There are several wholesale stores where you can shop for your favorite items and two of the more prominent are Costco and Sam’s Club. Though each store provides similar benefits, locations, and quality, there are subtle differences that may cause you to join one over another. If you are trying to figure out which membership you should sign up for, be sure to get all the details about Costco vs. Sam’s Club here and make the best choice for your family. 

Related: What Are the Main Costco Benefits That Come with a Membership?

Costco vs. Sam’s Club: The Bigger Picture

Costco vs. Sam's Club
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Both Sam’s Club and Costco are known as “wholesale retailers,” which means they have competitive low prices and offer bulk products. They both carry a huge variety of products, so it can often be difficult to determine which wholesale store provides the best value. 

Both stores offer memberships, store-associated credit cards, and reward programs. Plus, they provide products at similar, discounted prices. This business model is very appealing to potential members and they can do so based on the bulk items offered. 

The best way to figure out which wholesale membership is best for you is by breaking Costco and Sam’s Club down by categories. Then, you can make an informed decision about which store is best for your needs, especially if you have a Costco and Sam’s Club near you. 

Check Out: How Much Is a Costco Membership?

Costco

Costco storefront
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Membership Fees

There are three membership options through Costco: Gold Star, Business, and Executive. Gold Star costs $60 annually, allowing you to shop in-store and online. The Business membership is also $60 annually but is meant for business purposes and does not incur a sales tax. Lastly, the executive membership costs $120 annually and includes additional perks such as a 2% annual reward up to $1,000 and Costco services discounts. 

Locations

Costco has 871 locations worldwide, with 602 in the United States. The remaining 269 are spread out as follows: 108 in Canada, 40 in Mexico, 33 in Japan, 29 in the U.K., 18 in South Korea, 15 in Australia, 14 in Taiwan, 6 in China, 4 in Spain, 2 in France, and 1 in Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden (respectively). 

Store Credit Cards

The Costco Anywhere Visa Card is the credit card associated with Costco and can earn you extra benefits while shopping. The rewards are listed below:

  • 4% on eligible gas and EVs up to $7,000
  • 3% on all restaurants and eligible travel
  • 2% on all purchases from Costco/Costco.com
  • 1% on all other purchases

Also Read: How Many Costco Stores Are There in the U.S.?

Store Brands

Costco’s store brand is Kirkland Signature, which is known for its high quality and low prices. Customers will often choose Kirkland Signature over well-known name brands because its products are just that good. In fact, most Kirkland Signature products are actually manufactured for Costco by high-quality name brands.

Costco also provides other brands, but these tend to be private brands and organic goods. 

Food Courts

At virtually all Costco locations, there is a food court where you can order food to snack on while shopping. Some grab-and-go options include hot dogs, soda, pizza, or ice cream sundaes for under $3. Specifically, a hot dog combo costs $1.50. You can also call ahead and order whole pizzas from the food court for $9.95. Costco is best known for its hot dogs, but the food court menu items change locally and internationally. Not only do customers love the food court offerings, but they are profitable, too. Costco made $1.4 billion in 2022 from food court sales.

Technology

Costco’s app allows you to pull up your Costco membership card and their affiliated credit card, which can replace your wallet. You can also see various details including store promotions or the hours of your local Costco. Since there is no scanning option through the Costco app, you still have to check out with a cashier or at self-checkout in the store. Unfortunately, you cannot see up-to-date stock information or prices on Costco’s app. According to company policy, if you would like to know the pricing of an item you must ask a staff member in the store.

Coupon Books

Costco coupon books are distributed to members each month to share the upcoming month’s biggest discounts and deals. These coupons can apply to electronics, food items, or other items within the stores. We keep an updated record of all Costco coupon books here if you’re interested in what 2024 deals have been available so far. 

Return Policies

Costco ensures a 100% satisfaction guarantee with its items and memberships. If you are not happy with a purchase you made from Costco or your membership, then Costco will refund your money at any time. Exceptions to refund rules include electronics, diamonds, alcohol, cigarettes, airline and live performance tickets, or shop cards. 

Check Out: What’s the Biggest Costco in the World?

Satisfied Customers

According to the Net Promoter Score (NPS) that tracks satisfaction in customers, Costco’s customers are 71% promoters, 14% passives, and 15% detractors. This means that most people who shop at Costco enjoy the experience and want to share their enthusiasm with prospective customers. As a result, this is a strong indicator of customer satisfaction and retention. For reference, an NPS score above 60 is considered “excellent”.

