Katie Searcy | 

12 Perks and Secrets of Costco Employees (Like What You Get for Free)

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We all know Costco members get a lot of benefits — from discounted Costco Gas to cheap Costco eye exams and even deals on Costco Travel (check our Costco Membership guide for more about those). But just because a company is great to their customers doesn’t necessarily mean they’re great to employees.

So I did some digging about Costco employee benefits to see what I could find. Turns out, Costco employees get some pretty stand-out perks, even for part-timers. And Costco ranked No. 3 on Forbes’ list of the best large employers within the Retail and Wholesale category last year, which seems pretty legit.

While Costco employees don't get an everyday discount, they do have a whole bunch of perks and benefits baked into the job. And it's not just the free Costco Executive membership (worth $120) — they also get things like a free turkey for Thanksgiving and time-and-a-half pay on Sundays. Some Costco employees even get to shop without customers in the store. Sign. Me. Up.

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Costco Employee Benefits

1. Free Executive membership

woman holding costco membership card in front of costco store

If you’re a Costco employee, you’ll get a free employee membership as soon as you're hired. This card lets you shop at any Costco warehouse, including at a Costco Business Center. You also get an additional membership card to share with a spouse or domestic partner.

After 90 days, your basic membership gets upgraded to the Executive level, which lets you earn 2% cash back on your purchases. You can also get two additional memberships to add to your account, but these will be at the Gold Star level.

TIP: The free employee memberships renew every year for as long as you work there. If you retire from Costco with at least 25 years of service, you'll get a free lifetime employee membership.

2. Special shopping hours

Depending on your store location, you may be allowed to do some shopping after hours, when the store is free of customers. This might be one of the most practical perks that Costco offers. Have you ever seen a Costco empty? To me, it sounds like a dream.

I asked an employee at my local Costco Business Center how this works because I was curious. She said that it's up to the store manager at each location, but generally you're allowed to grab some groceries when the store is closed. The manager then helps with checkout (card-only).

Another Costco employee I spoke with at a different location said that her store doesn't offer special shopping hours due to inventory issues.

TIP: If you're not an employee, we've found that the best time to go to Costco is on weekdays as soon as they open, or right before they close.

3. First dibs on new items and clearance

A person pushing a Costco shopping cart with the basket filled with plush toys in the toy aisle at Costco.

While it’s not an official policy, there’s a chance you can get your hands on new stuff and sale items during your special Costco employee shopping hours after the store closes. This can come in handy when hunting for Costco clearance and managers' markdowns.

4. Medical benefits for full-time and part-time

I reviewed Costco's benefits website and found that both full-time and part-time Costco employees can enroll in health benefits, though you do have to be 18 or older to work at Costco.

Here's a peek at some of the benefits you have access to as an employee (as of the 2024 plan year):

  • Medical, dental, and vision coverage

  • Short-term counseling sessions

  • Hearing aid coverage

  • Prescription drug coverage

  • Breast pump coverage

  • Basic life insurance (no cost)

As for when you're eligible, it depends on your type of employment. If you're an hourly employee, your coverage begins on the first day of the month after 60 days of service. If you're salaried, your coverage starts on the first day of the month for the month after you're hired.

TIP: Seasonal Costco employees, interns, and temporary employees aren't eligible for medical benefits.

5. Matching contributions to a (401)k

Costco employees who make payroll deductions to a 401(k) retirement plan will get a matching contribution from Costco. According to their most recent 401(k) booklet, this matching contribution will be either 50% of your payroll contribution or $500 — whichever is less.

You can also earn additional matching contributions (3% – 9%) based on your number of years of service.

TIP: Costco employees ages 18 or older can sign up for a 401(k) plan after 90 days of service.

6. Costco stock

You'll just need to choose the dollar amount you want to invest each pay period, and the amount will come right out of your paycheck.

A bonus: all the fees and commissions for these trades are paid for by Costco.

Costco Employee Salary Perks

7. Starting pay of $18.50 per hour

Average hourly pay ranges for eight Costco employee positions, starting from $19.50 per hour

How much does Costco pay? According to this pay range sheet on Costco's job portal, Costco employees have a starting pay of $18.50 per hour. That means the average Costco employee is paid 155% higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Cashiers make at least $19.50 per hour.

And that’s just the starting rate. The average hourly wage at Costco is closer to $29, according to statistics shared during Costco's Annual Meeting of Shareholders in January 2024. After talking with a Costco employee at a Tampa, Florida, location, I learned that employees also get raises every 6 months until you get topped out.

As for what positions pay the most at Costco, truck drivers and employees in specialized positions — like in the optical center or pharmacy — earn some of the highest hourly rates.

TIP: Although your starting pay as a Costco employee is much higher than the federal minimum wage, you’ll likely need to start as a part-time employee. They consider it a promotion when you move up to full-time status.

9. Sunday ‘Premium Pay’

Missing the Sunday football games may be worth it for the extra pay incentive you get at Costco. No matter how many hours you’ve worked in the week, Costco employees get time-and-a-half pay for working on a Sunday. So if you’re making $18.50 an hour, then you’ll make $27.75 an hour on Sundays.

Since Costco has most of their employees working five days a week regardless of full- or part-time status, I’d aim for Sundays to be one of my days.

10. Bonuses after about six years

Once you've worked a certain number of hours at Costco (it seems to be around six years), you'll be eligible to receive twice-yearly bonuses called "Extra Checks."

The amount of your bonus depends on your years of service, but Costco employees on Reddit report that it ranges from $2,500 - $3,500 per check. Supervisors and managers can qualify for additional bonuses, too.

Additional Costco Employee Benefits and Discounts


11. Free turkey for Thanksgiving

Tell Grandma you’ll be supplying the turkey for Thanksgiving if you become a Costco employee. That's because Costco gives all of their workers a free frozen turkey for Thanksgiving (it's awarded in the form of a coupon).

I confirmed this perk with an employee at my Costco location, who said you get one turkey coupon per employee.

Don’t need a turkey? You can have Costco donate one on your behalf.

12. Ability to take off for ‘winter leave'

From January through March, Costco employees can take off any time, which is a super great perk. The time off can either be unpaid, or you can use your accrued PTO hours. Depending on which state you live in, you’ll have a maximum number of days you can take off during the three-month period.

Some employees have reported only being able to take 21 days off, while others said up to 4 weeks. One person even reported being able to take off all 11 weeks.

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