I have always said that Costco is overrated because Costco Canada hours are not the most tired mom friendly (I prefer to shop in the evenings but they are closed). However, there are still things that are a great price at Costco and we just went without them because we didn’t have a Costco membership (like for example, pistachio nuts and almonds and granola bars). I recently became a Costco member again and am now converted to at minimum, a monthly Costco shopper. Here are some Costco hacks to save money in Canada.
Updated March 2023
A lot of people are huge fans of Costco though, including Charlie Munger who is a huge fan and is on the board of directors of Costco.
Here are 7 ways to save money at Costco in Canada, even including saving money on a Costco membership:
Table of Contents
Costco Membership for Free
My mom recently was gifted a Gold Star Membership and she wanted to try and see if she could add me as a family member. She went to customer service after she got set up herself for membership and put my name down as a family member. Then I went at a separate time and told them my mom added me as a family member on her membership. They asked for my ID (and obviously saw that my address was different from my mom’s) and then took my picture and I was ready to go with my brand new membership!
I’m not sure if this helped because I previously was a Costco member back in 2011, but somehow it wasn’t a big deal. Perhaps it also depends on the customer service representative that you get. 20 Something Finance blog has a great post on how some people can get free membership this way.
Costco Cash Card
Another way to get into Costco without a membership is to get a Costco Cash Card. However, as a non-member there are limits to the Costco cash card, according to the Costco.ca website. As you can see below, you’re allowed one day pass twice per calendar year.
You also have to pay for your purchases at the register with your Costco cash card and if you don’t spend the full amount on the Costco Cash Card they will give you back cash (which prohibits you from using that card as a one day pass again). The rules are pretty strict, which is why even though I had a Costco Cash Card prior to the membership, I never really went to use it. The line up at the customer service counter to register the Costco Cash Card for a one-day pass was a total turn off before even getting INTO Costco!
Many people don’t know this, but you don’t need to be a Costco member to use the Costco Pharmacy. Costco Pharmacy has one of the cheapest dispensing fees in town.
It is around $5 for the dispensing fee at Costco whereas places like Shoppers Drug Mart, Safeway, Pharmasave, all charge at least $10.00 for a dispensing fee. Rexall charges $12.99 even.
There’s a handy website from Pacific Blue Cross for Canadians that’s free to use called Pharmacy Compass. You can input the prescription medication you have to see where it’s the cheapest in your area- I inputted something random, folic acid.
This can save you a lot of money if you don’t have extended benefits to cover your medication dispensing fee.
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Costco Food Court
Many people also don’t know this but you also don’t need a Costco membership to get food at the Costco food court.
They have very very low profit margins on their food court items and the food court items are very high quality.
In fact, the Costco hot dog was introduced in the 1980’s for $1.50 and it has been the same price since then. It’s an inflation fighter, that’s for sure.
In Canada, there’s even Costco poutine! It’s $5.99 for a big serving of poutine, and personally I feel that it is one of the best poutines in town because they give you a huge portion and the cheese curds are perfectly squeaky and fresh.
Here’s a nice review from Sodafry of the Costco poutine with beautiful close up pictures.
Even though I rarely went to Costco (maybe every few years) when I did not have the Costco membership, I would regularly make a visit to the Costco food court for their waffle cone ice cream ($1.99), hot dog and drink ($1.50), and poutine (under $6 Canadian).
Mmm Costco poutine ?? pic.twitter.com/YxHC6tbIry
— Genymoney.ca (@genymoneyca) January 20, 2019
Did you know that you don’t need a Costco membership to buy certain items from Costco.ca. This is one of the best Costco hacks isn’t it?
According to Red Flag Deals, there is a small surcharge of 5% embedded into the price because Costco Online offers free shipping, however, even then it’s still cheaper than shopping elsewhere. There are some items that are member only items where you have to input your member number though.
The shipping is via UPS and it is very fast. I ordered some Sonos speakers through the Costco.ca website (cheaper than Best Buy, cheaper than any place in town for a two pack) and it arrived very quickly. You can also earn Aeroplan miles when you’re shopping online at Costco.ca to ensure that they don’t expire (if you don’t have a Aeroplan credit card that is).
