Are you thinking of becoming a Costco member? Many Canadians are, and for good reason. Costco is a bulk store that offers pretty decent discounts for buying, well, in bulk. A Costco membership is more than just being able to buy large quantities of chicken breasts or paper towel rolls at a time. 

While the bulk discount aspect of a Costco membership is definitely a perk, especially for families, there are other benefits to being a Costco member as well. You’ll have cheaper rates for pharmacy-related purchases including prescriptions, access to lower gas prices, and some pretty decent discounts on designer brand items when it comes to shoes, clothing, and toys.

Many people agree that the regular Costco membership, the Gold Star membership is worth the annual fee. The real question is: is the Costco Executive Membership worth it? Well, that decision needs to be made on an individual basis, however, in this article, I’m going to help you decide if the Costco Executive Membership is right for you.

Why you should get a Costco membership

Before you figure out if the executive membership is worth it, you may be wondering if a Costco membership is worth it. After all, unlike a traditional grocery store, Costco is a club warehouse and you do need to pay for a membership to shop here. 

As mentioned above, Costco is best known for its bulk groceries and supplies. You’ll find everything from packages of chicken breasts to cartons of orange juice to large packages of toilet paper. On top of groceries and household supplies, Costco also carries electronics such as TVs and cellphones, brand name clothing, and kitchen items such as coffee makers and mixers.

Costco stores also offer several services that members can take advantage of. These additional Costco services include:

  • Costco Gas
  • Costco Travel
  • Costco Pharmacy
  • Costco Optical Centre
  • Costco Photo Services
  • Costco Tire Centre
  • Costco Credit Cards

Thanks to being a club warehouse, Costco can offer all these items and services at a discounted cost to members, allowing you to save on your shopping needs. Whether it’s for everyday essentials or larger one-time or occasional purchases, Costco has a lot to offer its customers.

Costco membership prices and levels

If you are planning on becoming a Costco member, you’ll have the choice to get the Gold Star Membership or the Executive Membership. Here’s a quick breakdown between the two options.

Gold Star Membership

The Costco Gold Star Membership is their basic membership. It costs $60 per year and can include up to two cards within the membership. The second card can be given to a spouse or another family member as long as they are 18 or older and have the same place of residence.

Executive Membership

The Costco Executive Membership is a step up from the Gold Star Membership. It comes with several additional perks, however, the annual fee $120 per year. Like the Gold Star Membership, you can get a second card for free for a spouse or family member (as long as they live at the same address).

It should also be noted that Costco also offers business memberships. This is meant for people with their own business (you need an HST number to apply) and allows individuals to purchase items for resale. Just like with the personal membership options, the business membership has the regular option as well as an executive option.

Costco Executive Membership Benefits

So, what makes the Costco Executive membership worth twice as much as the Gold Star membership? Well, there are several perks and benefits that come with the executive membership.

2% cash back on purchases

The biggest draw for most consumers to get the Costco Executive Membership is the cash back aspect. All executive members will receive 2% cash back on the majority of their purchases (some items, such as alcohol, are not included in this). While the cash back is a big draw, you’ll want to make sure that, at the very minimum, you make back that $60 extra that you paid for this membership. To do that, you’ll have to spend at least $250 per month at Costco or $3,000 per year.

Granted, this is a normal, if not low, amount for a family to spend on groceries and home supplies. If you buy your gas at Costco as well, you should easily be able to hit that amount which then makes it a good deal. However, if you live alone it might be a stretch. You want to make sure that you are buying what you need and making up that money, not buying on a whim to make up the difference.

Exclusive offers and discounts

Having the Costco executive membership also comes with a few extra offers and discounts. These are usually for services such as insurance, real estate and mortgage programs, and business services such as cheque printing. Of course, these all still come at a cost but there are special discounts for executive members.

Costco Connection Magazine & inserts by mail

This may seem like a silly perk, however, it’s an easy way to keep on top of what Costco is bringing in and has available. Plus, if you know what’s coming then you can make sure that you are one of the first to get it. There’s nothing worse than hearing about a great Costco deal from a friend then going yourself only to realize that you missed it. Getting the Costco Connection Magazine allows you to stay on top of the newest and best deals and offers both in-store and online.

Shopping Online at Costco

Like most retailers nowadays, Costco also offers online shopping. You will need to take a few minutes to create an account with your membership number, but once you are set up you can shop online. You’ll find plenty of different and new products online that aren’t available in-store plus you’ll also be able to take advantage of some of your favourite Costco services such as the photo centre which will let you create custom photobooks or photo gifts from the comfort of your home. Shipping is available to most Canadian residences.

So, is the Costco Executive Membership Worth It?

If you think that you will be a frequent shopper at Costco, then the Costco Executive membership is likely worth it. However, remember that while the intent of Costco is to save money, and you shouldn’t be spending money on random unneeded items just to validate getting the more expensive card. If that’s the case, then the regular Gold Star Membership will do just fine.

How about the Capital One Costco Credit Card?

In case you didn’t know, Costco only accepts Mastercard in Canada. The Capital One Costco Credit Card is a no fee card which has an earn rate of 3% cash back at restaurants, 2% on gas, and 1% on all other purchases. I should note the first $3,000 on other purchases only earns you 0.5% so technically there’s a $15 annual fee baked into the rewards.

The Capital One Costco Credit Card does include price protection for items charged to the card within the last 60 days. You’re insured for price drops up to $100 with a maximum of $500 you can claim per year. There’s also extended warranty which doubles your manufacturer’s warranty up to an additional year. Finally, you also get purchase protection which covers your purchases from theft or damage up to 120 days from the time of your purchase.

One thing that needs to be mentioned about the Capital One Costco Credit Card, you don’t actually earn any extra rewards at Costco with this credit card. You’re almost better off getting a Costco Executive Membership and then paying with one of the best travel credit cards in Canada that happens to be a Mastercard so you maximize the points you earn.

When shopping at Costco, other credit cards that you can use include the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard and the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard. With the PCF card, you’ll earn 10 PC Optimum points per dollar spent so that works out to a 1% return which is pretty much the same as the Costo Credit Card. That said, PC Optimum has bonus events where you can redeem your points for extra value so you could argue that using a PC Financial Mastercard is the better choice.

When using the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, you earn 1.5% in WestJet Dollars on all purchases which is a pretty decent return. This is obviously useful to people who fly WestJet a lot. The card also gives you an annual companion voucher, free checked baggage and a sign up bonus of $250 after your first purchase so it’s a great credit card.