Katie Searcy | 

Do I Need a Membership for Sam's Club? And Other Burning Questions

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Let’s set the record straight really quick — there’s no longer a 90-day Sam’s Club free trial membership. That perk went away many moons ago. In fact, a Sam’s Club employee I spoke with said she couldn’t even remember a 90-day free trial ever being offered at her Sam's Club location.

I understand why everyone’s a little confused about this Sam’s Club hack, though. Maybe it's because the Sam's Club website still mentions the free trial in a few places within their fine print. But I did my research and found a few workarounds for how to try Sam's Club before you shell out for the membership cost.

And a quick spoiler alert: You can always eat at the Sam’s Club food court without a membership!

For more smart shopping tips and savings hacks, download the KCL app or text HACKS to 57299.

There's no longer a 90-day free trial to Sam’s Club.

Members service and return counter at Sam's Club.

In the past, Sam’s Club offered a 90-day free trial for the cheaper of the two Sam’s membership levels. With this Sam’s Club free trial, you got access to all the main benefits of a Sam’s Club membership. The only catch? The trial membership would auto-renew, so you’d be signed up as a full member at the end of the 90-day period.

But a long-term free trial like this isn't offered anymore. I asked at the Member Services desk inside my Sam’s Club in 2024 and confirmed that a 90-day free trial no longer exists. The associate actually warned me to never trust those free trial offers you see online, as many of them are scammers trying to get your personal info.

The Sam’s Club website does still includes this mention, however (emphasis my own): “Guest membership is not available in-club or for making club purchases.”

Those last three words are important, because they mean that a Sam’s Club free trial does exist, in a sense, but only if you try them out online. You’ll just pay 10% more at check out, and lose out on some Sam’s Club benefits that are only available to members (like curbside pickup and Scan & Go), which I'll explain next.

You can shop at Sam's Club without a membership in a few different ways.

1.  Shop with a current member and pay them back for your purchases later.

According to the official Sam’s Club membership policy, “Members are welcome to bring their children or guardians and up to two guests per visit to any Sam’s Club location.

This means you can totally tag along if you have a friend or family member who belongs to Sam’s Club. They’ll just flash their membership card at the door, and if needed, explain to the associate that you’re their guest.

Shopping this way will ensure you get the best possible deals — because only Sam’s Club members get access to Instant Savings offers and Scan & Go discounts. Just remember to pay your friend back for your purchases.

KCL TIP: In case you think you can sneak into a Sam’s Club as a nonmember, think again. At most locations, employees check for proof of membership at the entrance door. And you have to scan your membership card again at checkout.

2.  Try adding something to your online cart to receive a 24-hour guest membership.


I personally had my doubts about this hack until I tried it for myself, and it worked in April 2024! But the availability of this hack may depend on where you live. Here's how you try it:

  1. Browse SamsClub.com as a guest (aka without signing in), then add any item to your cart.

  2. Select "Begin Checkout."

  3. Enter your email address and contact info when prompted to create a guest account.

  4. Check your inbox within a few minutes; you should get an email that includes a temporary membership number (aka a guest membership).

According to the fine print on the email I received, this guest membership is good for only 24 hours but could be used either online or in a club. But keep in mind — you’ll pay a 10% nonmember surcharge on your purchases, and you won’t be able to get the monthly Instant Savings offers, either.

KCL TIP: Anything you buy with a guest membership is NOT eligible for the “100% Merchandise Satisfaction Guarantee,” which is the amazing part of the Sam’s Club return policy that gives you literally forever to return most things.

3. Visit the Cafe, Pharmacy, or Optical Center without a membership, anytime.


This is a definite plus in the Sam’s Club vs. Costco debate, because Sam’s Club is the only major warehouse club that doesn’t require a membership to eat at the food court. (Costco has been cracking down on their food court membership rules lately, as we’ve reported.)

You can also fill your prescriptions at the Sam’s Club Pharmacy or get an eye exam at their Optical center without being a member. But just know that as a nonmember, you can only get the Sam's Club eye exam — not any optical products like glasses or contacts. And you won’t get as many discounts at the pharmacy without a membership, either.

“You can use the pharmacy without a membership anywhere. At the door you just have to say you're going to the pharmacy. My doctor told me this years ago and I have done it at Sam's.” - Lisa K., KCL reader

TIP: Certain states require that stores sell alcohol to nonmembers. So there’s a chance your local Sam’s Club will allow you to buy alcohol without a membership. But check with your local club to confirm their rules.

4. Shop Sam's Club online and pay a 10% nonmember surcharge.

You can totally shop Sam’s Club online as a nonmember, but just know that you’ll pay a 10% markup on everything you buy. (Compare this to Costco, where the nonmember surcharge is only 5%, but Costco online prices are also inflated.)

Another drawback of shopping online as a nonmember is that you won’t get to claim the deal prices offered in the monthly Instant Savings book.

So, I only recommend this approach if you very rarely shop at Sam’s Club or if you know you’ll only do it once or twice. Otherwise, become a member so you don’t have to pay that 10% markup!

For example, if you added $250 worth of items to your cart as a nonmember, you'd face a $25 nonmember charge. So you might as well spring for a new membership deal, as we often see memberships go for as low as $25 for your first year!

Wait to join Sam’s Club until there’s a 50% - 72% off membership deal.

A person holding a Sam's Club membership card in front of the Member Services desk inside Sam's Club.

Currently, the best deals on a new Sam’s Club membership tend to hover around 50% - 72% off, depending on the time of year. We usually see a 72% discount in April for new memberships, but the 50% off deals pop up just about every month (you'll see the current offer pinned on our Sam's Club coupons page).

When you claim one of these offers, you can get your first year of membership for as low as $14 - $25. After that, it renews at the regular rate. But keep in mind that you can only claim these “new member” offers if it’s been at least six months since your membership lapsed.

We used to see membership deals that would essentially get you 100% off a new Sam’s Club membership after you factored in free gift card perks. But sadly, those free Sam's Club membership deals have largely disappeared.


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