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Do You Need a Membership to Shop at Costco? (Try These Instead!)

Costco is the best place to buy bulk items at a discounted price, but you can’t normally shop at Costco without a membership. However, many people don’t realize that there are still select ways to shop at Costco without a membership.

You can shop at Costco warehouses without membership using Costco gift cards or with a member. In addition, you can shop Costco online as a non-member and pay the 5% surcharge or order Costco delivery on Instacart. Prescriptions at the Costco Pharmacy and most Costco Health Services can also be purchased without a membership.

In this article, we’ll cover all the ins and outs of how you can shop at Costco without a membership and more!

How to Shop at Costco Without a Membership

You can shop at Costco without a membership in several ways, including using Costco Shop Card, going with a member, and ordering on Costco.com or Instacart. In addition, Costco items and services like alcohol, prescriptions, optical services, and the food court are available to everyone, including non-members.

There are multiple ways to get around Costco’s membership restrictions. If you don’t have a membership, try one of the following eight methods to shop at Costco.

1. Use a Costco Gift Card (aka Shop or Cash Card)

You do not need a Costco membership if you have a Costco gift card, also known as the Costco Shop Card.

As long as you have a Costco Shop Card, you can enter the warehouse and shop as you desire. However, only members can buy Costco Shop Cards to give to others.

The Costco Shop Card lets you shop at any Costco in the US, Canada, or Puerto Rico. If you have been gifted a Shop Card, you can check its balance online.

In addition, if your Shop Card has enough funds, you can purchase a membership with it. Then, you will have access to all areas of Costco for a year.

You may want to buy a membership with your gift card if you have already shopped at Costco and know that you will continue shopping multiple times in the future.

2. Shop With a Costco Member

Any Costco member can bring two guests with them to Costco. Thus, you can shop at Costco without a membership if you know someone who is a member.

The guests do not have to be family members. Perhaps you can split the cost of a Costco membership with two friends if you are all willing to shop together.

Costco members can also choose one other person in their household to receive a free membership card.

This free membership card is included in the regular membership fees; however, it can only be used for individuals living in the same household as the primary Costco member.

Once the membership card is assigned to someone, they will be able to shop independently using their free card.

To assign someone in your household to receive a free membership card, you can access your account online.

Even if you have a membership, you may not yet have an online account. In this case, you can create your online account and link your membership number to the account when you sign up.

Once you assign an individual to receive the free membership card, they will be notified when the card is ready to be picked up in-store.

3. Shop on Costco.com

Anyone can order from Costco.com. You do not need a membership to order from Costco online; however, non-members are subject to a 5% surcharge on most items. The only type of product not included in this 5% surcharge is prescriptions.

You only need an online account to order online, and it’s free to sign up. Once you are signed into Costco’s website, you can add items to your cart and purchase them for delivery.

There are a few options for Costco delivery, including Standard Delivery, 2-Day Delivery, Cold & Frozen Delivery, and Same-Day Delivery.

You may have an order minimum to meet, depending on which delivery method you use.

Overall, Costco Delivery is a great service to use when you are not a Costco member.

Of course, there are some items that will be excluded. Costco sells many member-only items, so these cannot be ordered online as a non-member.

However, these are clearly labeled on the website, so you shouldn’t have any trouble placing an online order on Costco.com without a membership.

4. Order Costco Delivery on Instacart

You can order from Costco on Instacart without a membership. Costco uses Instacart to provide Same-Day Delivery to its customers.

This is a convenient option for non-members, but there will be additional costs for a Costco Instacart order, including higher item prices, delivery, and service fees that Instacart charges.

First, Costco’s prices on Instacart are higher than in-store prices. Additionally, Instacart has fees that will be added to pay for the personal shopping service, like delivery and service fees.

Instacart may also add an extra charge for heavy orders due to the extra effort and the time your Instacart shopper will need to complete the delivery.

Still, ordering from Costco on Instacart may be worth the higher cost sometimes. In the end, you can buy from Costco without a membership using Instacart.

Additionally, you can communicate with your shopper and track your order on the Instacart app or website at any given time.

5. Buy Alcohol at Costco Warehouse

In select states, you can buy alcohol at Costco without a membership. This is because certain states require stores like Costco to sell wine and liquor to everyone, not just the members.

States you can buy alcohol at Costco without a membership include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Vermont

Therefore, your ability to purchase alcohol without a membership depends on the laws of the state you are shopping in.

If you live in a state mentioned above that allows you to purchase alcohol at Costco without a membership, you can go to the wine and liquor section of the store.

Many Costco warehouses have a separate liquor store entrance to make it easier for non-members to access.

6. Buy Prescriptions at Costco Pharmacy

Anyone can purchase a prescription from a Costco Pharmacy without a membership. If you select a local Costco Pharmacy as your pharmacy of choice, then your doctor can send a prescription there to be filled.

The Costco Pharmacy accepts many forms of payment, including cash, debit cards, credit cards (Visa only), and Costco Shop Cards.

