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:
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 also did offer roadside assistance but I prefer to get it for free this way. This way you don’t need a CAA membership.
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.
The Roomba iRobot i4+ vacuum and the Roomba Braava Jet M6 robot mop are NOT considered electronics so they have the generous Costco return policy.
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.
21 thoughts on “7 Sneaky Costco Hacks to Save Money”
This is one thing I have never participated in. We have never been a Costco member (or any whse club for that matter). I think I’ve been to a Costco store once in my life. Maybe it’s something I should look into more closely. So many people swear by the place. Tom
@Tom- Yes there are huge Costco fans out there. It’s fun to peruse around and have samples.
We had a membership when our kid was a baby. Costco had the best price for diapers and formula. The other stuff, I could do without. It sounds like they’re better now, though. The prescription service sounds good.
This is a great list GYM! I know about the Costco card card thing, but never actually tried it. Not sure I ever will now though—sounds like a total hassle!
And thanks for sharing the Pacific Blue Cross prescription price checker. What a neat tool! We don’t need to worry about it right now with my husband’s extended health coverage, but my MIL is retired, so this will be helpful for her.
@Chrissy- You’re welcome!
@Joe- Oh cool! I tried a Kirkland diaper a few times and it gave my baby a rash, but yeah, the prices are good. Also I like the smell of (new) Pampers diapers (haha).
I am 100 per cent with you on the poutine. My husband worked at Costco for a couple years (before finishing school) and I was so skeptical when he told me the poutine is amazing but he was right.
The hack I was going to share is one you already included – the return policy haha. It actually blows my mind how easy is to return something at Costco.
As far as purchases go, we usually get granola bars (the Kirkland ones), cheese strings (because I am obsessed), spring mix and cat litter. We also like to buy the Cineplex gift card thing once in a while. If Esso did not do Optimum points, we would 100 per cent get gas there, too (although that position could change if gas keeps going up here).
@Tara P- The Kirkland bars with almonds/nuts and chocolate? We just ran out a few weeks ago and need to go back for some more. They are so delicious! I should try their cheese strings, thanks for the tip, I’m sure my toddler would like them.
Yes, those and the chocolate chip granola bars! You get like, 80 in a box or something and they are SO DANG GOOD! The only time we ever buy cheese strings is at Costco – I love them but I cannot bring myself to buy them at the regular grocery store because they are just SO expensive!
@Tara- Gotta check it out when I make it to Costco. My last trip was January, need to go on a weekday, hah!
Ha, I have a post sometime next month about Costco as well.
As a frequent Costco shopper, I do most of these hacks.
I get free membership as well under my dad’s account. I think you can add only one name under your membership account and since my mom goes with him all the time to Costco and both my siblings are not Costco shoppers, he added my name on there.
You’re right about their return policy, it is as generous as you can get. We bought a Ninja blender and owned it for almost two years. When wanted to upgrade to a Vitamix, I was thinking of donating it but MwC told me about their return policy and how they would accept anything back. And luckily we still had the receipt attached to the box it came in. So I went to the return line and thought that they wouldn’t take it back because I had it for two years. But surprisingly they looked at my receipt, typed in some info and got a full refund back. I was shocked that I even got a full refund back.
Probably another tip is save by buying their brand, Kirkland Signature on most of the products. From what I read, Kirkland Signature is often produced by those brand name companies at lesser prices. Like Tide makes the KS detergent or Grey Goose makes the KS vodka. So when shopping at Costco, aim for the KS brands.
@Kris- I look forward to reading your post, you are such a frequent Costco shopper! Ooh, good to know that ‘family’ membership works and I wasn’t just an anomaly. Wow, that’s great you got a full refund back for using a blender for two years lol! What did you say was the reason for return? Yes, people love the Kirkland vitamins, they are manufactured by some well known ‘name’ brands too. Thanks for sharing your tip Kris. I wonder who makes the Kirkland granola bars, they are so good.
Lol, I told them I didn’t need it anymore and they accepted it as a valid reason I guess! With electronics(TVs, iPads, desktops, laptops) I believe that they give you six months after you buy it to get a refund. After the six months, you cannot return it anymore so they definitely tighten up their policy a bit but’s it is still generous.
Hi GYM, I never shopped at Cosco, Sam’s Club, or any places that require memberships. I might look into it down the road. For some reason, I’m not enthusiastic about that mode of operations. If they really want customers to save money, why charge them annual fees? Just open their doors to the public, and compete with other stores.
@Helen- Great question and thought- That’s Costco’s business model- their profit is based mainly on membership fees, they have very small margins. They have strong renewal rates (a 90% renewal rate) for their customer base. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/05/05/how-costco-wholesale-corporation-makes-most-of-its.aspx
You admitted that you have only been in a Costco once recently. How can you possibly give advice after shopping in a store only one time. Of course all the info you posted is readily available elsewhere.
@Anonymous- Thanks for your comment 🙂 Oh I wish I could go to Costco more often, it’s hard with a toddler and Costco’s hours that close early on weekdays! I plan to go again soon as we finished all the bars and nuts. I bought lots of items on Costco.ca recently, and I frequent the Costco food court many times over the past year. I also have gone to Costco with friends/family members many times over the years before this membership.
Costco pharmacy is a HUGE one for us when it comes to our dog’s medication. It’s still expensive, but less so than from other places.
@Angela- Great idea to use the regular human pharmacies for your dog’s medications, and Costco, too!