Advice and Protocol

Shop at Costco/Sam’s Club Without a Membership (5 Tested Loopholes)

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Contrary to what Costco wants to indoctrinate you with, there are a bunch of loopholes that can help you shop there without a membership (or with a heavily discounted one). The Costco (or Sam’s Club) membership is the perfect real life equivalent of sharing your Netflix password and ironically both companies are trying to crack down on this habit at the same time. Considering how ridiculously thin their profit margins are, it’s understandable why they gatekeep this sacred membership ritual so much:

Costco Profit Margin

I tried all of these methods myself and they work with flying colors.

1. The Instacart Loophole

Instacart Home Screen

The best and most convenient way to shop at Costco or Sam’s Club is by letting someone else do it for you. I tried adding a friend’s membership to my Instacart account and surprisingly it worked perfectly fine. Instacart didn’t ask any questions about the membership and they didn’t seem to have a database to match the name on the Costco membership to the name on the Instacart account. I asked my friend if they shared their membership with any other friends and they said at least one more friend was using their membership both in store and on Instacart. So could this be an infinite loophole technically? Maybe.

Instacart Account Settings

So this method is what I found to be the easiest way to shop at Costco (and Sam’s Club) especially since I already have an Instacart+ membership that gives me free deliveries and a couple of other perks through my Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Instacart Loyalty Cards

Just be careful though, once you add the Costco or Sam’s Club memberships to your Instacart account, it’s almost impossible to remove them. The only way I was able to get rid of my friend’s membership was by adding another Costco membership to my Instacart account to replace it. For whatever reason, Instacart won’t let you just delete a loyalty or membership card. I haven’t tried talking to customer support about it but I’m assuming that’s going to be the only way of removing the membership number from my account.

Instacart Loyalty Cards

Instacart Costco Membership

As you can see there’s no delete button in the membership card section and the only way to override a membership is by adding a new one and clicking save.

But the best thing about the Instacart loophole is that they don’t even ask you for a membership to shop at Costco or Sam’s Club in the first place. The only benefit of adding one is that you get lower prices on the items. And if you’re getting a lot of stuff from Costco those savings add up quite a lot, so it might make sense to beg a friend to give you their membership number.

I’m pretty sure this method also works with Uber Eats’ grocery delivery service for both Costco and Sam’s Club.

2. The “Borrowed” Membership Loophole

Yes, I know, Costco says that they’re cracking down on it but that’s just an intimidation tactic to scare you away. Your frugal self will always prevail. The best way to avoid their “crackdown” if you shop in store using your friend’s membership is to take your friend (or family member) with you and have them pay for your stuff and give them cash afterwards. There used to be a way you could avoid having the cashier look at the photo on the membership by heading to the self checkout machines, but that seemed to have changed as of June 2023 and now they might be asking to check the photo on the membership AND the self checkout will refuse non matching membership and credit card names.

If your friend isn’t willing to waste their time with this you could technically observe whether the employees at your local Costco or Sam’s Club are actually asking to check the memberships before paying at self checkout. That way if your friend really trusts you they could also give you their credit card that matches the name on the membership and in theory this method will still work. Just remember to give them their money back or pay them beforehand if you cherish that connection 😉

Do NOT ask a random person to give you their membership card in the regular cashiers lines because if they suspect you are not part of the same family they will ask for your ID. I tried this once and instead of asking the person to pay for my stuff and hand me the items after checkout and offer them cash beforehand, I wanted to pay on my own. Needless to say I got caught and it was a cringy interaction with their management.

3. The Shop Card Loophole

If you still have a Costco membership that is about to expire use it to buy a bunch of Shop Cards. These are Costco’s versions of gift cards and they work without a membership if you want to shop there, including their cheap gas. This loophole has been around for a while and so far Costco hasn’t closed it yet. Or maybe they don’t even want to?

If you encounter difficulties with this method in your Costco store ask for a supervisor to come over so they can override it using the generic membership #99. They’ll know what you mean. At the gas station you’ll almost never encounter difficulties with the shop card, every time I went there it always worked.

If your membership is expired or you never had one, ask your friend to buy the Shop Cards for you.

If you don’t have a friend or a family member with a Costco membership you can buy a Shop Card from eBay. There are people selling them at face value or for a couple extra dollars. For example you can easily find $100 Shop Cards for $102. If you’re worried that you’ll get scammed (valid fear considering we’re talking about eBay), Costco has a shop card verification site. So what you can do is ask the person selling you the Shop Card to meet in person, and check the balance online before giving them the money. That’s pretty much the only way to make sure you’re not getting shafted by some shady eBay seller.

Ebay Shop Card

Ebay Shop Card

4. The Sam’s Club *Technically* Free Membership Loophole

Groupon Sam's Club

Groupon Sam's Club

Sam’s Club’s membership is already $10 cheaper than Costco’s $60 but every once in a while they have a deal where if you sign up as a new user they’ll give you the full value of the membership back through gift cards, essentially making the membership free. That’s one of the main reasons I seem to always have an active Sam’s Club membership but not a Costco one.

For example I just headed to Groupon and they have a $25 membership deal for new users. The only thing you have to do if you already have a Sam’s Club membership that’s expiring and you’re not technically a new user is to sign up using a different email and phone number. Either use a family member’s email/number or create a new one using a Google Voice account. Read my disclaimer at the end of the article before doing this.

But if you pay attention to their promotions, sometimes they match the full amount of the membership in gift cards. The $25 deal was the first thing I stumbled upon after a simple Google search so most likely during holiday deals like Black Friday, Christmas or 4th of July sales you can easily find those hidden gems.

5. The Never-Pay-Full-Price-For-A-Costco-Membership Loophole

Costco will always try to add you to their auto pay system when you sign up for a membership and if you’re not paying attention you’ll pay the standard $60 each year after your first one. I guess that’s their weird way of thanking you for being a “loyal” member by always giving new clients a better deal.

What you can do instead is put on your nose and moustache glasses disguise and always appear to be a new client. Sign up to their Auto Pay every year using a new email address and phone number and that way you can almost always get a $30 shop card through various platforms like Dosh and Groupon. If you want to be extra safe about you forgetting to cancel in time and kneecap their ability to pull the money out of your account, use a disposable debit card through a platform like Revolut or when you sign up for Auto Pay and just deactivate the card afterwards, rendering it useless. Next year just rinse and repeat when your membership expires.

Disclaimer: I am unsure about the legality of loopholes 4 and 5 but I am almost 100% sure they go against their terms of use. So while they might technically work I wouldn’t really do them myself. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s potentially worth being banned from Costco or Sam’s Club if they find out about it.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

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