14 Costco Downsides To Consider Before Signing up for a Membership

Costco is a favorite among many Americans, but even the best stores have their downsides.

Costco has more than one disadvantage that members and member wannabes should know about. These drawbacks might not be widely publicized, but we still managed to find them. 

1: Wait Times

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There’s no doubt Costco employees try their best to move people through the lines that inevitably stack up, and Costco’s former CEO was quoted as saying the average transaction time is only one minute.

Still, anyone who has frequented the warehouse store knows that sometimes getting out the door takes far longer than that. There are reported wait times of up to forty minutes on busy days. 

2: No Scan and Go

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One of Costco’s biggest competitors, Sam’s Club, offers scan-and-go technology, allowing you to scan things as they enter your cart and skip check-out altogether. But Costco doesn’t seem to keen on implementing this time-saving option.

Even if they did, they’d probably still want to check your receipt and cart before you head out the door.  

3: Limited Payment Options

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Costco only accepts certain payment options. To shop there in person, you’ll need cash, a Visa credit card, or a debit card. If you rely on Amex, Mastercard, or some other credit provider, you’re out of luck. 

That said, you can use Discover and Mastercard at Costco’s online store or app. Regardless, such limited options are a big no-no for consumers these days if you ask us.

4: Membership Crackdown

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Recently, Costco has begun to crack down on its membership policies. The days of account sharing are quickly coming to an end, as Costco is now asking people to scan their membership cards to enter the store in some locations.

They’re also sticking to their rules, which state that a paying member can only bring one adult guest into the warehouse. 

5: Two Account Cards Only

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Costco only offers two cards per family. That works well for families with only two adults. But many wish they could send their driving-age children to Costco to pick up a few things.  

6: Limited Locations

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Depending on where you live, getting to a Costco might be a trek. In some states, there are only one or two warehouses. While some find it makes sense to drive an hour or more to get to their local Costco, many Americans aren’t interested in spending an entire day on groceries. 

7: Constant Inventory Rotations

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There are some staples you can count on Costco having, like their $4.99 rotisserie chickens. However, much of their inventory is subject to rotation. So, if you fall in love with a new product, don’t expect it to be there on your next trip. 

8: Temptations

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Between free samples and prices that seem too good to be true, it’s all too easy to buy the family-size bag of birthday cake-flavored popcorn or the box of chocolate ice cream bars and eat them all yourself.

Giving into temptation at Costco is often more consequential from a health perspective than it would be at other stores. Because let’s face it: Who binges on massive bags of broccoli?

9: Bulk Waste

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Although the price of fresh strawberries may look better at Costco, they don’t last any longer than the ones you get at a regular grocery store. That means it’s all too easy to end up with a lot of food waste. 

10: Not Always a Good Deal

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Many things at Costco are a good deal, but not everything. Depending on your store location, you may find a lot of the inventory is organic or marketed towards a special nutrition need (like gluten-free).

Buying three pounds of organic pasta at Costco is usually much more expensive than buying three pounds of regular pasta at your local supermarket, but it’s easy to fool yourself into doing just that.   

11: Lacking Delivery Help 

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You can get great deals on furniture, big-screen TVs, ladders, and even playhouses at Costco, but you better have a plan for getting those items home. Costco doesn’t offer delivery for warehouse items. They’ll help you get it into the car, but after that, you’re on your own. 

12: Need Storage

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Almost everything inside Costco is sold in bulk, which can lead to significant savings. However, it also means you need significant storage. Sure, you can get a twenty-pound bag of rice for a steal, but storing it in your 500-square-foot studio apartment might be difficult. 

13: Might Not Be Worth It 

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Costco memberships start at $60 for now (reports indicate they’re overdue for a price raise). If you don’t save at least $60 shopping there each year, it doesn’t make sense to have a membership. 

14: Everything From Costco 

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Many people find Costco’s deals too good to pass up, which means your life might suddenly be Costco-dominated. If you’re not down to sport Kirkland jeans, use Kirkland toilet paper, and book your next vacation through Costco Travel, you might want to avoid a Costco membership altogether. 

Who Benefits Most From Costco  

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Costco may have some downsides, but for some Americans, a warehouse membership is a true treasure. If you find yourself in one of these situations, you should probably opt in. 

Big Families

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If you have a large family, especially one with lots of growing children, Costco can be a lifesaver. You’ll probably go through bulk purchases quickly, making storage less of an issue. You might also benefit from their large-sized deli options, like pre-made lasagnas, chicken salads, and shepherd’s pie. 

Ample Storage

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If you don’t have a big family, a Costco membership might still be worth it if you have ample storage. A deep freezer and a garage pantry can allow you to take advantage of bulk savings over time. 

Making the Most of a Costco Membership 

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There are things you can do to make a Costco membership more beneficial. Seasoned Costco veterans will tell you to watch for and take advantage of certain membership perks. 

For example, Costco gives members a few ways to save even more on bulk purchases. They send out a mailer with coupons for certain items every couple of months. Costco fans will also tell you to watch for prices ending in “.97,” as these are typically manager discounts available only at that Costco location. 

Utilize Additional Services

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Costco members can access a wide variety of services outside of their grocery needs. From discounted gasoline and tires to low-cost vacation packages, there are many ways to use your Costco membership to save. 

The Best Costco Alternatives

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Like any other store, Costco has its pros and cons. If the cons outweigh the pros, you might be interested in an alternative option. 


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In the Eastern U.S., you can access BJ’s Wholesale Club. This membership-based store is similar to Costco but with a few added perks. It accepts manufacturer coupons and offers slightly lower prices on some seasonal produce

Sam’s Club

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Sam’s Club is Costco’s largest competitor. Its membership fees are a bit lower, and it offers a different variety of packaged snacks, which some people prefer to Costco’s offerings.  

Walmart Supercenters

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If you’re trying to save money but don’t need to purchase bulk items, you might want to seek out a Walmart Supercenter and avoid membership fees altogether. According to a recent AARP report, Walmart offers lower grocery prices than other discount grocers, like Aldi, probably because it has more bargaining power and can afford to accept a lower grocery markup thanks to its enormous size. 

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