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When it comes to Costco online shopping, it’s a whole different ball game than the warehouse world you’re used to. There are tons of Costco savings hacks you can use to score deals in the warehouse, but most of them don’t apply to online shopping.
Even though they have multiple grocery delivery options on Costco.com, it’s not always the best way to make the most of your Costco membership. For one, everything is more expensive online — and shipping isn’t always free. But if you’re careful about what you buy, shopping Costco online CAN have its perks.
I’ll show you everything you need to know about Costco online shopping and how it differs from shopping in the warehouse.
1. Unlike the warehouse, Costco online shopping is available to members and nonmembers.
If you’re not a member, my best advice is to compare prices to other stores (like Amazon) before you shop online just to make sure you’re actually getting a good deal. And don’t forget to factor in Costco’s shipping rates when you do the math.
TIP: We put together a full guide on how to shop at Costco without a membership.
2. Online prices are higher than they are in the warehouse (even for members).
You’ll pay slightly more when you shop on Costco.com, even for the exact same items you’ll find in the warehouse. Why? Because online shopping doesn’t totally fit into Costco’s wholesale business model. But they’d miss out by not offering it to their customers, especially in today’s world when convenience trumps almost everything else.
To offset their shipping and handling costs, Costco marks up the online prices, so it’s more expensive to shop online than it is in the warehouse. For example, I found an 8-pack of Scotch Heavy Duty Shipping Tape online for $26.99. Its regular price in the warehouse is $25.99.
So not a huge difference, but the more you order online, the more those price hikes add up.
Related: These are the Costco pricing secrets you need to know to save big.
3. Costco’s online selection is bigger but not necessarily better than the warehouse.
You’ll find about 6,000 more items online than you will at any Costco warehouse. The thing is, you won’t find the same items online that you see in the warehouse. I’ve tried many times to search online for basic items I found in the warehouse, and I always came up empty.
So while Costco.com offers a wider selection of items, they aren’t necessarily the same or better than what you’ll find in the warehouse. And remember — you’ll always pay more with Costco online shopping.
4. You have three grocery delivery options for Costco online shopping, but you’ll pay more for all of them.
You can order grocery delivery on Costco.com, but you’ll save a lot more by shopping in the warehouse. Even Costco plasters a disclaimer all over their Costco Grocery info pages, telling you that “item pricing is higher than your local warehouse in order to cover the pick and pack fulfillment cost.”
The good news? You’ll still get to take advantage of deals in the Costco Coupon Book when you order groceries online, but again — you won’t save as much as you would in the warehouse. Also, Costco Executive members get an annual 2% reward on delivery purchases through Costco Grocery.
Here are the three grocery delivery options available on Costco.com:
Option 1 – Same-Day: All groceries, including fresh, frozen, and household essentials.
Costco uses Instacart to fulfill their same-day grocery delivery, and shopping through Instacart is notoriously more expensive. Not only will you pay higher prices than at your local Costco warehouse, but you’ll also pay a service and delivery fee, plus a tip for your Instacart shopper.
Members don’t have to pay any same-day delivery fees if they hit the $35 order minimum. However, delivery fees start at $3.99 for nonmembers.
Note: You can’t combine same-day items with others that don’t qualify for same-day delivery in one shopping cart — you’ll need to order same-day items separately from others.
Option 2 – Two-Day: Nonperishable food and household essentials.
Costco.com items like snacks, pet supplies, pantry essentials, and paper and plastic goods qualify for 2-Day Delivery, but the service is only available to Costco members. You’ll still pay more than you would in the warehouse, but you won’t have to pay a delivery fee if your order is at least $75. If you don’t meet the $75 minimum, delivery fees start at $4.
2-Day Delivery isn’t available on the weekend and isn’t offered in Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico.
Option 3 – Cold & Frozen Deliveries: Perishable food items
Costco members can order Cold & Frozen Delivery for online items like meat, seafood, cheese, and dairy. Again, you’ll pay more than you would in the warehouse, but you won’t have to pay a separate delivery fee for Cold & Frozen orders of at least $100.
Cold & Frozen Delivery isn’t available on the weekend and isn’t offered in Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico.
5. As a general rule, spend at least $75 on non-grocery orders to get Costco free shipping.
Costco’s shipping methods and rates aren’t all that easy to understand. While many non-grocery items on Costco.com ship at no additional charge, others have their own shipping fee attached. Some items have a standard shipping fee of $4.99, others have shipping fees of up to $14.99. To ensure all your items in one purchase qualify for free shipping, you’ll need to spend at least $75 on your Costco.com order. It’s also helpful to check the product page for each item you add to your cart to check which shipping fees will apply.
