A lot of people love Costco. In fact, Costco is one of those brands that inspires such fierce loyalty in its customers that they can be willing to fight for them, sort of like Starbucks. For large families, buying in bulk and saving lots of money make a huge difference in managing family expenses. And with a gas station conveniently positioned right outside the warehouse, it’s easy to fill up and head on down the road. However, there are some things to pause and consider when buying gas at Costco. Let’s examine 5 reasons you might want to reconsider getting your tank filled at Costco.
Savings might be overstated.
While it is generally a dime or so cheaper per gallon to gas up at Costco, you could actually lose money. If you do not shop at Costco and buy the $60 membership just for the fuel savings, you will take a loss unless you fill up 36 times, or once every 10 days (based on a 16-gallon tank and 10 cents per gallon in savings). If you don’t fill up that often, you will not save quite as much as you might think, if anything at all. If you live in high-tax cities like Chicago, you’re going to see pretty small savings from one gas station over another. No matter where you want to get your gas, downloading the Gas Buddy app is a very valuable tool in your pursuit of lower gas prices. Also, be on the lookout for stations that offer discounts for paying in cash vs credit cards. Those might eat into the amount of the Costco discount.
Time cost may eat the money saved.
If you live within a short distance of a Costco, no problem. But if you have to travel more than 20 miles to get to one, you will eat up the money saved by burning more fuel. Beyond the fuel use, you will lose that time that could be devoted to other things, such as things that bring in money. It’s a double-whammy you would want to avoid.
Lines are VERY long.
Costco’s long gas station lines are notorious. People have reported waiting more than an hour for the chance to fill their vehicles, an expenditure of time that hardly justifies the few dollars that would be saved by skipping a standard gas station, where there is often no wait at all. The wait can be long not just from the sheer number of vehicles, but also by less-than-stellar driver behavior. If you don’t buy gas at Costco often, you may be confused about why there’s a middle lane. Here’s a common scenario: There are two pumps in your lane and the car in front leaves the station first. The middle lane gives the next car waiting in line enough space to get around the other car that’s still at the second pump and make their way to the first pump. But if someone is blocking the middle lane by standing in it or leaving a car door wide open, the second car is stuck until the first car gets out of the way. You know how it is – this driver is probably gawking at his/her cell phone and has no idea what’s going on, and most of us are too timid to offer gentle correction, so the obstruction remains.
Payment options are limited.
The only payment options are Costco Cash Cards and Visa cards. Your MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards cannot be used. You can only get a Costco Cash Card by going into the warehouse and buying one – you cannot pay in cash at the pump.
There are other loyalty programs that help you save.
If you shop at certain grocery stores, such as Kroger or Stop & Shop, you can join a loyalty program that earns you money off each gallon of gas you buy from a partnered gas station chain. In many cases, these rewards programs lead to gas that is cheaper than what you’d get from Costco. Also, there are many credit cards that offer rewards that include higher rates of cash back for gas purchases. When shopping for a new credit card, examine those rewards and their fine print carefully. You could get a cash back bonus that equals or exceeds the Costco price discount.
Finding ways to save money is something just about everyone is interested in. Fuel is usually a good place to examine if you are spending more than you have to. But there’s more to it than “the station next to my house is selling gas for $2.99 and Costco’s is $2.69 so I should go there.” It might be a better buy, but make sure you examine all these factors before racing off to the nearest Costco.