When searching for places to buy in bulk at competitively low prices, many of us look to either Sam’s Club or Costco for a convenient one-stop-shop that can help us save money. Comparable in its pricing and selection, these warehouse clubs may appear nearly identical at first glance, which might have you thinking, which wholesale club is best for me?
To help make your decision an easier one, we break down the key differences between Sam’s Club vs Costco including membership costs, store locations, prices, customer experience and so much more to help you make the right choice for your family.
Let’s take a peek behind the warehouse door, shall we?
Costco vs. Sam’s Club Membership Fees and Perks
When comparing wholesale clubs, an important feature to consider is the value of the membership. Here is a breakdown of the Costco membership vs Sam’s Club membership along with their associated fees and perks to help you decide which is best.
Costco offers two membership options:
- Gold Star Membership costs $60 annually and comes with two cards — one for yourself and another for someone in your household — and allows you to shop at all locations worldwide and online.
- Executive Membership costs $120 annually and includes all features of the Gold Star Membership along with an annual 2% cashback reward on qualified warehouse purchases. Executive members also receive exclusive offers, discounts and a monthly subscription to the Costco Connection magazine.
Both cards give you full access to the discounted warehouse prices, wide selection of items and services, including the pharmacy, gas stations, and more. It also comes with a generous return policy.
If you aren’t quite ready to jump into a membership, there are a few clever ways you can shop at Costco without a membership. From daily passes to free trials and online shopping, there is so much you can get without having to commit to an annual fee.
Sam’s Club Membership
Sam’s Club also has two different membership options available.
- Club membership costs $45 annually and gives you access to Sam’s Club warehouse deals and instant savings for members-only pricing.
- Plus membership costs $100 annually and is the higher tier option that includes everything from the Club perks, plus added benefits of 2% cashback on qualifying purchases, no-minimum free shipping, early shopping hours, and more.
Both cards offer the perks of instant savings, same-day delivery and access to gas stations and tire repair.
Right now, you can get a “free” Sam’s Club membership where you can get 12 months of membership for $45, and get a $45 Sam’s Club eGift Card.
Sam’s Club lower-tier membership is $15 cheaper than Costco’s, so if you’re basing it on membership fees alone, Sam’s Club is the better choice. You can enjoy comparable savings and can find all the bulk products you need for a lower annual fee.
Sam’s Club vs. Costco Club Locations
When it comes to shopping convenience, location is everything!
Across the United States, Costco has 558 stores — 131 of which are in California alone. With all 50 states having at least one wholesale club, many Americans prefer to shop here for convenience.
If you don’t have a Costco near you, you can shop online nationwide (2-day delivery not available in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico).
As for Sam’s Club, there are 599 stores across the 488 cities in the United States. The most popular spots to find this store include Texas, Florida, and California. Although there are more Sam’s Clubs in the USA compared to Costco, only 44 states are home to this wholesale club.
Like Costco, Sam’s Club also offers online delivery to all 50 states when you shop on their website.
Cheapest Membership: Sam’s Club
This depends on where you live. Sam’s Club does have slightly more locations than Costco, so we give the edge to Sam’s Club.
Does Costco or Sam’s Club Have Better Prices?
Costco and Sam’s Club both offer bulk products and a “no-frills” shopping experience, allowing both to provide shoppers with the best deals and cheapest prices out there. Both stores carry different brands and item sizes, so doing a 1:1 comparison isn’t exact. But if you look at price per unit, Costco overall provides the better savings.
Best Prices: Costco
This one is a toss-up because they have different product selections so it’s tricky to compare. However, a majority of users would agree that Costco tends to be slightly less expensive for products while Sam’s Club offers cheaper annual memberships to make up for the overall slightly higher prices.
Does Costco or Sam’s Club Have Better Product Selection?
At both warehouse stores, you can find very similar quality products in bulk such as toilet paper, groceries and other items at great discount prices. When it comes to diversity in products, Sam’s Club offers a greater selection of national name brand products, including a generic brand called Member’s Mark that you can’t find at Costco. On the other hand, Costco supplies a larger variety of private label brands, including its own Kirkland Signature products.
Sam’s Club has more Variety / Costco Has Better Quality
We searched through Reddit comments to find out what consumers thought of the product selection when comparing these two stores. Overall, a majority of users mention that Costco has less selection compared to Sam’s Club. But Costco does win in having better quality products at better prices.
Comparing Costco vs. Sam’s Club Checkout Experience
For the best in-store shopping experience, customers typically look for convenience and efficiency, product availability, appropriate pricing and excellent customer service.
Sam’s Club Checkout
Customers can enjoy a seamless shopping experience using the latest technology. From a smartphone app to help you scan and go quickly to convenient curbside pickups, this wholesale club works hard to get you in and out of their stores with ease.
Although Costco is slightly behind on this technology, they have introduced an app that allows you to upload a digital membership card onto your smartphone and check stock levels of items before you head to the store. Additionally, their focus on culture and value helps to maintain high customer loyalty. Providing high-quality private brands at affordable prices, it seems as though Costco customers don’t mind waiting in a line.
Best Checkout Experience: Sam’s Club
This one will depend on personal preferences. If you find it important to have an easier and seamless checkout experience like self check-out and scan-and-go, Sam’s Club is the way to go. Costco will usually have big crowds and long check-out lines, but the cashiers are pretty efficient at getting people through the line quickly.
Food Court Battle: Sam’s Club vs. Costco Food Court
When it comes to post-shopping meals, the food court is always a great option at both Sam’s Club and Costco. What’s even better is you do not need to be a Club member to enjoy the food court.
Although Costco and Sam’s Club both offer a similar selection of tasty foods and treats including hot dogs, pizza, sundaes, churros and fountain soda, there are some important differences that set the two food courts apart.
For starters, Costco has a superior ordering process. While Sam’s Club only has a couple of registers open in the food court creating a longer and inefficient ordering process, Costco’s counters have been replaced by self-serve ordering kiosks for a quick and convenient checkout. Plus, their slightly lower costs and delicious meals help set the Costco food court apart from the crowd.
Best Food Court: Sam’s and Costco Tied
Both Sam’s Club and Costco have an unbeatable $1.50 hot dog combo and comparably low prices for other food items. So this may come down to your own individual taste and preference, but many do prefer Costco’s food court experience overall compared to Sam’s Club.
Can I Use My Costco Membership at Sam’s Club?
Costco memberships are only accepted at Costco stores or online while Sam’s Club memberships are only valid at Sam’s Club.
Should I Choose Sam’s Club or Costco?
Whether you’re shopping for a family of six or just for yourself, it’s helpful to consider the many perks and features that each club has to offer. For some, Sam’s Club vs Costco prices may be the dealbreaker, for others, it may be the number of benefits associated with the annual memberships.
Ultimately both stores offer similar experiences, so it may simply come down to which is closer to your home. The more conveniently located, the more frequently you will shop there—and the more you shop the more value you will get from the membership. No matter which wholesale club you decide is best, you’re guaranteed to enjoy buying great bulk products for less!