As a refresher, these are the delivery fees (and free delivery thresholds) for CostcoGrocery orders:
- Same-Day Deliveries: Spend at least $35 to get free delivery, or pay a $3.99 fee for orders under $35.
- 2-Day Deliveries: Spend at least $75 to get free delivery, or pay a $3 fee for orders under $75.
- Cold & Frozen Deliveries: Spend at least $100 to get free delivery, or pay a $10 fee for orders under $100.
6. Some items on Costco.com are for members only.
Even though nonmembers can shop online with a 5% surcharge, some Costco.com items are strictly off-limits. As you shop online, you’ll see a “Member Only Item” label on products that are exclusive to Costco members.
Related: On the fence about joining Costco? Here are all the best membership deals happening now so you can compare the fees.
7. Costco gives you more payment options online than in the warehouse.
If you’re a Costco member, you probably already know they have an agreement with Visa. So you can only pay with a Visa credit card when you shop inside the warehouse. But if you want to use your Visa, Mastercard, or Discover Card online, go ahead!
Costco.com also accepts most pin-based debit/ATM cards online.
8. Costco.com has online-only items you won’t find in the warehouse.
One perk to Costco online shopping is the Online-Only Deals — or in other words, savings you can’t get in the warehouse.
A few of the best Online Only Deals I found on Costco.com were:
- $400 – $1,240 off Select Samsung Appliances
- $250 off the HP Envy 17.3″ Touchscreen Laptop, $849.99 (reg. $1,099.99 online price)
- $170 off Sealy Posturepedic Plus Ridgecrest 14″ Firm Queen Mattress, $679.99 (reg. $849.99 online price)
9. Uncheck the “show out of stock items” filter before browsing online items.
Any time you visit a results page (think Skincare, Bedroom Furniture, Handbags & Wallets), Costco automatically applies a “show out of stock items” filter to your search.
If you only want to see in-stock items, be sure to check off this filter before you scroll through the results.
10. Request a price adjustment for online Costco purchases if you find a lower price later.
You have 30 days to request a Costco price adjustment for warehouse and online purchases.
To request a price adjustment for a Costco.com purchase, you’ll need to fill out the online form. They’ll ask you to enter the following info:
- Order number
- Your membership number
- Date of purchase
- Item number
- The price you paid for the item
- The lower online sale price you found
- Status of your original purchase (like whether or not it’s been shipped)
After you submit the form, Costco will send you an email to let you know if your request was approved, usually within five to seven business days.
Keep in mind: Costco won’t give you a price adjustment if you purchased the item online, then found the lower price in the warehouse. Remember, Costco.com prices are slightly higher to support their fulfillment costs, so they won’t match their own warehouse prices.
11. Search the term “whilesupplieslast” on Costco.com to see all the latest Costco clearance items.
On Costco.com, enter the term “whilesupplieslast” in the search bar at the top of the page. Make sure you type it as one word, just like I wrote it.
You’ll see everything that’s marked clearance with prices ending in “.97” (aka Costco clearance items).
You can also head directly to the While Supplies Last page on Costco.com to see those same items.
12. Browse the same member-only savings from the Costco Coupon Book online.
Want to shop for deals from the Costco Coupon Book online? Just head to the Warehouse Savings page on Costco.com. You’ll find the same member-only savings you’d get in the warehouse. Some savings are online only, while others are in warehouse or online.
But once again — you’ll still pay more online than you would in the warehouse, even with savings that are available for both.
13. Refill your Costco Pharmacy prescriptions online and then do in-warehouse pickup.
You can refill existing Costco Pharmacy prescriptions and check their status online, then pick them up in the warehouse when they’re ready. You can also book appointments online for flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines!
However, if you’re trying to fill a new prescription, you’ll need to contact your local Costco warehouse to get the prescription filled.
14. You can return Costco.com purchases online for free.
The Costco return policy gives you a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all items, so you can get a full refund for returns at any time. If you need to return a Costco.com purchase, you can start a return online, and Costco won’t charge you for return shipping when you send the item back.
There ARE a few exceptions to their return policy, which include:
- Electronics: You must return electronics within 90 days from the date you received the item.
- Diamonds 1.00 ct or Larger: You must present all original paperwork (IGI and/or GIA certificates), at which time you’ll receive a Jewelry Credit Memo.
- Cigarettes & Alcohol: You can’t return cigarettes or alcohol where prohibited by law.
You can also return online Costco purchases to the warehouse for free.