5 Ways To Shop At Costco Without Being A Member

Shopping at Costco can save you money with most purchases but as you already know, you need to have membership for you to do so.

We have been a member of Costco since 1995 and have really taken advantage of all the savings because of buying stuff in bulk plus a few instant manufacturer’s rebate and coupons to add to that.

However, even with all the savings that we talked about, some people would still not be able to justify coughing up that $55 or $110 for Costco membership fees because they probably have a small family and bulk buying will cost them more (by throwing away the extras).

But if you still need to go shop at Costco, here are the few ways on how you can get around it:

1.Shop At Costco.com Website

If you do not know it yet, you can actually shop at the online store Costco.com even without the membership. Unlike the physical warehouse stores, the use of credit card to pay for purchases is not limited to just American Express as you can use Visa, MasterCard, or you can even have it billed. However, there is a 5% surcharge on your purchases if you are not a Costco member.

2. Use A Costco Cash Card

What it is

The Costco cash card is a prepaid card and you can use this to shop  at the store. What I like about the cash card is that it is not limited for members as NON-MEMBERS can use this as well at any location in the United States and even at Costco.com.

The amount that you can load the card for varies from a minimum of $10 up to a maximum of $1,000. The card does not have an expiration and is rechargeable at any Costco stores. You can access the balance by going to Costco.com

How Can Non-Members Acquire One?

Well, this is the tricky part. If you are a non-member, you cannot just get one for yourself because only Costco members can prepay on the card. However, if you know a Costco member, you can ask that person to purchase one for you. This is good if you just want to try shopping at Costco without  having to pay for the membership fees.

And if you do not know any Costco members, there are Costco cash cards that are being offered at eBAY but beware when you go this route since some of them may not be legitimate.

The Costco Membership card only allows up to a maximum of two people who live in the same household. So this is perfect for huge families to allow non-Costco family members to shop at Costco. As an example, you can have your kids shop at Costco or buy gas and limit their spending with the Costco cash card.

Caveats for Non-Members:

  • Recharging the Card – When the card runs out of money, you cannot recharge it yourself. You have to ask the Costco member to do it for you. This is quite a hassle, in my opinion, and if you really like shopping at Costco, you might as well just purchase the $55 Gold Membership. It’s really a big inconvenience for you to be asking your friend or relative to recharge it for you every time it runs out of money.
  • Return Policy – As great as the return policy at Costco, I think this only applies to members. So non-members may not be able to avail the same return policy that are reserved for the members. Unless of course you ask the member to return it for you.

3. Shop With A Costco Member

This is probably the most common one. Whenever I go to Costco, I always see non-members who are piggy backing on their friend’s or relative’s membership. Again, the caveat is you have to be with a Costco member and you can only pay by cash. If a Costco member is also shopping, the cashier will ring up your orders separately.

4. Items or Services You Can Buy Without The Membership

There are certain items at Costco that you can buy even if you do not have a membership. Alcohol and pharmacy are two common ones because these are mandated either by the federal or state laws.

  • Alcohol – You would need to let a Costco employee that you are only purchasing alcohol. Usually, they would provide you a temporary shopping pass but it is only good for alcohol purchase and you have to pay in cash. This is a good way for non-members to take advantage of the wholesale alcohol prices that members usually can avail.
  • Pharmacy – You do not need to have a Costco membership in order to purchase from their pharmacy centers.
  • Optometrist – These are usually independent optometrist so you do not need to have memberships to see one.

5. One Day Free Shopping Pass or Trial Membership ( Update from Comments Below)

As mentioned in a comment by our readers, you can actually ask for a one day free shopping pass or trial membership. I don’t think all Costco stores offer this so the best bet is to call the warehouse store directly and ask if they offer this. One caveat is that they may charge non-member surcharge for the purchases. With online shopping, the surcharge is 5% so you can expect the same surcharge or even higher percentage at the physical locations.

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35 thoughts on “5 Ways To Shop At Costco Without Being A Member”

  1. Pingback: Costco American Express True Earnings Card Review: Is It Right For You? | Frugal Insight Living And More

  2. Pingback: Where to Find Costco Membership Discounts? | Frugal Insight Living And More

  3. I think you can add to that the one day free pass for non Costco members. You might need to contact the Costco stores customer service first to find out if they offer before going to the store. Also, I think there is a surcharge of 5% or 10% for non-members.

          1. Yeah and you know this how? Because it makes more sense that they pay their employees fairly, versus ripping them off and denying them healthcare like Sham’s Club, and this is why membership might be a little higher. Employee morale is definitely higher at Costco.

  4. In most Costco’s in the Chicagoland area, the free day pass is actually a preview pass allowing one to roam the store but purchases are limited to pharmacy items and alcohol. Therefore don’t expect to be able to make general purchases for a surcharge.

