16 Must Know Tips for New Costco Members

Best New Costco Finds This Week!

As prices get higher and higher on groceries (and well, everything really) in the US…joining Costco is one strategy you might have picked to try and save on your household expenses. Shopping at Costco for new members can be overwhelming, to say the least and these 16 tips for new Costco members can help! Costco warehouses kind of march to their own drummer so to speak…don’t worry, I promise you’ll get the lay of the land and the glaze over will get better lol.

I hope some of these tips are things you can already check off your list – but if you’ve recently bought a Costco membership it will make your life a whole lot easier to know these things! Take a quick look to save some sanity on your next Costco run, and hopefully they’ll help you save more money too!


Please feel free to drop your ideas or things I missed in the comments – it takes a village!!

Costco Self Check Out Line
  1. Costco accepts cash, Costco cash cards, Visa cards (any kind credit or debit), checks, and SNAP (EBT) benefit cards.
  2. Costco uses a “Treasure Hunt” approach to their product mix both in-store and online – this means that a large number of the items at Costco change regularly – this is a much love-hated strategy by members. On the one hand, you constantly get to try new products at great values…on the other hand, if you like them they probably won’t be there again next time you shop which is frustrating. Especially if you’re new and go back looking for it…
  3. To that point, the products at Costco can be divided into three primary categories – I have started to try to classify my product reviews better so that it’s easier to find which are which:
    • Core Products: items which are always available like milk, eggs, string cheese, garbage bags, english muffins)
    • Seasonal Items: items which come and go, and return on some kind of [unannounced] schedule – sometimes it’s predictable like Valentine’s Day Macarons – other times it’s just a popular item they bring back every few months or periodically.
    • Test/Trial Items: these are products that are new to Costco, on a short run or in trial. Sometimes they are just a few stores, and expand to more. Or they could be regional or Nationwide. We occasionally see the ones that are very popular come back, but sometimes they don’t. You never know. We rarely see these transition into Core or Seasonal items but it does happen!
  4. Products cost less in-store at Costco than when you order them online from Costco.com or Same Day Costco.
    • Same Day Costco marks up groceries about 17% on average.
    • Markups vary online at Costco.com, but it’s always more expensive than in-store.
  5. Costco also runs a line of warehouses called Costco Business Centers. All regular Costco members can shop at Costco Business Center – you do not need a separate membership.
  6. The quietest times to shop at Costco are:
    • the first hour of the day
    • the last hour of the day
    • weekdays
  7. The busiest times to shop at Costco are:
    • weekends
    • lunchtime
    • after work time
  8. The self-checkout is often the fastest option but note the following which you cannot do in the self checkout lane at Costco:
    • no alcohol
    • cannot pay with cash
    • cannot pay with Costco shop card
    • cannot pay with a check
  9. Costco closes Nationwide on 7 holidays each year – unlike many grocery stores which are open 365 days a year, Costco is not. So make sure you shop in advance of major holidays, and if you need an item in a pinch on a holiday, don’t bother driving over to Costco for it 🙂
  10. Costco has a great return policy, and they really stand behind it. There are very few exceptions to the policy. Word to the wise…the line for returns can get very LONG so bring your patience with your returns 🙂
  11. Costco has a no pet rule. Service dogs exempted, of course.
  12. You’ll find half a dozen battery powered motorized shopping carts at the front of each Costco store near the shopping carts. If you have mobility challenges, you can use these for free while you shop.
  13. Costco doesn’t have grocery bags. They usually stock some extra product boxes and most customers re-use these to transport items home. When it’s busy, they often run out though, so don’t count on those on a Saturday at 2pm. Either bring your own or just know before you go 🙂
  14. If you prefer to buy Organic food, keep your eye out for green price tags – those are organic products. It’s not a perfected system yet – you will occasionally find organic products that are on white tags and very rarely a mistake where a non-organic item is on a green tag – but it still makes it a LOT easier to scan for organic products.
  15. Check the Costco Coupon Books before you shop. If you have room to store basics like detergents, soaps, paper towels, etc. you can save 25% or more on household basics by buying them when they’re on sale.
  16. If you have a few minutes to wait in the line to fill up your car at the Costco Gas Station, it’s well worth it – Costco Gasoline IS a great deal and if you put $50 a week in your gas tank and switch over to filling up at Costco, you’ll probably save your membership cost (or more) in a year.
Costco's No Pet Policy Signage Outside of Warehouse

In short, between filling up at Costco gas, taking advantage of clearance deals (which I didn’t even get into above but you can read about those here), booking our travel on Costco, and getting a little strategic about our purchases by checking the Costco Coupon Books and stocking up when there’s a sale on household basics that last…we save a lot of money shopping at Costco and using Costco services.

I’d love to hear what surprised you when you were a new members!

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All opinions expressed on CostContessa are our own. Product features and nutrition information provided on our site is provided to us by third parties, and we do not independently verify its accuracy. Consumers should verify all information. Our content is not intended as a substitute for medical counseling or reading packaging yourself. Please always see actual package information yourself (it can and does change!) and consult your doctor with all questions.

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