How to Shop at Costco or Sams Club Without Buying a Membership

How to Shop at Costco or Sams Club Without Buying a Membership

To buy a membership to a discount warehouse in 2015 or not…that is the question. Lots of consumers can’t seem to live without their Costco or Sams Club memberships. And you may  be wondering if you should have one by now. If you’re unsure about spending the money to pay for the yearly membership fee, here are some free ways you can experience the benefits of shopping at a club store while still saving money. Let’s find out How to Shop at Costco or Sams Club Without Buying a Membership.

Note: You should really consider these methods more as a way to sample the stores rather than as a way to circumvent membership. If you think their fees are worth it, by all means purchase the full membership.

Sam’s Club:

1. Try out the 1 day free pass to Sam’s Club.

It makes sense that new customers might want to visit and try out this discount warehouse for themselves before shelling out $100 for an individual membership. Before you commit to a membership, why not give the free 1-day trial a shot?

Note: You still must pay the 10% surcharge on all items in the store. This rule applies to all non-Sam’s Club members in all states except California, S.C. and Elmsford, N.Y.

2. Become a complimentary add-on member.

If someone in your household already owns a membership to Sams Club, he or she can add you to the account as a complimentary add-on cardholder. That way, you’ll be able to shop at any Sams and take advantage of their discount member prices.

3. Buy a Plus membership to earn cash back rewards up to $500.

If you buy a Sam’s Club Plus membership ($100/year), you’ll earn $10 off every $500 spent on qualifying purchases (excluding alcohol, tobacco and other items) throughout the year.

  • Example: Say you spend $500 every month in groceries and household items at Sam’s Club. You accrue $10 for that time period. This gives you $120 in cash back through the course of a year. The money is then loaded right onto your club card. You can use this money to pay for your renewal. Plus, you will just have made an extra $20!

4. Only purchase the discount items available to non-members.

Sam’s Club does offer certain services to non-members.

What you can buy without a membership:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription medications
  • Certain services such as eye doctors

5. Shop at without a membership.

Anyone can shop at! But you’ll get a 10% surcharge.

6. Wait for a promotional “Open House” event.

During the year, Sam’s Club designates certain dates are “open to non-members.”

  • What to do: Make sure you sign up for the Sam’s Club email list to get alerts about upcoming “open house” events.


1. Only buy the items you can purchase without having a membership.

Certain items at Costco stores are available to purchase by non-members. Make sure to let the attendant know.

What you can buy without a membership:

  • Alcohol (at some locations)
  • Prescription medications
  • Immunization services
  • Hearing and vision care
  • Restaurant items (many Costco stores have in-store restaurants)

2. Shop online at

If you choose to shop online without a membership card, you’ll pay a 5% surcharge over cardholder prices.

3. Use a Costco Cash Card to pay.

Costco accepts a limited number of payment options, including the Costco Cash Card. You can purchase one for as low as $10 in the store. They can be purchased at (but prices start at $25 online).

  • What to do: You’ll need a member and have a Costco Cash Card and use it to pay for the items you have purchased.

Bonus tip: You can also visit Costco with a cardholder to see what they offer. The cardholder will be the only one permitted to make purchases at checkout. You could always pay the member back later for your items.

4. Get the American Express True Earnings Costco credit card.

As you’ll see here, this card has no annual fees for Costco members. It also offers cash back. If you use the card a lot during the year, you could potentially end up offsetting the Costco membership fee.

  • How you earn: You’ll get 3% back on purchases for gas (up to $4,000/year), 2% back on U.S. restaurants and certain travel fees, and 1% back on other purchases. Once a year your cash back will come in the form of a rewards coupon. You can redeem this coupon for cash at your local Costco.

5. Shop using Instacart.

When you sign up for Instacart (a grocery delivery service), not only will you receive your first delivery for free, but you will also get access to Costco’s store inventory without a membership card.

6. Watch Groupon, Living Social and other similar sites for special deals on memberships.

Periodically, Costco offers special deals on memberships. One recent deal through the $20 Costco Cash Card plus offered enough coupons to zero out the cost of the $55 annual membership!

A final note

Both Costco and Sam’s Club want their customers to be 100% satisfied with their memberships. If you’ve bought a membership and then nine months later find that you’ve hardly used it, these stores will refund you for the purchase! The stores ask that you do not return the membership if you do consistently use it as that is unethical. For more information, check out Costco’s and Sam’s Club’s return policies.

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