I mean can you shop at Costco without a membership — is it legal and possible?
The short answer: Yes. But why would you want to? Maybe you’re not a regular shopper and don’t want to pay the $60 a year Costco membership fee, or maybe you’re just curious about what non-members can and can’t do at the store.
I’m not recommending you avoid paying the fee, because in many cases you’ll save money if you choose membership (shopping Costco.com, for example — I’ll get into that below). Plus, my personal experience is that the Costco membership fee is solidly in the “worth it” category. (Check out current Costco deals right now.)
Nevertheless, here’s what you can do at Costco without a membership:
1. You can buy Costco alcohol without a membership in some states.
It’s actually illegal to require a membership for alcohol purchases in select states, so you can buy alcohol even if you don’t have a Costco membership.
Many employees don’t realize you can buy alcohol without a membership, so expect them to check with a manager first.
These states allow you to legally buy alcohol from Costco without a membership:
- New York
2. You can buy Costco gas with a Costco Shop Card.
A Costco Shop Card is a Costco gift card. This is all you need to buy gas, and you don’t need a membership card.
3. You can use a Costco Shop Card to get in the doors and shop till you drop.
…Or until your Costco Shop Card balance is gone.
This is the only way to shop at Costco without a membership, but there’s a catch. You’ll need a member to purchase a Shop Card for you. Venmo them back and voila! You’re a stealthy “Costco shopper.”
4. You can place orders at Costco.com without a membership.
Costco.com allows you to buy most household items as a non-member. Two things you should know: 1. You can’t get “member exclusive” deals; and 2. You’ll pay more than you’d pay in store, because there’s a 5% surcharge for non-member orders.
This one works best if you’re a buy-a-couple-things-a-year-at-Costco person. Otherwise, paying for a membership saves you more money in the long run.
5. You can order perishables with two-day delivery at Costco.com.
You can order perishables at Costco.com and enjoy two-day delivery. Yes, it’ll cost you the same 5% surcharge you have to pay when you buy other online items without a membership. However, unlike the $75 threshold for standard two-day delivery, the threshold for frozen and cold items is $100. Below that and they’ll tack on an extra $10 fee. Here are the select items you can get:
- Cheese and dairy
6. You can get same-day delivery through Instacart, but not through CostcoGrocery.
This might seem like semantics, but there is a difference. If you’re a non-member you can shop Costco.com for same-day delivery through Instacart, but you’ll pay fees (Instacart is all about the fees). Members don’t pay these fees when ordering same-day delivery directly through CostcoGrocery, even though it’s still done through, you guessed it, Instacart.
But the answer to the basic question “Can I get Costco delivery without a membership?” is yes.
7. You can get a Costco eye exam, but you can’t buy eyewear.
You can get a Costco eye exam, no membership required.
If you want to purchase glasses or contacts, you need to be a member, but the exam itself is open to non-members.
8. You can’t eat at the Costco food court anymore. RIP.
Up until recently, non-members could take advantage of the best perk of them all — the Costco food court. But, no more.
This fact alone might push you over the edge and into membership-land. This makes me want to calculate how many $1.50 hot dog combos it would take to justify a membership! Anyone else?!
You can also pick up a huge, loaded cooked pizza from the cafeteria for only $10 (which is a steal).
Note: You must enter Costco through the exit in order to access the food court.
9. You can use the Costco pharmacy without a membership.
You absolutely can use the Costco pharmacy for its low prices without being a member.
Whenever you need a prescription filled, just have your doctor send it to the pharmacy, and then you can pick it up like you would at any other pharmacy.
Also, grab pet medications that regular pharmacies don’t carry and shop for your groceries while you wait. Find your local participating Costco pharmacy.
Costco: Simvastatin, generic for Zocor, 10mg. 90 count, $8.99
Costco: Lisinopril, generic for Prinivil and Zestril, 20mg. 90 count $11
Costco: Metformin, generic for Glucophage, 500mg. 180 count, $11
Bonus: Get a Costco price match at Kohl’s, Target, and more.
It’s true. Who needs a Costco membership when you can get Costco’s lower price on exact items?
Some retailers will price match Costco, and all you need to do is show proof of price — the Costco flyer from the mail or the website usually works. The trick is finding the exact same item, in the exact same quantity. With electronics, easy. With grocery items, not so easy.
- Best Buy