The Costco Pharmacy offers affordable prices on many different prescriptions. You can even compare prices online for specific medications at various pharmacies.

You will notice that Costco often has the most competitive prices on prescriptions, and you don’t even have to be a member to get those prices.

7. Use Costco Optical Services

Most Costco Optical services are available to shoppers without a Costco membership. Anyone can book an appointment for an eye exam with one of Costco’s in-house optometrists.

If you need contacts or glasses, you can get a prescription from the optometrist.

However, you cannot buy glasses or contacts from Costco Optical without a Costco membership.

There is one way to get around this rule, though. Individuals with a Costco membership can purchase contacts for a non-member as long as they have a valid prescription for the contacts.

8. Eat at the Costco Food Court

Anyone can eat at the Costco food court without a membership. However, to get to the food court inside the warehouse, try using one of the tips above.

Once you’re in the warehouse, you will be able to order from the food court without any trouble.

Some Costco locations even have their food court outside of the warehouse. Usually, the food courts are outside only in warmer climates.

If you happen to live in a place with a separate outdoor food court, you may be able to order without a Costco membership. 

However, several people reported in recent months that Costco started checking membership cards to get into the outside food courts at some locations.

Does Costco Have a Guest Pass or a One Day Membership?

Costco does not have a guest pass or one-day membership. Additionally, Costco does not offer any kind of free membership, free trial, or any other trial period for the membership. Therefore, you must have a Costco membership card to enter the warehouse unless you shop using one of the tips mentioned above.

Many people want to try out the Costco experience before committing to buying a membership.

Unfortunately, Costco doesn’t directly offer any free trials or guest passes. However, you can use some of the tips mentioned above to get into the warehouse and test it out.

For example, you can be one of the two guests for one of your friends or family members with a membership.

Try asking someone you know with a Costco membership if you can tag along during one of their excursions.

If you are serious about trying out Costco without a membership, you could even ask a member to buy you a Costco gift card for you. You will then be able to shop in the warehouse using this Shop Card.

After the “trial” experience you create for yourself, you may be interested in buying a membership.

Keep reading to find out all the details you need to purchase a Costco membership.

How Much Does a Costco Membership Cost?

A Costco membership costs from $60 to $120 per year, depending on which membership level you choose. Gold Star and Business Everyday Value Memberships cost $60 annually, whereas Executive Memberships cost $120 annually. Each of these membership options offers varying benefits that make them worth their price.

There are two tiers of Costco memberships, the Everyday Value memberships, and the Executive memberships.

Within each category, you can either have a Gold Star membership (for individual shoppers) or a Business membership (for business owners).

All four membership options offer a variety of benefits in addition to accessing Costco warehouses.

The Executive memberships have extra benefits since they are double the price of the Everyday Value memberships.

All memberships are valid at any Costco location, and they all provide two cards to be used.

The Business memberships allow the cardholders to add additional people to the membership, each for an additional $60 per year.

In addition, Business membership cardholders can purchase items at Costco for resale, but individual shoppers that have Gold Star membership cannot do so.

Although the Executive memberships are more expensive, they provide extra benefits that may make the upgrade worth it depending on your situation.

Frequent shoppers will appreciate the 2% annual reward with the Executive memberships. They will also have access to extra benefits and discounts that the standard Gold Star members cannot access.

Finally, we want to point out that only the Gold Star Executive and Business Executive memberships offer a subscription to Costco Connection.

Costco Connection is Costco’s magazine, which has new editions each month. It gives readers insight into all things Costco, including deals.

The benefits of the four Costco membership options are summarized below:

Gold Star Everyday ValueBusiness Everyday ValueGold Star ExecutiveBusiness Executive
What is the annual cost?$60/year$60/year$120/year$120/year
Is the card valid at all Costco locations and online?YesYesYesYes
How many membership cards are given?2 (must be for people of the same household)22 (must be for people of the same household)2
Can you add additional people to the membership?NoYes, $60 per person addedNoYes, $60 per person added
Do you get the 2% reward on eligible purchases?NoNoYesYes
Can you earn additional benefits and discounts?NoNoYesYes
Can you buy items for resale?NoYesNoYes
Does it include a Costco Connection subscription?NoNoYesYes

Conclusion

If you don’t have a Costco membership, there is no need to fret. There are many ways to access most of what Costco offers without a membership. However, if you find that Costco has everything you need, you can purchase a membership at an affordable annual cost.

If you’re interested in learning more Costco shopping tips, check out the articles below.

Related Articles:

Everything You Need to Know About Costco’s Hours

How to Contact Costco Customer Service Plus Costco’s Return Policy

Your Guide to Buying Costco Gift Baskets

Costco Cakes: Your Guide to Buying Cakes at Costco

Here’s What You Need to Know If You Lost Your Costco Card

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Last Updated: June 21, 2022

About the Author

Alex Burgess is a registered dietitian and content creator with over two years of experience. She loves sharing nutrition information and has a passion for studying gut health.

During her free time, she enjoys hiking with friends, cooking a new recipe for her family, or watching her dog frolic at the dog park.

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