12 Costco or Sam's Purchases That Make Back the Membership Fee
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

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

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12 Costco or Sam's Purchases That Make Back the Membership Fee
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

Return on Investment

Shopping at warehouse club stores comes at a price: Costco's basic Gold Star membership costs $60 and a basic Sam's Club membership costs $45. But with the savings from various products and services, there are plenty of ways to make back the fee while enjoying the perks of membership. Not a member? You can apply here for Costco and here for Sam's Club.

Pizza
Spencer Y./Yelp

Pizza

It takes less than one pizza a month for the savings to make up the cost of a warehouse club membership. At Domino's, a 16-inch Brooklyn-style pizza costs $12 to $18, depending on location and toppings. The same size pizza costs $9 at Sam's Club and $10 at Costco. With average savings of more than $5 a pizza, buying eight to 11 pizzas a year would cover the membership cost.

Related: 20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Costco

Canvas Prints
Costco

Photo Gifts

Large photos come with large savings. A 16-by-20-inch canvas photo print at Sam's Club — not including sale prices or discounts — costs $45, which is $55 cheaper than the $100 non-sale price listed at photo site Shutterfly. Costco's canvas prints of the same size are $38, or $62 cheaper than Shutterfly's. Buying just one print would cover the cost of a membership to either club. Both Costco and Sam's Club also carry personalized mugs, mouse pads, and other photo gifts. Custom photo mugs start at $14 at Walgreens and $17 on Shutterfly. At Costco and Sam's, they're in the $7 to $9 range. Depending on the items, the savings from six to 10 gifts would recoup the membership fee.

Movie Tickets
Sam's Club

Movie Tickets

Both Costco and Sam's Club sell bundles of movie ticket gift cards. Costco offers a set of four AMC yellow movie e-tickets for $35.99. If you were to buy tickets from the theater the cost for an adult ticket would be $12. Your savings is $3 per ticket or $12 on four tickets. Take the family to see five movies this year through Costco and make back your membership cost in the savings. Sam's Club sells two $25 cards to MovieTickets.com for $40. With $10 in savings, buying five sets will more than make back the membership cost.

Pick Up Groceries When You Fuel
slobo/istockphoto

Gas

In a recent CSP study, Costco averaged nearly 23 cents less than competitors at the pump. At that rate, a car with a 12-gallon tank would save about $2.71 per fill-up. Members who get gas at Costco every other week would more than break even on the membership fee. Of course, the savings vary by location. Costco was the cheapest place to buy gas in 12 states; Sam's came out on top in seven. And don't assume you're paying bottom dollar at a warehouse club. Double-check price comparison apps and consider gas bonus programs from chains such as Kroger.

Related: 11 Ways Costco Can Save You Money on Your Car

Costco Tire Center
rvolkan/istockphoto

Tire Care

Buying tires at Costco or Sam's Club can cover the membership fee in savings from tire installation and routine care. The two warehouse clubs ranked first and second in a Cheapism analysis of the best places for tire installation, ahead of Sears, Walmart, and four other chains. Both offer mounting and balancing — for $15 a tire at Costco and $20 per tire at Sam's Club. Upkeep for the life of the tire is free, including balancing, rotation, and certain repairs.

Restaurant Gift Cards
Sam's Club

Restaurant Gift Cards

Costco sells sets of $100 in restaurant gift cards for $80. The selection varies by location, but some of the cards available online include P.F. Chang's, California Pizza Kitchen, and Baja Fresh. Shoppers who buy three sets make back their membership fee. At Sam's Club, some of the gift card bundles are the same price as the worth of the cards, or just a few dollars less. But the store does offer some deals that include $10 to $25 in savings, including gift cards for Logan's Roadhouse, Buca di Beppo, and Outback Steakhouse.

Photo Cards and Announcements
Costco

Photo Cards and Announcements

Savings on holiday cards, save-the-dates, and other photo cards easily match warehouse club membership costs. At Walgreens, an order of 60 flat cards on photo paper costs just under $60. And even with a 50% off promotion, an order of 50 photo cards from Shutterfly runs about $30-$50. At Sam's Club, 60 cards cost around $25. Costco sells sets of 50 for as little as $14. The savings from two orders of 50 or 60 cards would make back the membership fees.

Bulk Flowers
Costco

Bulk Flowers

Buying blooms in bulk for a big event can cover the cost of membership in one purchase. At Sam's Club, a bulk order of 125 50-cm white roses costs just over $100. And, at Costco, 150 roses (sold as orders of 50) would cost $120. The same size orders from online retailer Blooms by the Box cost $240 and $288, respectively – much more than enough to account for both membership fees.

Related: 10 Ways to Save Money on a Wedding With Costco, Sam's, or BJ's

Electronics
Costco

Electronics

Savings on big-ticket electronics can make back the membership cost with just one purchase. For example, a Samsung 75-inch-class 6 Series 4K UHD LED LCD Smart TV is $800 at Costco while the price is $900 at Best Buy.

Cedar Summit by KidKraft Adventure Ridge Playset - Do It Yourself
Costco

Swing Sets

Speaking of big-ticket items, if you've been looking for a swing set, Costco sells several. The Cedar Summit by Kidkraft Adventure Ridge Playset retails for $1,700 at Costco, while the same swing set would cost you nearly $2,500 on Amazon. That makes the membership fee seem like mere pennies compared to your savings of $800.

Related: 15 Things to Splurge on at Costco and Sam's Club

Tempur-Flex Prima Supreme Queen Set
Costco

Furniture & Mattresses

Both Costco and Sam's Club sell mattresses and furniture at cheaper prices than other retailers. For example, this Tempur-Flex Prima Supreme Queen Set from Costco costs members $1,600, where the same sofa at Amazon will set you back around $2,000. That's another big savings that more than makes up for the membership fee.

Costco Membership
Costco

Upgraded Membership

Costco's upgraded Executive Membership is $120, but shoppers earn 2% of their (qualified) spending in rewards. It takes about $500 a month to make back the membership fee. Shoppers with the $100 Sam's Plus membership get $10 in cash rewards for every $500 they spend. With cash rewards alone, it takes about $415 a month to recoup the membership fee. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spends about $335 a month on "food in the home." That doesn't count clothes, furniture, electronics, and other items shoppers might buy at warehouse clubs, so crossing either threshold is reasonable.

Related: 30 Products Costco Will Take Back That Are a Pain to Return Anywhere Else