  5. Costco Employee

    Notes from a Costco Employee: If you shop with a Costco member, they must be the one to pay. Sometimes the cashiers aren’t supposed to do multiple orders. Ask if they can give you a subtotal.

    The membership is $55 for 2 people for 1 year. Part of the reason that Costco can offer low prices is because part of their profits come from membership fees. It would be really inconvenient to constantly shop without a membership, so if you like the store… Time to sign up!

  6. Jibreda Jackson

    I went to Costco today and was treated very badly. I was under the influence that I could get a free 7 day trial membership. Once I entered the store that actuall treated me like I had stool something. I had to stand in front and wait until a manager came an he acted like I had stole something.. He was a total jack-ass!!! He insisted on my being buying a membership for a year. I actually wanted to purchase one product, the manager was very rude. I was treated like I stole something. If that’s the way they treat there potential members they can keep it. Why go through the hassle of paying a fee of $55.00 in order to turn around and get a full refund??!! That’s what the manager insisted that I do!!!! I am a member of Sam Club and I have never been treated like that.. I guess cause its in Hoover it’s supposed to be better! A buch Of crook!!! My experience was a total let down!!!!!

  7. elizabeth gronowski

    i like schoping at costco but i dont like to paid the fee for membership card i think customers the one who feed you and your family so why schould i spend 55 dolars to get in to costko .when i shop i shop i spend 200to 450 a visit i always try to get with sombody for free there and i sspend more then avrage people i dont go there to buy botel off water thanks ela

  8. Walter Correa III

    i am not a family member. i think there’s a lot Costco can do to entice single people to shop there as well . things i don’t like is the gestapo at the front entrance that wouldn’t allow me to go inside to buy a hot dog at the food court.

    1. Bill in Houston

      I shopped at Costco all the time as a single. I still get great bargains there as a married father of one. The amount I save on baby formula over the name brands, or even other store brands paid for my membership this year. There’s far more to Costco than a hot dog, although your membership would pay for itself in a few months if you went there for lunch instead of fast food.

      Also, gasoline is roughly ten cents a gallon cheaper than gas stations right around the corner.

  9. Sorry, I dont care about employee wages.

    I bought a giftcard off ebay at a slight premium so that I can shop there on occasion. I might go 1-2 times a year at the most so the above tricks really help me out.

    A few years ago I asked if I could look around and they said yes but that IF i wanted to buy anything, I would have to pay the membership fee at the register. (I didnt)

    Its 45 minutes away from home. I used to be a member of sams until I realized that my sister was paying $35 a year for me. I thought ad ons were $10 so I told her to stop. I like going to Sams but not for $35 a year.
    The $35 offsets any savings I might have as a single guy.

    My card still works for gas which is cool. And I go with my sister when I need a few things.

    And of course you can always go in to buy alcohol or use the pharmacy. I used to use the phamacy at might until I realized that online pharmacys are much cheaper.

    Im getting several filled with Costco online pharmacy and one or two others I will transfer and fill locally and at Health Warehouse.
    (Nobody has the best price on everything)

    I also plan to get my scripts filled 6 months at a time versus the 3 months I had been getting to save a little more and so I dont have to order as often.

    Everything I take is generic so its cheap online. But not so cheap in person at Sams.
    Sams prices for Zocor,Xanax & Zoloft generics are a good bit higher than whats available elsehwere. Usually online has the best prices but Zoloft is cheapest at Winn Dixie. (Its included in the $10 for 90 whereas many do not include it)

    Im going to save a lot as a % on Zocor & Xanax. Will save a little on my BP pills, but the convienence of not having to go in person to get them filled is worth something to me too.

  10. Another thing, sams doesnt ALWAYS have the lowest price.

    I bought lightbubs at Walmart recently. $14 for 12.

    Sams prices were much higher. But, to be fair I think they may have been higher wattage too. I got 13s which= the old 60 watts.

    They were $2.99 for 2 at Aldi and $14 for 12 at walmart. Sams were $13-14 for 8.

  11. Sheesh, why do some people have to make everything political?
    Jibreda, maybe you WERE trying to “stole something” by trying to get a free 7 day membership, of which they clearly don’t offer!

  12. Live about 50 miles away from costco but drive to the one on Randall Rd anyway and was Shocked to find out they don’t have a one day shopping pass. I used to belong to one in Denver & really them versus Sams Club. Hey Costco, wake up to the fact that not everyone lives close to your store and would like to try it out. I’m so bummed.

  13. It’s interesting reading some of these comments.

    Costco doesn’t offer a “day pass” anymore because they were being abused. Same reason why the return policy was changed on electronics.

    Costco is a MEMBERSHIP warehouse. You pay the membership fee and get all kinds of benefits. Don’t like it, don’t renew. Simple.