We have been ordering some of our LED lighting fixtures for the house build from Costco.ca and our electrician said they are very high quality and very reasonably priced. We got a ceiling light to go above our dining table for only $170 when the same lighting fixture at the lighting shop (similar design anyway) went for over $1000 even after the contractor discount.
You can even buy Tires online from Costco.ca and set up an appointment to have your tires installed at the Costco Tire Centre. Y
ou have to be a Costco member to get the exclusive Costco member pricing. We just recently bought some Michelin Premier LTX tires for our AWD SUV and it was $10 to $20 cheaper per tire compared to other local tire retailers (Canadian Tire, Quattro Tires), even online retailers in Canada (4Tires.ca). That’s at least a $50 to $100 savings for a set of four tires. You can set up an appointment with the Costco Canada Tire Appointment website.
Costco Return Policy
The Costco return policy is known to be ridiculously generous and is the best Costco hack. You can return your Costco membership if you’re dissatisfied- though you might look like a real jerk returning it before the 1 year mark is up and frequenting Costco every month.
I met someone once who had a camera she bought from Costco like 4 years before and she returned it and got a new camera. I don’t even think she had the receipt! This has changed though, and their return policy is a bit more strict for electronics and is about three months.
Here is Costco’s return policy. Now for electronics and major appliances, the Costco return policy is 90 days.
You can even return a Costco diamond ring but if your ring is over 1 carat, they take a few days to verify that you’re not trying to scam them before giving you your money back.
What to Buy at Costco in Canada
What are some of the best things to buy at Costco so you get the most bang for your hard earned post-tax buck?
Here are 8 Items to buy at Costco that Moneysense recommends.
I agree with a few of them, including nuts (nuts are the cheapest at Costco, why are nuts so expensive!) and granola/ protein bars. My husband is a pistachio monster. On our last trip to Costco we bought a few bags of nuts (pistachios, almonds) and a box granola/nut bars and a few other things and it was already over $90 at checkout, haha.
However, they do last a long time. The Clif bars are very reasonable at Costco too, and they usually end up being under $1 a bar.
We also usually get the Costco chicken, it’s the cheapest in town (it’s $7.99). I usually use the bones to make chicken bone broth. No part of that Costco rotisserie chicken goes unused.
Their Costco steaks and ground pork are very fresh and reasonably priced, Costco is well known to have great steaks for your next barbecue.
Finally, Costco gas is very economical, and usually $0.10 a litre less than other gas stations. We even drove across the border one time to fill up at Costco because it is such a good deal. Here are some other tips on how to save money on gas if you don’t have a Costco gas station available near you.
We also bought a robot vacuum at Costco, it doesn’t have the 90 day return policy limit since it is considered a vacuum and not an electronic.
Cash Back Apps at Costco
In addition, using cash back apps are other Costco hacks.
You can always use manufacturer coupons at Costco and even stack your coupons with cash back apps. For example, you can use Checkout 51. Here’s my review of Checkout 51, it’s similar to Ibotta in the US.
Caddle (another cash back app) also allows you to upload Costco receipts to get cash back. It’s free to sign up and they often have a cash back promotion with Costco.
You can get $0.50 cash back for each receipt that you upload from Costco (a $5 minimum purchase from Costco). The receipt has to be purchased during the qualifying week (see below).
You can cash out when you receive have $20 in cash back from Caddle (sent via a cheque).
Sign up with Caddle here, and you’ll get a $1.00 added to your Caddle account after you completey a survey. They also have a daily survey you can do that takes a few seconds seconds usually to fill out and you get $0.05 sometimes $0.25.
Not very much money but it’s fun mindless question answering to get you closer to your $20 cash out. Other than the $0.50 Costco cash back offer, the other offers with Caddle are usually not great, that’s why I prefer using Checkout 51.
Here’s my review on Caddle anyway if you’re interested- see whether it is worth your time.
You may also be interested in:
- Rexall Be Well Rewards Review
- Is a Costco Membership Worth It?
- How to save on groceries in Canada
- Mystery Shopping in Canada
What do you usually get at Costco?
Do you have any other tips for saving money at Costco?
How often do you go to Costco to shop?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.