Is The Costco Membership Worth It In 2017? [Opinion]

A man walks with a cane while exiting a Costco store.

This writer, with the Inquisitr, has previously asked, “Is the Costco membership worth it?” and concluded that, depending on purchases, Costco memberships offer significant value to most shoppers, with the caveat that price comparisons still need to be made, and the understanding that Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq: COST) does not offer the absolute best price on every item. The situation prevails in 2017.

In 2017, Gold Star and Business Costco memberships cost $55 and Executive memberships cost $110. USA Today has reported on a number of benefits available to Costco members that may not be readily apparent.

Just about everything sold at the wildly popular warehouse retailer is sold with prices ending “.99.” According to USA Today, products ending in “.97” indicate that they have been marked down, below cost. Further, asterisks located in the right, upper corner of tags are said to indicate products that will not be ordered again, giving shoppers the chance to stock up on favorite items that may disappear.

Shoppers walk with carts down an aisle in a Costco warehouse.

There are said to be “hundreds, if not thousands” of items ranging from urns and caskets to stand-up paddle boards available to members through the Costco website. The website is also said to carry a more extensive selection of office supplies than what is available in Costco warehouses.

Costco memberships entitle holders to buy discounted gift certificates. Most people who purchase gift certificates for friends and family members might expect that $50 spent would equate to receipt of a $50 gift certificate. Not so for Costco members. Because of the buying power of the company, it can offer its members the equivalent of $60 gift certificates for $50 — a 20 percent discount that could easily pay for the $55 cost of a membership.

Each Costco location is said to offer “different surprises” that make worth visiting each when vacationing, or even traveling on business, worthwhile. Prices for local delicacies, such as “chocolate-covered macadamia nuts” and “real Kona coffee,” are said to cost less than what would be paid in tourist areas. For those who travel regularly, Costco is said to offer great deals on vacation packages, and car rentals too. USA Today reports significant savings for glasses and contact lenses at Costco, versus LensCrafters and Walmart, which could be important information for those who depend on them.

Gold Star and Business members who spend more than $2,750 each year have paid down some of the extra $55 required for Executive-level memberships. For those who spend more than $5,500 each year, the Executive membership reportedly “pays for itself.”

Carts are viewed from above the entrance way to a Costco warehouse.

Executive memberships include 2 percent of purchases rebated annually, with some purchases exempted, including vacations and gasoline. It is noted that the Costco credit card offers a cash-back option on all purchases, including 3 percent on gasoline. Business and Gold Star members are offered similar privileges, with the understanding that a portion of goods purchased by business members may be resold.

With roots tracing back to the opening of the first Price Club, in 1976, the first Costco-branded warehouse was opened in Seattle, Washington, in 1983. The company reported total revenue of $116.1 billion for the 2016 fiscal year. Costco employs 126,000 people at 715 warehouse locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Spain, as reported by Yahoo! Finance. There are reported to be 501 Costco locations in the United States.

Advice give by the Canadian Capitalist, in 2008, would appear to hold true today. At the time, almost 10 years ago, Costco memberships were $55, as they are now. The publication noted that Costco’s prices “aren’t always the cheapest,” but concluded that “shopping at Costco is likely to save money for most people.” The publication also commended Costco for its “generous” 90-day return period for most items.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]