    All these people crying about it make me laugh. There are a hundred other places you can shop besides Costco, pull your pants up and shop there. Quit your belly aching about the membership fee.
    ZOMG! I have to show my receipt when I leave. Yep, Costco wants to make sure you weren’t overcharged or undercharged…. oh no.
    ZOMG! They wouldn’t let me in. Yep, Costco is a membership warehouse.
    ZOMG! I can’t go to the food court. Go to McDonald’s then.

    You don’t HAVE to shop there.

  14. I agree Chris, If you feel being a paid member is worth it…. great you’re like the majority of us… and if you don’t… then shut up and shop elsewhere.

    I’ve been a member of Sam’s club for years.. while I have been satisfied overall. Since moving to NJ from Pa, my local Sam’s in Deptford has to be the worst Sam’s I have ever been shopped at. I’ve probably shopped in about 10 of them over the years… Their selection of items is less than other Sam’s and they are frequently out of stock of the items I do buy…. Costco is a little further…. but closer than other Sam’s clubs. So I plan to check them out… and if I like what I see… I plan to join.

  15. I called my local costco and they told me NO trial membership, no exceptions… i’ll try sam’s or bj’s instead. I just wanted to find a place to go since i was new to the area. thanks anyway costco 🙁

  16. Bill in Houston

    For those too cheap to pay for membership, go shop at Wal-Mart.

    I’m a Costco shareholder as well as a member. Part of my membership fee generates profit for the chain. MOST of their profit comes from membership fees. Why? Because their prices are marked up only 14% over cost (most stores mark up between 60 and 125% over cost). Oh, and they paid out a nice $7 a share dividend last year.

    P.S. Capcha is bravo sierra!

  17. Because Costco has employees stationed at the exit checking receipts and because customers are stopping to show their receipt – you believe that you are required to stop and have your receipt checked when you exit the store.

    But that is incorrect. There is no requirement for you to stop while a store employee or store security looks at your receipt before leaving the premises.

    The employee may tell you that they need to look at your receipt and you may voluntarily submit to the request, but its not a requirement at Costco or any other retailer which places an employee at the exit to look at receipts.

    Have you ever seen any notice posted at the entrance of Costco or posted in any of their written membership materials regarding a policy on showing your receipt as a requirement for making a purchase and exiting the store?

    You are required to pay for any merchandise which you take out of the store – meaning you are not allowed to commit theft from the store.

    Retain your receipt to be shown as proof of your purchase if you are ever detained by the store and falsely accused of theft, but once you have paid for your stuff at the register you are not under any requirement to wait in another cattle check receipt line.

    Moo! Moo!
    Move out of my way!

    1. Sam’s Club, CostCo, and BJ’s all include text in the membership agreement compelling you to stop and show your receipt so they can inspect your cart on the way out.


      So you’re wrong about CostCo and other membership stores. They can revoke your membership if you just walk past.

      Sometimes Walmart, Bestbuy, and other non-member stores ask for receipts. I just say “no thanks” and walk past. At a non-member store there’s no agreement or law compelling me to show my receipt and stop for them.

  18. There are no more one-day or free trial memberships! I ask my local Costco and they said that these were offered a long time ago. I don’t shop too much so usually I ask my sister if I can go with her when she goes to Costco. I did not know about the Costco Cash Card and I will definitely try that. Thank you for the article. I will be asking my sister to purchase one for me so I can come and shop at Costco without her! Yipee1

    1. Thank you for visiting our site and I’m glad that this article helped you with a new found knowledge of getting the Costco cash card. This will help reduce the inconvenience of having to wait for your sister for you to go to Costco. As a reminder, when your purchase is more than the balance of your Costco cash card, you can pay the difference in cash. In addition, if you’ve depleted the funds and you need to replenish, you cannot do it yourself. You will need to ask your sister to replenish the funds for you.

      Enjoy shopping at Costco!

  19. The local Costco store in my area does not have trial membership anymore. They’ll let you browse but you cannot buy. Also, they will give you a pass just to buy alcohol oe cigarettes but that is it! I don’t shop often enough to justify membership. I do have club rewards card from my local grocery stores and they provide a lot of discounts for members. Plus membership is free

  20. I am a single person and Costco membership does not work for me that is why I was looking for a one day pass so that I can buy something without having to pay one year full membership. But I guess Costco does not offer them anymore.

    Anyways, I normally just go to Wal-mart or Target to purchase single items as I really do not have storage room if I buy in bulk at warehouse stores such as Costco or Sam’s club. Wal-mart and Sam’s are the same company and a lot of the items are similar for both stores. However, I could use the discounted movie tickets or restaurant gift certificates sold at Costco for my dates . LOL

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