Sam’s Club

Costco vs. Sam's Club
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Membership Fees

Sam’s Club offers two memberships: Club and Plus. The Club membership costs $50 annually and includes shopping perks as well as fuel and car service savings. Plus is the higher level membership which costs $110 annually and grants access to all of the Club perks in addition to free shipping, pharmacy and optical savings, and access to Sam’s Cash which gives you 2% back on purchases with a limit of $500. 

Locations

There are 600 Sam’s Club locations within the U.S., 168 locations in Mexico, and 45 in China. The state with the most Sam’s Club locations is Texas where there are 82. 

Store Credit Cards

Similar to Costco, Sam’s Club also offers a store credit card that you can use to earn additional savings. The Sam’s Club Mastercard can be used by both Club and Plus members, and offers these benefits: 

  • 5% on gas up to $6,000
  • 3% on dining
  • 1% on other purchases

Store Brands

Sam’s Club’s in-house brand is called Member’s Mark, which provides products for the home, outdoors, pets, groceries, and health. They have recently increased their sustainability efforts while also decreasing the amount of byproducts or unhealthy ingredients in their food. By improving their items on the shelves Member’s Mark has seen an upward trend in sales and satisfaction from their customers. 

Food Courts

Sam’s Club also has a food court, known as the “Café,” which sells similar snack foods to Costco. Their prices are slightly cheaper than Costco with a hot dog and soda being $1.38 and a 16″ pizza being $8.98. While food reviewers tend to like the Costco hot dog better, the Café pizza is a popular staple. You can order food from the Sam’s Club Café through a cashier or on their Scan & Go app. Customers like the option to pre-order as it saves them time in-store.

Technology

Sam’s Club utilizes technology in several ways to make their shopping experience easier for customers. Using their Scan & Go app, customers can check out right from their phones, or pay for items from the Food Court area and Sam’s Club gas stations. The Sam’s Club’s app also gives members real-time prices of items in the store relative to their location. Not to mention, you can see updated in-stock information on the Sam’s Club website after you select your store location and input the item name.

Coupon Books

Sam’s Club coupon book, also known as the Instant Savings Book, gives Sam’s Club shoppers a variety of sales on items from electronics to hygiene products to groceries. They also provide a monthly coupon book that will reflect the changing sales and items. 

Return Policies

Sam’s Club members are covered by a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your purchase you have the opportunity to return it, as long as it fits within Sam’s Club parameters. The most important thing to note is that they do not accept returns for gift cards, prepaid cards, tickets, custom-made items, prescriptions, or purchases made through Sam’s Club Wholesale Trading Program. 

Satisfied Customers

According to the Net Promoter Score (NPS), Sam’s Club customers are 40% promoters, 11% passives, and 49% detractors. While many members promote the warehouse, there is a much larger number of detractors for the store. This differs greatly from Costco, as most of their members are promoters.

Which Wholesaler Has Better Prices?

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After exploring data behind both Costco and Sam’s Club prices, the data shows that they are nearly identical. Some products are cheaper at Sam’s Club while other items are at  Costco, but the difference is in cents. As a result, there isn’t that much of a price difference when shopping at Costco vs. Sam’s Club. 

This is especially true because the two wholesalers sell many products made by different companies, making most of their inventory unique. Either way, you will be saving money by shopping at a wholesaler since they prize bargain prices and bulk items. 

If we had to give one wholesaler the edge, based on our unscientific observations, we’d say that Costco beats out Sam’s Club on price more often than the other way around – but, again, the price difference is often less than 25 cents for the exact same product in the exact same size/quantity.

Check Out: Top Household Items You Should Buy at Costco to Save Money

Who Wins? Costco vs Sam’s Club

Costco and Sam’s Club are very similar in their approach to shopping. Both offer memberships in varying levels, provide bulk products with competitive prices and have their own store brands. Additionally, there isn’t a huge difference in the price points offered. While a Sam’s Club membership comes with accessible and convenient technology, like their Scan & Go app, they do not have the same customer support as Costco does. As a result, you can decide if the cheaper membership or positive shopping experience matters more to you. 

While we cannot claim an outright/landslide winner between Costco vs. Sam’s Club, you should consider which store is most accessible to your location and what you prefer as a shopper. Since there is no “right” choice, only you can decide which membership offers the most value. 

Let us know what you think in the comments! Which warehouse reigns supreme?