Get ready for a potential change in your Costco shopping routine. The Costco warehouse is currently in the testing phase of a new policy that adds a fresh twist to your shopping experience — and people in Costco online groups and Reddit aren’t too thrilled about it. You see, one location is testing a new system out, requiring Costco shoppers to scan their membership cards before they can step inside the store.
This trial run is taking place at the Costco flagship store located in Issaquah, Washington, which happens to be right across the street from the Costco headquarters. This adjustment comes after Costco’s efforts to tighten up its membership sharing policies that we saw last summer. So what is the new scanning system at Costco, and will it be rolled out to all Costco stores nationwide? We’re explaining everything we know.
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One Costco location in the U.S. is scanning membership cards at the door, and shoppers wonder how widespread the scanning system will be.
Costco members from the Issaquah, Washington, location have been mentioning on social media and Reddit about a new step to enter the warehouse. If you visit the flagship Costco, you’ll notice a scanner at the store’s entrance, and you’ll be asked to display and scan your membership card. Currently, there’s a Costco employee stationed by the scanner to assist. Adding this extra step as you enter the warehouse may help cut down the drama at self-checkout.
Interestingly, this practice is already common in Costco locations across Canada. As for whether this new entry procedure will eventually become standard nationwide, we’ll have to stay tuned for updates.
Right now, we understand that this is just testing at one location in the U.S. According to a Costco spokesperson, “A few Costco locations are scanning Costco membership cards at the entrance. This test is to match members to their cards at the door prior to shopping”.
This new “testing” process enforces prior rules on card sharing.
Back in June 2023, the wholesale giant took a page out of Netflix’s playbook and started to tighten the reins on who could use a membership. They even sent some people straight to the membership desk to get things sorted out.
While sharing your Costco membership was never really an official thing, as long as your membership card didn’t have a photo on it, you could kind of get around the system pretty easily. But all that has come to an end since June 2023.
People have been abusing the Costco membership card rules, and employees started to crack down last summer.
All over social media and Reddit, Costco shoppers were reporting that lots of changes were afoot at their local warehouse regarding the membership sharing rules last summer.
“I get WHY they are doing it,” wrote one angry Redditor on June 22, “but they need better training because these employees are treating people like we’re all there to shoplift.”
Some accounts were more shocking than others, but here were a few of the main things we heard last June:
- People were being asked to show their membership cards more often — especially if they were the ones pushing the shopping cart.
- Employees were asking to see membership cards before the self-checkout lanes.
- At self-checkout, shoppers were being told they need a membership in order to scan their items.
- Employees were threatening to report some people for “card sharing” if they were seen scanning items without a membership.
- Some employees weren’t letting families split their transactions into two payments (most recently reported on Reddit on June 22, 2023).
In an email statement on June 28, 2023, Costco announced that it had observed instances where non-members were utilizing someone else’s membership cards in the self-checkout lanes. Costco’s policy states that membership cards are not transferrable.
Costco stated: “We are now asking to see their membership card with their photo at our self-service checkout registers. If their membership card does not have a photo, then we ask for a photo ID.”
If your Costco card doesn’t have your photo on it yet, expect to get sent to the membership desk.
Let’s face it; we’ve all shared a Costco card with a friend or family member at some point. Who hasn’t been tempted by the bulk-buy deals and wholesale discounts? But here’s the scoop: Costco is now insisting on photo IDs on their membership cards.
In 2020, Costco stopped taking a photo of you when you got your membership, and they never really made a push to put them back on… until now. There’s even a section on the Member Privileges and Conditions page about it: “If your photo is not on your card, only passports, as well as photo identification…are acceptable forms of identification.”
Remember when Netflix put an end to password sharing? It’s like that. They want to ensure that the perks of membership stay with the folks who paid for it. If you haven’t had your picture taken for your Costco card yet, it’s time to head over to your nearest Costco and get it done.
Related: What Not to Buy at Costco
Costco employees are watching closely at the self-checkout lanes to see who’s paying — and scanning.
Now, here’s another change you may notice next time you’re at Costco. You know how the self-checkout lanes were a free-for-all before? Not anymore.
Costco’s got their associates on patrol, checking every member’s card in the self-checkout line. It’s a step to ensure that the person doing the shopping is the one who holds the membership. To keep the questioning to a minimum, make sure the person doing the scanning and paying is the one who holds a membership card.
But you can still (legally) share a Costco membership with someone else in your household.
Don’t worry, there’s still a silver lining for those who thrive on shared memberships. There are plenty of ways to save on membership costs. For example, you could split the cost of a membership with a roommate or a partner and make your Costco runs together.
Costco does allow one free “Household Card” per membership. So you could add one more to your membership without breaking any rules. You could also bring your friends or family with you while shopping and split the transactions at self-checkout. A little bit more messy, but still gets the job done.
Related: You may not be able to share your membership with whoever you want, but Costco Catering can let you share their food!
Need a membership? Get a Free $30 Shop Card with this online promo code.
If you’re not a Costco member yet, consider saving on a membership with this current deal. For a limited time, you can join Costco and get a free $30 shop card when you use the promo code CJPROMO.
This deal is for new Costco members. To qualify as a new member, your Costco membership must have been expired for at least 18 months or more.
Get $20 off a membership with the Costco college student discount.
As long as your teen is 18+ and enrolled in college, they’ll get a discount on a new membership. Just sign them up as a new Gold Star Member and enroll in auto-renewal to get a $20 digital Costco Shop Card.
Burning FAQs from Costco Shoppers:
Are memberships really being shared?
Absolutely! According to one report on social media, one Costco store alone busted over 20 “non-members” in one day who were using friends’ membership cards.
What happens if I get caught using a Costco membership that isn’t mine?
If you’re a member and you let a non-member borrow your card, you could lose your membership. If you work at Costco and do this, you could end up losing your job.
Can two Costco members (who are on the same membership) pay separately for their items when shopping together?
Generally, yes. You should be able to pay separately for your items as long as you’re both Costco members. However, some members are reporting on social media that Costco employees may not fully understand this policy or may have been overly cautious. Members are stating they are being questioned and accused of “card sharing” when checking out items separately, even though they both have a membership. While this situation may be inconvenient, it’s important to remember that employees are just trying to enforce Costco’s policies. It may be beneficial to have both membership cards readily available to avoid any confusion.
Can I split my transaction into two at Costco?
Again, while there isn’t a printed rule straight from Costco about this, we are hearing many members state that their store is no longer allowing transactions to be split. Costco employees say this is a real rule in their operations manual, but it hasn’t been enforced much over the years. I buy stuff for both our home and our business, so I totally get why you’d want to split transactions for legit reasons.
How many people can be on one Costco membership?
According to Costco, only two people can be on a Gold Star Membership (either the regular or the Executive). You’ll need to designate one person to be the Primary Member, and an additional person (over age 16 and living at the same address) to be your free household member. You can change your additional member at any time online or by visiting the membership desk.
Can Costco members bring guests?
Sure, Costco members can bring along up to two guests for each shopping trip, but just know that you (as the card-carrying member) will need to be the one checking out at the register. (Your friend can always pay you back by Venmo later.)
How can I shop at Costco without a membership card?
You can also shop at Costco (or at the gas pumps) anytime using a Costco gift card, also known as a Costco Shop Card. But, as a non-member, you’re limited to the card’s balance only.