Emily VanSchmus | 

Sam's Club vs. Costco: Which Membership Is Better?

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Sam's Club vs. Costco is a classic debate. Both wholesalers are well-known for their competitive prices, bulk products, and warehouse shopping experiences. But with similar products, prices, services, and member perks, how do you decide if Costco membership is worth it, or if Sam's Club works better for your particular needs?

If you can’t decide between a Sam’s Club membership and a Costco membership, know that it’s okay to be stuck. With only small differences between their offerings, it can be hard to compare the two. That’s why we’ve done the work for you: We looked at Sam’s Club vs. Costco in terms of membership fees, monthly savings, prices on everyday staples, and more to show you exactly how these wholesalers stack up.

Of course we’ll break down the membership benefits and pricing differences between Costco and Sam's Club, but we’ll also get into some of the finer details — like Costco vs. Sam’s Club hot dog and Sam’s Club pizza vs. Costco pizza. And depending on your location, your choice might be between BJ's vs. Costco — and we can help you narrow down your decision there, too.

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Membership Costs: Sam's Club is slightly cheaper

Costco vs. Sam's Club Membership Cost

If you’re looking at Sam’s Club. vs. Costco based on membership fees alone, know that Sam’s Club is cheaper than Costco no matter which level you get.

For an entry-level membership, Sam's Club costs $50 per year while Costco is $60 per year. This makes the basic Sam's Club membership 17% cheaper than Costco.

For the upgraded membership levels (where you earn 2% back in rewards), Sam's Club Plus costs $110 per year while Costco Executive is $120 per year. So a Sam's Club Plus membership is 8% cheaper than a Costco Executive membership.

We do tend to see membership deals for both clubs pop up throughout the year that can save you money on your first year, but Sam's Club membership deals happen much more frequently. With these deals, you should aim to save 50% - 70% on the price of a new membership. The Costco deals usually give you a free $30 - $40 Costco Shop Card when you sign up as a new member at the regular price.

KCL TIP: If you're thinking about upgrading to either a Sam’s Club Plus membership or a Costco Executive membership, keep in mind that they cap your annual earnings at $500 per year or $1,000 per year, respectively. And the rewards at Sam's Club are delivered on a rolling basis, while Costco sends theirs out in the form of a rebate check (valid at Costco) a few months before your membership renews.

Food Selection and Prices: Costco has a slight edge

When it comes to a few basic food staples like butter and ketchup, Sam's Club's prices are slightly cheaper than Costco's. But when we compared the prices of 30 different food items and calculated their cost per unit, it told a slightly different story.

Out of the 30 items we compared, Costco had the lower price for 17 items, while Sam's Club had the lower price for 9 items. They tied in price for the four remaining items.

And when we added up the total cost of the hypothetical "basket" of food items (buying just one unit of each), the Costco total came out 10% cheaper than Sam's Club.

As for the selection, Costco tends to have a wider variety of gourmet and organic products, particularly under their Kirkland Signature brand.

