Sam's Club vs. Costco: How to Shop Online Store Without a Membership - Rolling Stone
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Sam’s Club vs. Costco: How to Shop Big Box Stores Online Without a Membership

Here’s how to shop the big warehouse chains without leaving the house — and without a membership

Warehouse storage of retail merchandise shop. Trolley Shopping Cart Between Dry Grocery Shelf Section in Supermarket Warehouse Retail Outlet as Shopping Concept.Warehouse storage of retail merchandise shop. Trolley Shopping Cart Between Dry Grocery Shelf Section in Supermarket Warehouse Retail Outlet as Shopping Concept.

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You may think of having a Sam’s Club or Costco membership like an illusive secret society where you can buy toilet paper by the dozen and grab a hot dog for pocket change. But it’s hard to imagine shelling out for the price of an annual membership if you’re not exactly near one of their giant warehouses, and don’t even know what they have to offer in-person (especially since their inventory rotates frequently, even if the hot dogs might stay the same).

We’ll let you in on another secret though: no longer do you need to trek out to their store to pack the car bulk ingredients for your upcoming seasonal baking frenzy. Both retailers now offer online shopping, so you can not only avoid buyers remorse, you can get any of their offerings shipped straight to your door.

I’m a frequent flyer of Costco myself, since it was one of the first outings I would genuinely look forward to post-quarantine. Sam’s Club and Costco both have their their strong suits, with Costco killing it on with their house brand Kirkland food offerings, and Sam’s Club having great deals on tech essentials. But you don’t have to choose between memberships.

We’ve got the full rundown on how you can shop at Sam’s Club and Costco online, all without a membership. Give them both a trial run without having to spend the annual membership fee upfront, and let the savings come to you.

How to Shop at Sam’s Club Online Without a Membership

If you can’t make it to the store in-person, you can actually shop online at the Sam’s Club website. Don’t have a membership? You can still shop via a guest registration and get the same deals as regular members.

Non-members using a guest registration will be able to buy everything that members can, just with a 10% service fee. You may also want to consider that Sam’s Club does not allow most grocery items to ship through the mail, and you can’t pick up items in-store if you buy them through a guest registration.

Buy: Guest Shopping at Sam's Club

This hack is great for if you see a hot deal on the latest toy, or Apple product, and want to have it shipped to your home. For groceries or pre-made holiday meals, you might want to consider an in-store membership or order elsewhere, like Walmart.com.

Is There a Sam’s Club Free Trial Membership?

Want to give Sam’s Club a test run? While they used to only offer one-day guest membership passes, you’re in luck, because Sam’s Club now has an even better 90-day free trial membership. This offer is available to all new members who haven’t signed up for a membership in the past six months. Follow the link below to get a free trial to Sam’s Club for three months — one of the best deals online.

Buy: 90-Day Free Trial at Sam's Club

If you like the deals, but want to avoid the extra free, then a regular Sam’s Club membership will cost you $45 per year, with the Sam’s Club Plus membership running $100 annually. With the Plus membership you’ll get extra perks like free shipping on online orders and free curbside pickup, which work best if you like to order things in bulk online.

How to Shop At Costco Online Without a Membership

Costco doesn’t offer a specific guest registration like Sam’s Club, but they do allow non-members to purchase the same deals from their website, Costco.com. There’s still a 5% surcharge on all items, though, except for prescription drugs.

Food and grocery options are also limited on Costco.com, so you might want to consider heading in-store if you’re prepping for a big dinner party, or a holiday celebration.

Is There a Costco Free Trial Membership?

Unfortunately, Costco does not currently offer a free trial membership, free day pass, or guest pass, unless you’re shopping their deals online.

However, you are allowed to just walk into the store without a Costco membership card and peruse the shelves. Then, you can always go online to Costco.com and order without a membership, if the same items are available. A regular Costco Gold Star membership will run you $60 a year, which is slightly more than Sam’s Club, but lets you avoid the surcharge when shopping online.

Sam’s Club vs. Costco: Which One is Best?

When it comes to the best membership-only retail stores and warehouse clubs, Sam’s Club and Costco are pretty similar. As of 2020, Sam’s Club has about 600 locations in North America, while Costco has around 800. Both warehouse clubs have now expanded their offerings to not just groceries, but apparel, home goods, furniture and even fine jewelry.

When it comes to Sam’s Club vs. Costco membership plans, Sam’s Club is cheaper, at $45 a year. A regular Costco membership starts at $60 a year.

But comparing Sam’s Club vs. Costco online is a different story: while both stores offering online shopping, only Sam’s Club offers a trial membership, or the opportunity to shop as a guest. That means anyone can shop Sam’s Club online — whether you’re an existing member or not. Only existing Costco members can shop online at Costco.com right now.

Of course there’s one more members-only store in the U.S.: BJ’s. While its physical locations are primarily located on the East Coast, you can shop BJ’s online at bjs.com. An annual membership to BJ’s starts at $55 a year, but you can shop BJ’s online without a membership by grabbing one of their free one-day passes here.

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