To make the most of a Sam's Club or Costco membership, smart shoppers partake in much more than bargains on bulk merchandise. Wholesale clubs offer their members a host of free services and deals. Didn't take time to read the brochure? Here are 13 perks of warehouse club membership, whether you shop at Sam's or Costco.
Related: How Non-Members Can Shop at Costco
Members who have questions about setting up or using a TV, home theater, digital music player, camera, or computer purchased at a warehouse club can rely on free tech support by phone. It's available 24/7 at Sam's Club (including holidays) and from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. PT daily (excluding holidays) at Costco.
Sam's Club offers free health screenings at its pharmacies once a month. In April the focus was allergy relief, and screenings include glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure, and vision and hearing testing. Costco has scheduled osteoporosis, heart, and diabetes screenings at select locations in April and May.
Both wholesale clubs rotate, balance, and repair tires at no charge. At Sam's Club, the free flat repair applies even for tires bought elsewhere, and wiper-blade installation and car battery testing is also free.
When booking your next trip, remember to ask if there's a reduced rate for Sam's Club or Costco members (just as you might ask about an AAA or AARP discount). Both clubs have online travel portals and booking-by-phone for vacation packages, car rental, hotels, cruises, and more. Deals are posted on both clubs' websites, too.
Costco and Sam's Club both promise to refund the membership fee for customers who are not satisfied. They set no time limit for returns of most merchandise, with the exception of electronics. Sam's Club's Freshness Guarantee allows for a full refund plus replacement of fresh produce, meat, and baked goods, or double your money back.
Both wholesale clubs offer select hearing aid services. Members can make appointments for complimentary hearing tests and free hearing aid checkups. Costco includes free hearing aid cleaning and a fresh battery -- up to 10 per hearing aid purchased.
Sam's Club and Costco provide insurance services through third parties, which have exclusive rates for wholesale club members. Sam's Club sells health insurance for individuals and businesses, and Costco offers health, dental, and vision plans to individuals and small groups, plus auto, home, life, and identity-theft insurance.
Costco and Sam's Club stores often feature appearances by local authors, and some high-profile writers include the wholesale clubs on their book tours. People have lined up to meet presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Sam's Club, and cookbook author Danielle Walker ("Against All Grain") has done book signings at Costco.
Costco and Sam's Club members can order checks at prices that often undercut the bank. At both stores this includes personal checks and payroll checks for businesses, plus a handful of other options such as tax forms and envelopes.
No discussion of member perks would be complete without mentioning the free samples. The option to try before you buy is all but compulsory, given that most food items at warehouse clubs are available only in bulk sizes. Sampling the goods is also a way to discover new products (which, of course, is the store's goal).
If the free samples aren't enough, the food court at Costco is a legendary deal. The $1.50 price tag for a hot dog and soda hasn't changed in more than 30 years. Many members take advantage of a cheap (if not low-calorie) meal after they shop.
For a big event, there's no arguing the value of Costco's sheet cakes, at $17.99 for 48 pieces. Costco and Sam's Club also offer other prepared foods, including take-and-bake pizzas, large sub sandwiches, premade salads, and more. Costco famously sells rotisserie chicken for only $5.