Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Saving Money

Warehouse store showdown: Should you join Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's?

Membership in warehouse stores can save consumers big. But among the big three – BJ's, Sam's Club, and Costco – which one is right for you?

By Renee MoradContributor / January 5, 2013

Shoppers leave a BJ's store in Alexandria, Va., in this 2008 file photo. Warehouse stores can save shoppers lots of money, but make sure you pick membership in the one that's right for you.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File

Enlarge

According to Consumer Reports, shoppers can save up to 55 percent at warehouse clubs – on everything from bulk packages of toilet paper and frozen pizza to Coach handbags and vacation packages. If you belong to one, you’re probably enjoying the savings and the “treasure hunt” shopping experience – never quite knowing what you’ll find on shelves and pallets.

Skip to next paragraph

Recent posts

It’s no surprise that as warehouse clubs open more locations and offer a wider range of items, sales are growing. The $390 billion industry has seen a 137 percent jump in sales from 2001 to 2011, compared to 47 percent for all general merchandise stores, according to First Research.

But which warehouse club is best for you? Sometimes it’s as simple as finding the one closest to home, but if you have choices, you should consider factors, from selection to return policies. We put the big three to the test by comparing 11 factors – from basic membership costs and locations to selection of luxury goods.

1. Membership costs

Basic membership is $50 a year at BJ’s, $55 at Costco, and $40 at Sam’s Club. If you want to test the waters first, keep an eye out for free trials.

2. Rewards

Warehouse clubs offer rewards programs, but they’re not free. Become a BJ’s Rewards member for $100 a year (or upgrade an existing membership for $50), and you’ll get 2 percent back on most in-club and BJs.com purchases. Costco’s Executive Membership is $110 a year and also offers 2 percent rewards – capped at $750 a year. Sam’s Club is experimenting with the idea of a cash rewards program; in a new rollout, Plus members ($100 a year) are now receiving $10 for every $500 spent – which also comes out to 2 percent – capped at $500.

3. Nonmember surcharges

Thinking about shopping at a warehouse club without footing the bill for a membership? Costco is the least expensive: the surcharge to nonmembers is 5 percent. BJ’s is the highest at 15 percent, while Sam’s Club’s surcharge is 10 percent.

4. Locations

Costco and Sam’s Club have more locations than BJ’s. Sam’s Club has 620 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, while Costco has nearly 450. BJ’s has just more than 180.

To see if there’s a warehouse club near you, check out the locators for BJ’sCostco, and Sam’s Club.

5. Shopping experience

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!