Costco vs. Sam’s Club: Which One is Cheaper?


5 min read
Costco Sams Club

Are you considering joining a warehouse club but aren’t sure which one will give you the best bang for your buck? Keep reading to find out if Costco or Sam’s Club is the better deal.

Store Brand Items

Kirkland Signature
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Reader’s Digest, Investopedia, Cheapism.com, and many others have put in the work to determine which of these two warehouse clubs is less expensive, and they all agree that when it comes to the basic store brand items, the prices are very close — so close in fact that it, “really just depends on what items are on your grocery list for the week,” Reader’s Digest said on its website. That being said, here is a side-by-side comparison so that you can see just how close the prices at both warehouses really are:

American Cheese
-Costco Kirkland Signature = $1.90 per pound
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark = $2.10 per pound

Bottled Water (16.9 oz.)
-Costco Kirkland Signature = $2.99 (7¢ ea.)
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark = $2.98 (7¢ ea.)

Chicken Breasts
-Costco Kirkland Signature Chicken Breasts, Boneless Skinless = $3.09 per pound
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts = $1.72 per pound

Dish Detergent
-Costco Kirkland Signature Ultra Shine Liquid Dish Soap = $0.07 per ounce
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark Liquid Dishwashing Soap = $0.07 per ounce

Ground Beef
-Costco Kirkland Signature Organic Ground Beef Hamburger = $5.07 per pound
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark Organic Ground Beef = $5.82 per pound

Milk
-Costco Kirkland Signature 2% Reduced Fat Milk = $2.63 per gallon
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark 2% Reduced Fat Milk = $2.68 per gallon

Olive Oil
-Costco Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin Olive Oil = $8.30 per liter
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark Extra Virgin Olive Oil = $6.66 per liter

Paper Towels
-Costco Kirkland Signature 2-Ply Paper Towels, 12ct = $1.70 per roll
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark Super Premium Individually Wrapped Paper Towels, 15ct = $1.23 per roll

Spaghetti Sauce (Organic)
-Costco Kirkland Signature = $9.69 (10.1¢ per ounce)
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark = $6.97 (9.7¢ per ounce)

Trash Bags (13 gals.)
-Costco Kirkland Signature = $14.99 (7.5¢ each)
-Sam’s Club Member’s Mark = $14.78 (7.4¢ each)

**It’s important to note that when it comes to item diversity, Sam’s Club has Costco beat. In fact, Costco claims to only carry about 4,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units). And, although Sam’s Club has not disclosed its number of SKUs, Sam’s Club carries significantly more than Costco’s 4,000. So, why does Costco keep its item diversity low? So they can focus less on item diversity and more on quality.

Membership Costs

Membership Cards
Source: Pixabay

Although you won’t notice too much of a difference in the cost of store brand items at Costco and Sam’s Club, you will notice that there is a significant difference in the cost of membership, which starts at $60 per year at Costco and $45 per year at Sam’s Club. Costco’s Gold Star Executive and Business Executive Memberships both cost $120. Sam’s Club Plus Membership costs $100.

Additionally, both warehouse clubs will refund the price of your membership if you are ever dissatisfied. So, technically, you could actually get a free membership if you give it a trial run and then cancel it if you don’t see its value over time. “You won’t even lose a pro-rated amount. This eliminates the risk of a ‘wasted’ membership fee. Don’t abuse it!,” 20 Something Finance said on its website.

Perks

Perks
Source: Pixabay

When asking the question, “Is Costco or Sam’s Club cheaper?” you can’t forget to factor in the added perks and benefits that come along with a membership. We’ll just run through a few of the perks each of them has to offer.

Costco:
-Quality items
-100% satisfaction guarantee
-An annual 2% Reward (up to $1,000)* on qualified Costco, Costco.com, and Costco Travel purchases (Executive Members only)
-Deals on cruises, vacations, and rental cars
Add-on memberships
-A variety of perks for military personnel and their families when they join

Sam’s Club:
-Get 2% back on qualifying purchases – up to $500/year (Plus Members only)
-Free shipping every day, with no minimum purchase (Plus Members only)
-Early shopping hours (Plus Members only)
-Instant savings
-Sam’s Club Mastercard — eligible to earn 5% back on gas, 3% on dining and travel, and 1% on other purchases – up to $5,000 per year (Plus Members only)
-Save money at the pump. Get member-exclusive prices on fuel.
-Free select prescriptions (Plus Members only)
-Discounts on glasses (Plus Members only)
-Free flat tire repair, battery testing, and wiper blade installation
-Complimentary card. One free household membership to share
-Add-on memberships
-A variety of perks for military personnel and their families when they join

Location

Location Icon
Source: Pixabay

You may be asking yourself, “What on earth does location have to do with which of these stores is cheaper?” Well, it has everything to do with it, at least as far as gas money is concerned. And, an extra $20 in gas money can make all the difference. So, before deciding which club to join, you’ll first want to find out which one is nearest to you. Unfortunately, if you’re interested in joining Sam’s Club, there may not be a store near you since there are only about 600 locations worldwide, compared to Costco’s 762 locations. You should also know that there are far more Sam’s Club locations on the East Coast than there are on the West Coast. Worldwide, Sam’s Club has locations in Mexico, China, and Brazil, while Costco has locations in Canada, Mexico, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Iceland, and France.

If by chance, there is neither a Costco nor Sam’s Club near you, you can always shop online. You will have to pay a service fee, however, if you’re not a member– a 10% fee for Sam’s Club and a 5% fee for Costco.

Payment Methods

Payment Methods
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Donald Trung Quoc Don (Chữ Hán: 徵國單) – Wikimedia Commons.[CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Although method of payment isn’t directly tied to the original question of which store is cheaper, it is indeed relevant and something you need to know before you join. That being said, Costco accepts all Visa cards, cash, personal checks, traveler’s checks, debit/ATM, EBT, and Costco Shop Cards. Sam’s Club accepts Sam’s Club credit, Walmart and Sam’s Club credit cards, VISA checkout, cash, checks, debit cards, American Express, MasterCard, Discover, Visa credit cards, Walmart credit, and SNAP.

CONCLUSION

Your turn! Based on your shopping experiences, which warehouse club do you think is cheaper? Leave a comment down below.