Sam's Club vs. Costco Food Prices

Costco Price Per Unit

Sam’s Club Price Per Unit

2% Milk, Store Brand

$3.15 / gal

$3.24 / gal

All-Purpose Flour

$0.40 / lb

$0.40 / lb


$0.46 / lb

$0.49 / lb

Bertolli Pasta Sauce

$0.09 / oz

$0.13 / oz

Cheddar Cheese, Store Brand

$2.49 / lb

$2.49 / lb

Cheez-It Crackers, 1.5 oz bags

$0.34 / bag

$0.33 / bag

Chicken Breasts, Boneless, Skinless

$2.99 / lb

$2.68 / lb

Chicken of the Sea Light Tuna, in Water

$0.18 / oz

$0.21 / oz

Chobani Greek Yogurt

$0.80 / cup

$0.84 / cup

Coca-Cola, 12 oz cans

$0.43 / can

$0.53 / can

Cosmic Crisp Apples

$1.62 / lb

$1.63 / lb

Cream Cheese, Store Brand

$0.16 / oz

$0.17 / oz

Eggs, Cheapest Variety

$0.19 / egg

$0.20 / egg

Fully Cooked Bacon, Store Brand

$12.49 / lb

$17.49 / lb

Gatorade, 12 oz bottles

$0.54 / bottle

$0.56 / bottle

General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios

$0.17 / oz

$0.09 / oz

Goldfish Crackers

$0.28 / oz

$0.18 / oz

Heinz Ketchup

$0.10 / oz

$0.08 / oz

Hellmann's Mayonnaise

$0.20 / oz

$0.16 / oz

Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

$0.15 / oz

$0.16 / oz

JIF Peanut Butter, Creamy

$0.12 / oz

$0.12 / oz

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

$0.85 / box

$0.86 / box

Orange Juice, Store Brand

$0.06 / oz

$0.05 / oz

Peanut Butter Pretzels, Store Brand

$0.18 / oz

$0.18 / oz

Potatoes, Cheapest Variety

$0.47 / lb

$0.48 / lb

Quaker Old Fashioned Oats

$1.09 / lb

$1.12 / lb

Rao's Marinara Sauce

$0.21 / oz

$0.23 / oz

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

$0.15 / oz

$0.16 / oz

Tyson Fully Cooked Breaded Chicken Strips

$4.99 / lb

$4.28 / lb

Unsalted Butter, Store Brand

$3.24 / lb

$3.22 / lb

Total "Basket" Cost



Kirkland vs. Member's Mark Store Brands


Both Costco and Sam's Club use their private store brands to offer shoppers a cheaper alternative to name-brand items. Costco has the Kirkland Signature brand, while Sam's Club sells Member's Mark.

If you consider just the variety of store brand items available, Sam's Club wins by a long shot. Their Member's Mark landing page includes more than a dozen product categories, with just the Grocery category alone having more than 600 different Member's Mark items. Compare that to the Kirkland landing page on Costco.com, which lists about 330 total items under the Kirkland Signature label.

But quality and price matter, too. If you're looking for organic products, you'll find about twice the selection of organic store brand items at Costco compared to Sam's. I searched the term "organic" on their respective websites and found 41 total Kirkland items vs. 25 Member's Mark items.

And as for the prices, they're pretty much dead even, except for a few areas where Kirkland products are cheaper than Member's Mark:

Sam's Club vs. Costco Store Brands


Kirkland Signature price at Costco

Member's Mark price at Sam's

AA Batteries

$0.33 / battery

$0.42 / battery

Bath Tissue

$0.01 / sq ft

$0.02 / sq ft

Casual Napkins

$0.01 / napkin

$0.01 / napkin

Dry Dog Food, Lamb and Rice

$0.87 / lb

$1.23 / lb

Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets

$0.02 / sheet

$0.02 / sheet

Heavy-Duty Party Cups

$0.05 / cup

$0.05 / cup

Laundry Detergent Pods

$0.12 / pod

$0.15 / pod

Organic Maple Syrup

$0.38 / oz

$0.41 / oz

Paper Towels

$0.02 / sq ft

$0.02 / sq ft

Purified Water, 16.9 oz

$0.10 / bottle

$0.10 / bottle

Sea Salt

$0.11 / oz

$0.11 / oz

Trash Bags, 13 gal

$0.08 / bag

$0.08 / bag

Instant Savings Coupons: It's a tie


Sam’s Club and Costco offer about the same savings in their monthly coupon books. You can’t use manufacturer coupons at either warehouse, but they each give you "Instant Savings" in their monthly coupon books that automatically apply at checkout.

Discounts in both coupon books can range from $2 off to $2,000 off, and the Costco Coupon Book and the Sam’s Club Instant Savings Book often feature the same types of deals. New deals drop every month and last for a 3- to 4-week period. So this category is pretty much a tie, as there's not much difference between Costco and Sam's Club on the coupons front.

