Costco Online Shopping: The Big Differences Between Costco and

Costco Wholesale Store, West Palm Beach, Florida


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Costco Wholesale Store, West Palm Beach, Florida

Costco vs.

In this brave new world of e-commerce, plenty of stores have tried to make their websites a seamless extension of their brick-and-mortar shopping experience. But even the biggest Costco fans would probably admit that shopping at is nothing like their beloved trips to the warehouse club, and the company itself has admitted that online retail hasn’t been a focus in the past. 

But that doesn’t mean you should write off Costco’s website. Here's what you need to know about Costco online shopping, from shopping as a non-member to same-day deliver.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

Closeup of Laptop and Hands Holding a Credit Card

1. Non-Members Can Shop Online

If you don't have a membership card, you can’t shop in-store at your local Costco without jumping through some hoops, such as having a member accompany you and make purchases for you, or by getting a Costco cash card and using that to gain entry and buy what you need. But you can still shop at Costco online, no babysitter necessary. Sweet!

Closeup of Computer Screen with Mouse Pointer Over 'Checkout now' Button

2. However, You'll Pay a Surcharge

No, you don't have to be a member to shop at, but you'll pay for the privilege. Costco's online shopping comes with a 5% surcharge upon checkout — and that's often enough to eat up a substantial part of the savings you'll get by choosing Costco in the first place. Some better news? If you have an executive membership at Costco, you'll still get 2% cash back on orders you place online.

Costco Website Featuring Whirlpool Refrigerator That's a 'Member Only Item'

3. Some Costco Online Shopping Items Are Off-Limits

Anothe drawback for nonmembers who want to shop online: Certain items from the Costco online catalog won't be available at all, as they'll require a member log-in to buy. This is most often the case with big-ticket electronics (think Apple, Samsung, or Dyson) and popular kitchen brands (Ninja, Calphalon, or Cuisinart) but can pop up across categories.

Related: Surprisingly Good Costco, Walmart, and Target Products

Costco Website Featuring Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter for Sale Online to Buy

4. Prices Are Often Higher Online

Here's one of the most important differences between shopping at Costco in-person vs online: Even if you can find the same item in both places, you may pay a higher online price. Costco sometimes rolls shipping and handling fees into the prices of online items, and its business model still largely relies on getting shoppers into the stores for that "treasure hunt" experience. Prices are more likely to be the same on big-ticket purchases such as TVs, but smaller items are often a few bucks cheaper in the warehouse. The cost of convenience can add up.   

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Costco Website Featuring Snapware Pyrex 18-Piece Glass Food Storage Set Showing Both Online and In-Store Price
Crate Filled with Delivered Food on Table of Kitchen at Home

6. Online Grocery Prices Can Be Higher, Too

Bulk food buys are one of Costco's claims to fame, and can save shoppers a mint. Think twice before you try to replicate that online. offers nonperishable food and household supplies through 2-Day Delivery, and while there's no delivery fee for orders of $75 or more, items are often still a buck or two more expensive than in-store to cover fulfillment costs, which can add up fast. Savings are also elusive if you need fresh or frozen items, which means you'll have to use Costco's same-day delivery option powered by Instacart. The program's pricing accounts for service and delivery fees, and the difference can be significant: Consumer Reports found that its bill was 31% higher using same-day delivery compared with shopping in-store.

Related: Costco vs. Sam's — Which Has Better Prices and Services?

Costco Website Featuring Kirkland Signature Premium Extra Thick Steak Strips Showing 2-Day Delivery Price Difference
Instacart Woman Loading Her Van with Bags of a Customer

8. Example of Same-Day Delivery Price Differences

No one can deny the convenience of Costco's same-day grocery delivery, but you'll pay a premium to use this Instacart-run service. (Don't forget the tip, too.) Here are some recent (Jan. 2023) examples of how prices can differ from buying in-store. (Costco member can view same-day delivery pricing when shopping for current options.)

  • Tuxedo Bar Cake: Regularly priced $16 in-store, $18.71 online
  • Bibigo Fully Cooked Mini Wontons: Regularly priced $10 in-store, $11.69 online
  • Kirkland Signature Meatballs: Regularly priced $17 in-store, $19.88 online
  • Kirkland Signature Bagels: Regularly priced $6 in-store, $8.18 online

Related: Is One of These Online Grocery Services Right for You?

Costco Website Ad for Both In-Warehouse and Online Showing T3 Featherweight 3i Hair Dryer

9. There's a Bigger Selection Online ...

As massive as the typical Costco is, it doesn't carry that many products. In-store, you may find around 4,000 items; the Walmart down the road may have 30 times that. And while there are select items that can be found only in-store, in general, there are more that are exclusive to the Costco online shopping experience. In fact, most savvy Costco deal hunters know to look for two main sales each month: Warehouse Savings, which apply to items you'll find in-store and online, and Online-Only Savings, which are items exclusive to website.

Related: Costco or Sam's Purchases That Make Back the Membership Fee

Radiant Cut 1.54 ct Center VVS1 Clarity, Fancy Pink Diamond Platinum Halo Ring
New Black SUV Car for Sale Inside Costco

11. Services Vary From In-Store

Costco's in-store services include a pharmacy, photo center, optical department, and tire center, but there's more you can do online — much of which you may not have even realized. Businesses can buy supplies in bulk through the Costco Business Center, plus get discounts on phone services, printing, insurance, and more. Individuals can score discounts on home, auto, and life insurance; get vision or dental benefits; join a prescription savings program; sign up for bottled water delivery; and renovate their home with savings on everything from flooring to HVAC. You can buy a shiny new car through the Costco Auto Program, or book a cut-rate vacation with Costco Travel.

Costco employee stocking shelves

12. Shopping at Costco Online Can Be More Efficient

We wouldn't be the first ones to to describe Costco's massive warehouse as overwhelming. Wandering through the aisles in search of a specific product can feel like trying to find a needle in a very big, very crowded haystack. Finding exactly what you want online is a lot easier: Just type your desired product into the search bar and see what comes up. 

Closeup of a Woman Holding Three Credit Cards and Choosing Which One to Use

13. Payment Options Are Different

In-store, Costco is notorious for accepting one credit card and one credit card only: Visa. Otherwise, shoppers are mostly limited to debit, cash, and check. If you're shopping at, the chain isn't quite as discriminating, and you can use your MasterCard or Discover, too (sorry, still no American Express).

Ready to sign up for Costco membership? Apply here.