If you’re like the rest of us, there are certain products you buy on repeat every week or every month. Over time, this can add up – both in the cost of the items and the endless trips to the store. If you’ve ever wondered if having a bulk-store membership to Costco is for you, this guide will break down the Costco military discount and the benefits of being a member.
As with other discount warehouses, Costco offers tiered memberships, which means your savings could be significant – provided you shop at the store a lot. Let’s take a look at how having a membership can benefit you and your family.
What Does Costco Have to Offer?
Choose from two different types of membership plans for individuals: the Gold Star and the Gold Star Executive.
As members of the military community, you might cringe like the rest of us at those names, but we’re pretty sure Costco means no disrespect to our Gold Star families.
The standard Gold Star membership costs $60 annually, and the executive membership costs $120. Both memberships come with one household card, however, a secondary cardholder can be added for free.
Membership to Costco gives you access to almost 1000 locations across the US as well as access to Costco gas stations and other member-only perks, like deep discounts of food and clothing. No matter which membership you purchase, you’ll also be eligible to use the eye exam, photo printing, and pharmacy services at Costco.
There are even international Costco locations for those stationed OCONUS. Your Costco membership gives you access to all Costco locations worldwide. These locations, in addition to providing discount bulk purchases, allow families to get a taste of home.
What Is the Military Discount?
Unlike some stores that offer a discount for each purchase, Costco gives members of the military community a $30 gift card after signing up for a new membership.
The discount is generally only good for the initial membership, it is not available on renewals.
Who Is Eligible for the Military Discount?
The Costco military membership is open to all active duty, veteran, retired service members, and spouses and dependents. The Costco military discount only applies to new memberships.
How to Get the Military Discount
How Much Can You Save?
That depends on the type of membership you purchase and how frequently you shop at Costco.
The Gold Star membership is the basic membership program and includes access to the warehouse, Costco online, and other membership benefits, such as the Costco car buying program, Costco travel services (vacation plans, car rentals, resorts, and more), and other benefits.
The Gold Star Executive program features all of the above benefits, along with 2% cash back on all purchases through Costco (up to $1,000 cash back per year). If you’re planning to spend more than $250 a month at Costco, you’ll probably break even on the cost of the Executive membership compared to the standard Gold Star membership.
To help you decide between the two memberships, think about what kind of items you plan to purchase. Unlike other bulk stores, Costco does a good job of keeping the size of items relatively reasonable, which means you’re likely to consume the food before it goes stale or bad.
As for how much you’ll save on your recurring purchases, that depends on your household and buying style. For some, there’s no real benefit in the Executive membership, since Costco is only useful for semi-annual refill purchases like plastic bags, cleaning supplies, and other bulk items. If you plan to incorporate Costco into your weekly or bi-weekly shopping, it might make it more sense to spring for the Executive option. You’ll get 2% back on all your purchases at the end of the year.
How Does this Military Discount Compare?
Costco vs. Sam’s Club
There are several major warehouse outlets, such as Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s Wholesale Club. Sam’s Club is probably the largest competitor, based on number of locations and availability (BJ’s is a regional chain, with locations primarily on the East Coast).
Sam’s offers a $10 gift card for military memberships, while Costco offers a $30 discount on memberships. However, Sam’s Club membership costs $15 less annually than Costco, so the actual cost is pretty much the same.
There are apparent similarities between Costco and Sam’s – even down to the layout of the warehouses! Both retail chains offer similar products, have similar opening hours, and have excellent return policies. The biggest difference is the price point between the memberships.
If you choose to purchase Sam’s Plus membership, you get the store three hours earlier than the rest of the shoppers. That’s big news if you’re juggling a family and PT hours. Costco generally has a broader selection of deeply discounted gift cards. Both stores offer a similar variety of apparel, appliances, books, jewelry, and furniture choices. Costco generally has more organic and non-GMO products available than Sam’s, as well as a more comprehensive selection of pre-prepped meals.
Personally, the differences are null for my family and me. When we lived at Fort Sill, we were Sam’s members because Costco wasn’t available. Living in the DC area, Costco is closer, so we have a membership there. Ultimately, the shopping experiences are simlar because we use the warehouse store for the same benefits no matter where we are – stocking up on the bulk items that we seem to continually go through.