Costco vs. Sam's Club: What Deal Seekers Should Know

Perks, membership costs, and even food court options can help you decide which warehouse club to join.
People with shopping carts walk out of Costco store.

Figuring out whether to join Costco or Sam's Club may be challenging. These two retailers sell a comparable lineup of items and have a similar number of warehouse clubs disseminated all throughout the country, as well as their own online storefronts.

In numerous ways, Costco and Walmart-owned Sam's Club are more similar than they are unique. Both rival warehouse clubs offer free samples to hungry customers and sell bulk goods at temptingly low prices. And Costco's Kirkland Signature and Sam's Club's Member's Mark are well-known private-label store brands. That is only a small sampling of the similarities between the two.

But even though these retailers share a lot in common, there are also a few important differences in how they operate and what they offer to customers. This does not imply that one is superior to the other, but rather that customers who are interested in signing up for a membership at one of these clubs can weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each retailer to determine which one is best suited to their shopping needs.

In this article, we'll take a deep dive at how Costco and Sam's Club are similar while noting how they vary in costs, locations, perks, and more.

What Are Costco and Sam's Club?

Costco, which opened its first location in San Diego in 1976 under the name Price Club, is regarded as a pioneering bulk retailer. Since then, it has monopolized the market in many states by selling bulk goods through numerous warehouse-style stores.

Walmart's Sam's Club is nearly as old as Costco, opening its first store in 1983 in Midwest City, Oklahoma. In practice, it's functionally the same as Costco in that the sense that customers who sign up for memberships are the target audience for both retailers. However, a few things set the two stores apart, such as the locations of their stores, the kinds of brands they sell, membership fees, and additional benefits.

What to Consider When Deciding on Costco vs. Sam's Club

Want to be a warehouse club member? Here are some of the aspects that can help you decide whether to join Costco or Sam's Club.


Costco has more stores and a greater international presence than Sam's Club. California is the state with the most Costco stores, while Sam's Club's greatest presence is in Texas. In Rhode Island, neither Costco nor Sam's Club has opened a location.

Costco had 876 warehouses overall as of March 2024, with 604 situated in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Besides California, Washington and Florida are also heavily represented in terms of Costco stores, while Wyoming, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming are the only four states without Costco locations.

There are almost 600 Sam's Club locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, meanwhile. The heaviest centralization of Sam's Club stores is in Texas, which is home to 82 of them, trailed by Florida, and California. However, Walmart's subsidiary is not present everywhere in the nation. Don't expect to find Sam's Club stores in Alaska, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

While Sam's Club and Costco have roughly the same total number of warehouses in the United States and Puerto Rico, Costco has a much wider global reach. Costco operates warehouses in Canada, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, Korea, Australia, Taiwan, China, Spain, France, Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden, while Sam's Club operates only in China, Mexico, and Brazil outside of the U.S. Sam's Club and Costco both allow active members to shop at any location, but Costco customers can shop at more international locations.

Membership Costs


Costco offers two enrollment levels: Gold Star and Executive, one cheaper and one more costly. The Gold Star membership is $60 per year and offers admittance to all Costco stores and two enrollment cards. Additional benefits, such as a 2% cash-back reward (up to $1,000) on all Costco and Costco Travel purchases and discounts on numerous Costco services, are included in the Executive membership, which costs $120 per year.

Costco also offers a membership for businesses. It also has two levels: Business Executive and Business. The benefits individuals enjoy and the ability to purchase for resale are included in the Business level, which costs $60 per year.

The Business Executive level, which costs $120 annually, adds some extras, such as a 2% cash-back reward (up to $1,000) on purchases and other benefits comparable to those provided by the Executive package.

Costco's enrollment charges may ultimately turn out to be more costly, since organization leaders have been hinting at an increase for over a year. They still can't seem to say precisely when that increase might occur, yet when it happens, the price difference between Costco and Sam's Club might be more significant.

Sam's Club

Sam's Club, like Costco, has two membership levels. The first is called Club, and for $50 a year, it gives you access to all of Sam's Club warehouse clubs and lets you add more cards. The Plus membership, which costs $110 per year, is the higher level.

It comes with access to pharmacy and optical services, free shipping, 2% cash back on certain transactions (for up to $500 per year),extended shopping hours, free curbside pickup, and all the benefits of Club membership. Costco's membership tiers are generally more expensive than Sam's Club's.



Having a Costco membership entitles you to discounts on a wide range of goods and services, such as gas, pharmacies, car rentals, auto insurance, and optical centers. Members from Canada also have access to discounted pet insurance. For business clients, Costco offers extras, such as installment handling, health care coverage, and filtered water conveyance. Costco likewise has credit cards available.

