10 Costly Mistakes To Avoid When Shopping at Warehouse Clubs

5 min read

Avoid these money mistakes when shopping at Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club.

10. Not Using Your Membership Enough

Membership Cards
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Spending money on a Costco wholesale club membership can be a great idea — especially if you shop there frequently. But, if you only visit these kinds of stores occasionally, purchasing a membership would be a massive waste of money.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; Purchasing a membership is the only way to shop at a warehouse club. That is true for many items, but for things such as wine, filling prescriptions at the pharmacy and getting eyeglasses at the optical department, you don’t need a membership at all. You can just stroll on in, head straight for these areas, make your purchase, and head out again.

Keep in mind that you will have to pay a 5% nonmember surcharge on most purchases, but that beats paying $60 or more a year for a store you’re hardly ever going to visit.

9. Not Earning Cash Back

Cash Back
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There are lots of ways to earn cash back when shopping at warehouse stores. Perhaps the best part of all is that you can earn cashback in-store AND online!

One simple way to earn cashback is to pay for your items with a cash-back credit card. Another option is to use an app.

According to an article published by Money Talks News, there’s a free app called Ibotta that routinely offers cash rebates on purchases from Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club.

All you have to do is sign up for an Ibotta account, download the app and select a warehouse store from a list of retailers to see what cash rebates are currently being offered.

8. Buying Everything in Bulk

Bulk Shopping
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Most people who purchase warehouse club memberships do so to take advantage of bulk buying. And, while there’s the potential to get a good deal when you buy in bulk, that’s not always the case.

“Buying in bulk can be a great deal if you will use or consume the items purchased, but it can also make a dent in your wallet and/or trash can if you don’t use them,” Rebecca Gramuglia of TopCashback.com told GOBankingRates. “Before you buy, it’s important to analyze the cost per unit to see if it is worth buying the larger option.”

That being said, if you don’t have a large family or don’t entertain guests very often, it’s probably a good idea to skip the bulk purchases.

7. Not Paying Attention To Price Signs

Price Tag

You probably don’t know this, but some stores use secret codes when it comes to pricing. That’s why it’s important to know these codes and then look for them once you get inside the store.

According to a report by Uproxx, here are the prices and symbols that have secret meanings:

  • Prices ending in .98 or .99 are retail prices and don’t provide savings unless bought in bulk.
  • Prices ending in .09, .19, .29, .39, .49, .59, .69, .79, and .89 are manufacturer deals, which means you’re getting a lower price than you would at other retailers.
  • Prices ending in .97 are on sale because the store manager needs to move stock.
  • Prices ending in .00 or .88 are items that have been steeply discounted.
  • Price signs with an asterisk in the top right corner indicate items that have been heavily discounted and will be discontinued.

6. Assuming You’re Getting the Best Deal

Compare Prices
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Warehouse clubs often have some unbeatable deals, but that does not mean that everything they carry automatically costs less than at other stores. For example, name-brand cereals, sodas, tissues, diapers and printer ink often costs more at warehouse clubs.

Items such as canned goods, laundry detergent, disposable party supplies, sports drinks, dryer sheets, books and DVDs cost more as well. Not only that, but these stores generally do no accept manufacturer or competitor coupons. Plus, they rarely offer sales or buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) deals.

5. Shopping on an Empty Stomach


One of the worst things you can do is go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. That’s because shopping while hungry can lead you to buy on impulse. Think about it.. When you go into a grocery store on an empty stomach, you’ll likely want to buy all the food around you and start tossing everything into the cart.

Before you know it, you’ll have hundreds of dollars worth of groceries that you hadn’t even intended to buy. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution to this problem: grab a quick bite to eat BEFORE heading inside the store. Your tummy AND your wallet will thank you.

4. Shopping Without a List

Shopping List
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There are lots of good reasons to make a shopping list ahead of time. The most obvious reason is so that you won’t forget any of the items you need. Perhaps a more important reason is so that you avoid making impulse purchases and end up overspending.

“Whether you’re going into Costco for the first time or your 100th time, the vast warehouse of products can seem exciting, and possibly a little overwhelming. But like any shopping trip, making a list ahead of time is crucial, especially since Costco is mapped out to entice shoppers to buy more — things they likely don’t need — by placing and rotating items in different spots,” Rebecca Gramuglia, retail expert at TopCashback.com, told GOBankingRates.

3. Not Filling Up Your Gas Tank

Filling Gas Tank
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Believe it or not, Costco and Sam’s Club are great places to fill your gas tank. You can fill your tank at prices that are often 10 to 20% lower than traditional gas stations.

Costco’s auto service stations have some of the cheapest gas around. Sam’s Club came in second place overall in a national survey of best places to get gas in its category for warehouse clubs, big box stores and supermarkets.

2. Not Purchasing Gift Cards

Gift Cards
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Warehouse stores typically sell gift cards for restaurants and retailers at a fraction of what you’d pay for them in other stores. For example, Sam’s Club sells gift cards at up to a 25% discount on the cards’ total value. And, while most of the discounts won’t be that high, you can undoubtedly find some that are.

Gift cards will help you save when it comes time to shop for gifts for your family and friends. Perhaps you can find a good deal on gift cards for places you visit frequently. You can “stock up” on them and “save big down the road,” an article from Mashed.com says.

1. You Shop There Exclusively

Loyalty Card
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We all have our favorite stores at which to shop, but shopping exclusively at warehouse stores can cost you — especially if you’re a coupon clipper or if you do a lot of online shopping. For one thing, warehouse stores typically don’t accept manufacturer coupons.

In that case, you’d be better off going to a local grocery store. If you do a lot of online shopping, you can find many items sold in bulk sizes using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. Not only that, but you can also save up to 15% on items you purchase