter to enjoy in the morning.

Buying precut steaks instead of the whole roast

The whole roast is often cheaper at Costco.Olivia Yi
The whole roast is often cheaper at Costco.Olivia Yi  

Even though you can find a pack of precut steaks in the meat section, it's usually cheaper to buy the whole roast.

For example, precut New York steak is priced at $14.99 per pound, but the whole roast costs $11.99 per pound.

Even though having your steaks already cut is convenient, you can easily purchase the whole slab and slice it at home. This tip is especially helpful to save money when feeding a crowd.

Shopping on the weekends

Customers lined up with carts outside of beige and red costco warehouse
Customers lined up with carts outside of beige and red costco warehouse  

If you walk into just about any Costco on a Saturday or Sunday, you're almost sure to find crowds and long lines. You may even have to circle the lot just to snag a parking spot.

This increased foot traffic can also lead to certain items going out of stock and longer waits at the food court.

To avoid this, it's best to go on a weekday. But if you must shop on the weekend, I recommend arriving 30 minutes before opening - there might already be a small line outside of the entrance.

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