The main card, which is co-branded with Citi, offers 4% cash back on the first $7,000 spent annually on fuel (1% after that), 3% cash back on dining out and travel, 2% cash back on all other Costco purchases, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The card can be utilized anywhere Visa is accepted.

Though you'll probably find more brand-name items in Sam's Club, Costco offers its famous confidential brand, Kirkland, in its stores. Even though they are made by well-known companies like Starbucks, Duracell, and Kimberly-Clark, Kirkland products frequently cost less than other competitors. Additionally, the majority of Costco stores offer a greater variety of organic produce than Sam's Club.

Sam's Club

Discounts on specific goods and services, such as eyeglasses, travel, and brand-name medications, are available to members of higher tiers. Sam's Club offers a credit card, as well.

The organization's Mastercard is issued by Synchrony Bank and can be utilized wherever Mastercard is accepted. The Mastercard offers 5% cash back on the first $6,000 in fuel purchases made each year, followed by 1% back. Additionally, the card offers 1% cash back on all other purchases and 3% cash back on dining and takeout.


Even though Costco's larger top line is to be expected given its higher global store count, Costco is currently easily beating Sam's Club in sales, generating almost three times more revenue. Costco has a bigger impression in all-out store size, as well, with a sum of 122.5 million square feet, versus Sam's Clubs, at 80.4 million.

The fact that Costco appears to be expanding at a faster rate in terms of store count and revenue is pretty clear. A few years ago, Sam's Club closed several stores, or roughly 10% of its total at the time. Costco, on the other hand, has been opening new stores consistently.

Food and Beverages

Access to the affordable products offered by Sam's Club or Costco is one of the biggest advantages of shopping at the stores. There are a few choices that customers can find at the two retailers' food courts, like pizzas, soda varieties, and desserts.

However, each warehouse club has its special menu items in the food court. For instance, you likely won't find soft pretzels or ICEE drinks at Costco, but Sam's Club does have them. Meanwhile, Costco's food courts have provided chicken bakes, gigantic chocolate chip cookies, and a new Swiss turkey sandwich in recent times.

You probably won't find any of these choices at Sam's Club. So even though generally speaking they offer food-court items, both also offer a few choices that are unique to their particular brands.

Payment Options

Costco and Sam's Club vary in terms of how customers can pay, with the latter offering a more extensive assortment of methods. Customers of Sam's Club can pay with any major credit card, including American Express, Discover, Visa, and Mastercard. Individuals can likewise pay with debit cards, Sam's Club Mastercard, Sam's Cash, and gift cards from either Sam's Club or Walmart.

Costco allows most charge cards, Costco Shop Cards, cash, mobile payments, individual checks, secured checks, and EBT cards.

Pickup Options

During the COVID-19 pandemic, customers looked for contactless options to make their grocery shopping trips safer. As a result, retail stores' curbside pickup offerings skyrocketed.

However, Costco has never offered curbside pickup to its customers on a large scale, except for a brief trial at a few stores in New Mexico at the beginning of 2021. Sam's Club, though, does provide curbside pickup for its two membership levels. Every time they use the service, Club members will have to pay a $4 fee, but Plus members can get curbside pickups for free.

Sam's Club and Costco FAQs

Which Is Superior, Sam's Club or Costco?

That depends on your preferences, like the kinds of products you buy and which of these two retailers is closer to your home. The two organizations have very comparable products and apart from location, the brands they may sell, additional benefits, and annual membership fees are where they most differ.

Is Sam's Club or Costco More Affordable?

In general, the costs for fundamental items at Sam's Club are lower, and it has less-expensive enrollment charges when compared with Costco.

What Else Should I Consider When Comparing?

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Final Notes on Costco and Sam's Club Shopping

Regular customers of warehouse club retailers like Costco and Sam's Club often like to save by purchasing in bulk. However, because it can be difficult to ship large quantities of merchandise, this method of purchasing does not always translate well to online shopping.

Shopping at warehouse clubs may not be ideal for people who don't have the extra room or cash for what is a more costly shopping trip. The overall cost is often higher at retailers like Sam's Club and Costco than at other retailers because even though you're getting less-expensive per-unit costs, you're purchasing more in general.

Choosing between Costco and Sam's Club will likely depend on which store is closer to home for many customers. For others, the Sam's Club return policy is said to be more favorable than Costco's return policy. Other than that, there's not a lot of distinction as far as enrollment costs or item costs.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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