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At first glance, the Costco Executive membership level looks pretty darn wonderful. To be honest with you, that’s because it is.
But at $120 a year, it’s no small investment. You’re paying three figures just to step inside a massive grocery store. And it’s $10 more expensive than Sam’s Club Plus membership level.
Despite the high sticker price, the ability to get 2% cashback rewards even without the Costco credit card is pretty huge. So huge that for most people — especially if you’re shopping for a whole family or buying Costco’s luxury items — the membership fee pays for itself. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of all the details so you can decide if a Costco Executive membership is worth it for you.
Costco Executive membership gets you 2% cash back rewards — up to a maximum of $1,000/year.
There are a few additional perks that the upgraded Costco Executive membership gets you. The biggest sell is the 2% back in rewards you’ll earn on every purchase you make with your membership. Costco will pay you 2% back in rewards up to a maximum of $1,000/year. This is more than Sam’s Club Plus membership, which only pays 2% back in rewards up to $500/year.
With the Executive level, you’ll also get discounted prices (or free extras) on a few different services, including:
- Costco Travel
- Check printing
- Auto insurance
Just like the basic Gold Star membership, the Executive membership comes with two membership cards and a complimentary subscription to the Costco Connection magazine. This zine is essentially a cheat sheet full of hacks to maximize your membership savings.
What time does Costco open for Executive members?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Executive members get the same shopping hours as everyone else. A few years ago, Executive members could shop an hour earlier than Gold Star members on weekdays, but that’s no longer the case.
If you spend at least $500 per month at Costco, the Executive membership is worth it.
So exactly how much do you need to spend at Costco to make the Executive membership worth it?
In order to pay for your $120/year membership fee using just your 2% cashback rewards, you’d need to spend $500 or more per month at Costco to make the Executive membership worth it.
Spending $500 per month at Costco means you’d spend $6,000 over the course of a year. Since you earn rewards at a rate of 2%, that means you’ll earn $120 in rewards with a $6,000 annual spend. So you will have paid off your yearly membership fee just with cashback rewards. Any rewards you earn above the $500/month mark are essentially profit.
And if you do claim the extras available on Costco services like check printing, auto insurance, or travel services, your membership may pay for itself at an even lower monthly spend.
Related: We assembled all the best ways to save at Costco.
The Executive membership probably doesn’t make sense for smaller households.
If you’re a single person spending $400/month on groceries, it’s probably not going to be worth it for you to upgrade your Costco membership to Executive.
But if you’re a parent buying food for your entire crew, the $500/month minimum spend is laughably achievable. Thanks to runaway inflation over the past couple years, we’ve heard that a lot of families are shelling out $1,000 or more on their monthly grocery bill. If you did spend $1,000/month at Costco, your total annual rewards would be $240.
You can always opt for the Gold Star level ($60/year) to pay half the cost of membership.
If the Executive membership isn’t worth the $120 investment in your situation, you can always get a “regular” — aka Gold Star — Costco membership. You won’t get 2% in rewards, but you will get admission to the wholesale club for half the price. That’s right — the Gold Star membership is just $60/year.
Related: Not sold on an Executive membership? Check out our Costco membership guide for more insider info.
Can I downgrade my Costco Executive membership?
You sure can! Maybe you still want access to Costco’s low prices, but you’ve realized you’re just not spending enough money every month to make your Executive membership worth it. In this case, you can ask for a membership downgrade. They’ll give you a refund, prorating it for the number of months left in your membership.
TIP: Similarly, if you have a Gold Star membership but wanna start getting in on the 2% back in rewards that comes with the Executive membership, you can pay for a prorated upgrade. Let’s say you had six months left on your Gold Star membership. You’d only need to pay an additional $30 (half of the price difference between the Gold Star and Executive membership fees) to upgrade to Executive for the rest of the year.
Look for discounts to save 25% on your first year of Costco Executive membership.
Yes, there are a lot of ways to get a discount on your Costco Executive membership. If you fall into any of these categories, you may be eligible to get a discount:
- Costco military discount
- Costco student discount
- Costco teacher discount
- Costco first responder or healthcare worker discount
- Costco government employee discount
You can see all these discounts on their website. There’s usually something like a $30 Costco shop card when you purchase an Executive membership. That would effectively make your membership cost just $90 for the first year.
You can also find membership discounts on Groupon from time to time.
There’s no such thing as a free trial of a Costco Executive membership, but you can use a Shop Card to test it out.
Costco doesn’t really do free trial memberships. That’s a major difference between Costco and Sam’s Club.
That said, you don’t necessarily need a membership to give the store a try before you commit. Costco will let you in the doors without a membership if you have a “Shop Card” in hand. A Shop Card is essentially just a Costco gift card.
So if you have a friend with a Costco membership, give them some cash and ask them to turn it into a Shop Card. You’ll be able to get a feel for how much you might spend on a monthly basis after you’ve had the experience at least once. And you’ll get a chance to calculate if the 2% back in rewards would be worth it for you.
But you also don’t have to worry about what might happen if you end up hating the Executive membership. If you find yourself unhappy on the other side of that transaction, Costco will refund you 100% of your membership dues.
TIP: Similarly, Costco’s return policy for purchases is pretty sweet. You can return almost anything whenever. For whatever reason. It doesn’t even have to be a good one.
Costco’s membership fees are overdue for an increase, so you may want to join sooner than later.
On the company’s Q4 2022 earnings call, CFO Richard Galanti made it very clear that a rise in Costco membership fees was coming. Exactly when these fee hikes will happen is a little less clear.
For the most part, Costco has raised their membership fees about once every 5 years and 7 months. That would have put the next fee hike due in January 2023, but so far, we haven’t seen any bump in cost.
Keep an eye out for increases in 2024. The last time membership fees increased, they were only $5 more for Gold members and $10 more for Executive members. Whether or not those numbers will go up thanks to inflation remains yet to be seen.
Here’s the current deal: