Buying in bulk can bring you huge savings in the long run – warehouse clubs like Costco, bj and sam’s club regularly offer large discounts per unit when purchasing large quantities of items. However, these stores require memberships with dues of up to $60 per year for a basic membership (you may be able to shop online as a non-member but not have access to the same discounts). We’ve looked at each wholesaler’s membership levels and summarized the key takeaways below, so you can decide which membership is right for you.

GO AHEAD Choosing the Best Warehouse Club Membership for You

Choosing the Best Warehouse Club Membership for You

Ultimately, your ideal membership depends on the services you need and how much you’re willing to pay. Costco memberships are the most expensive across the board, but they also offer a solid set of benefits. Sam’s Club is more affordable, however, you don’t get as many benefits. BJ’s price and benefits are comparable to Costco’s, although the chain has a more restrictive return policy and operates exclusively in the eastern half of the United States (and has considerably fewer locations than the other two wholesalers) . Chances are that the membership you choose is more related to the warehouse club that operates in your area. But all three wholesalers are likely to give you good value for money. And they each have their own generic brands that offer solid value on groceries and more (Kirkland Signature for Costco, Member’s Mark for Sam’s Club, and Berkley Jensen and Wellsley Farms for BJ’s). Here is an overview of each membership:

Costco has two memberships available to the general public: Gold Star Membership for $60 per year and Executive Membership, which costs $120. The Gold Star is the first level that gives you and another member of your household access to the warehouse and online offers. Double the price, the Executive Level offers perks like extra savings on Costco Travel and 2% back on qualifying purchases. There is also a commercial membership available for $60 per year – you must present a valid commercial license / identification to qualify for this level. You can also purchase the Business Executive Membership for $120 per year (same qualifications apply)

All Costco members have access to the following:

  • Discounts on food and groceries (including Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand)
  • Kirkland Signature Gas Discount
  • Discounts on clothing and home items
  • Discounts on travel and auto
  • Insurance discounts
  • Access to Costco Pharmacy
  • Discounts on home product installation
  • Access to the Costco photo center
  • Costco Visa Anywhere Card Access

Costco Return policy is extremely buyer friendly – you can return most items for any reason at any time for a full refund, with a few exceptions like these:

  • Most electronics must be returned within 90 days
  • If you return diamonds of 1 carat or more, you may receive credit for other jewelry
  • Some mobile devices have carrier-specific return policies
  • Products like tires or batteries (which have a limited lifespan) may have their own warranties
  • Alcohol and cigarettes cannot be returned

BJ’s has similar membership levels to Costco, although their annual dues are slightly cheaper. Inner Circle and Perks Rewards memberships cost $55 and $110, respectively. Membership in Inner Circle gives you access to the warehouse and member services (like access to the tire center), while the Perks Rewards level also offers 2% cash back, cash back events double and/or triple money and travel benefits. There is also a Business version of each tier that offers “tax-exempt and resale privileges”. BJ’s also lets you use manufacturer’s coupons on their bulk items – which makes it unique among warehouse clubs – so you can get even more savings.

All BJ members have access to exclusive services, including:

  • Wellsley Farms food and groceries
  • Berkley Jensen Home Products
  • Access to the BJ tire center
  • Access to BJ’s Optical
  • Discounts with BJ’s Travel
  • Home Improvement Projects by BJ Contractors
  • Free installation and assembly (furniture, TV stand, etc.)
  • Discounts on rental cars
  • Special discounts on AT&T mobile service
  • Access to BJ’s photo

BJ’s will generally accept returns on most non-food items within one year of purchase, although there are a few exceptions, including:

  • Returnable within 90 days: computers, electronics, home theater screens, patio sets, televisions (if undamaged)
  • Returnable within 30 days: major appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, stoves and refrigerators
  • If “damaged on initial inspection”, home theater screens, laptops, tablets and TVs can be returned within 14 days.
  • Some items cannot be returned at all, such as tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, gift cards, items with gas or fuel included, or opened DVDs and video games.

Sam’s Club offers the cheapest membership, with two tiers – Club and Plus – costing $45 and $100 respectively. The Club level is the standard membership that provides access to the store and certain benefits. Membership Plus offers 2% back on qualifying purchases (up to $500 per year), free shipping for online orders, plus savings on pharmacy and optical. You will need the Plus membership.

All Sam’s Club members have access to these benefits:

  • Savings on Member’s Mark products
  • Access to special discounts
  • Curbside pickup ($4 for Club, free for Plus)
  • Access to the Sam’s Club Mastercard
  • Fuel savings
  • Access to the tire and battery center

You can return most items to Sam’s Club at any time, with a few exceptions:

  • Returnable within 90 days: electronics and major appliances
  • Returnable within 30 days: motorsport articles and commercial heavy equipment
  • Returnable within 14 days: mobile phones
  • Non-refundable: gift or prepaid cards, custom items, Sam’s Club wholesale program purchases, tickets and prescriptions

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