Food Courts: Costco has more variety


Even though the Sam’s Club food court menu has slightly lower prices, there is more variety on the Costco food court menu, especially when it comes to food options. For example, you won't find any sandwiches or salads offered on the Sam's Club menu, but Costco has three fresh options. In addition to the bigger menu, certain items are just bigger in size at Costco, like the 18" Costco pizza.

As for the prices, the Costco food court is known for their famous $1.50 Costco hot dog, which hasn’t gone up in price since its introduction in 1984. Sam’s Club recently dropped the price of their food court hot dogs to $1.38 in an effort to compete, but when we actually compared the Sam's Club vs. Costco hot dog for ourselves, we determined that the Costco dog is a better value overall.

Here's a run-down of the food courts at each warehouse:

Sam's Club vs. Costco Food Court

Costco Food Court

Sam's Club Food Court

Total number of menu items



Total number of food items



Average price per item



Cheapest food item

Hot Dog Combo, $1.50

Hot Dog Combo, $1.38

Cheapest beverage

20 oz Soda, $0.69

30 oz Soda or ICEE, $0.89

Most expensive item

Roast Beef Sandwich, $9.99

Whole 16" Pizza, $8.98

Membership required?

Yes (usually)


In-app ordering?



KCL TIP: If you buy a lot of freshly-made goods, the Costco bakery is known for their high quality and low prices, too — especially the $24.99 Costco sheet cake.

Online Shopping and Delivery: Sam's Club pricing is more straightforward

costco thermoflask tumblers in store and online price comparison

If you plan to do a lot of your warehouse shopping online, Sam’s Club might be a better fit. That's because Sam’s Club prices are the same online and in-store, but Costco’s online prices are higher than warehouse prices.

Don't get me wrong — Costco’s online shopping is convenient, and Costco 2-day delivery on household items is free when you spend $75 or more. But, it’ll cost you at least 5% more to buy items online compared to what you’d pay in the warehouse. And sometimes the online markup on Costco deals can be as high as 30%!

On the other hand, customers rave about shopping online with the Sam’s Club app — and almost all items ship free for Plus members.

Credit Card Perks: It's basically a tie

Costco vs. Sam's Club Credit Cards

Both membership warehouses offer store credit cards with cash back rewards on gas, dining, warehouse purchases, and more. But Costco’s credit card perks are slightly better than Sam’s Club’s.

The Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi doesn’t limit how much you can earn in rewards, while the Sam’s Club MasterCard has a $5,000 maximum rewards limit per calendar year. But unless you're spending more than $500,000 per year on your Sam's Club warehouse purchases, you won't really reach that upper limit.

Costco’s credit card also gives you rewards on travel like airfare, hotels, car rentals, travel agencies, cruise lines, and Costco Travel services, but Sam's Club doesn't extend their rewards to travel purchases.

Sam's Club vs. Costco: Which One Is Better?

So, is Costco or Sam’s Club better? Here’s the bottom line: If your main priority is to save as much money as possible, go with Sam’s Club. You’ll pay less for an annual membership and you’ll still get bulk savings on name-brand products and everyday household staples.

But if you’re looking for higher quality items with a better membership experience, go with Costco. Costco’s Kirkland brand offers a huge assortment of quality products at low prices, and Costco’s customer experience is hard to beat.

You can tell how well each wholesaler serves their customers just by looking at their Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is the business measurement for customer experience. It ranks a company on a scale from -100 to 100, based on the number of customers who speak positively about the company (aka “promoters”) and those who speak negatively about the company (aka “detractors”). The more likely a customer is to recommend the company, the higher the score.

  • Costco has a 56 NPS, with 71% promoters, 14% passives, and 15% detractors.

  • Sam’s Club has a -9 NPS, with 40% promoters, 11% passives, and 49% detractors.

So Costco is clearly doing something right. Their members are much more likely to recommend them to others — and a lot less likely to complain. That says a lot, considering Sam’s Club technically is the cheaper option.

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