If you are one of the more than 90 million Costco members, you already know the benefits of shopping at the world's most popular warehouse club. You likely already love Costco's Kirkland Signature brand products and the free samples that bookend the store aisles. You're probably a fan of the bulk items and the "buck fifty" hot dogs. But were you aware you can buy cars, vacations and even caskets at Costco?
You can and you should, according to Costco super shoppers who have spilled their top secrets on coupon sites, in forums such as Reddit, and in direct conversations with The Daily Meal.
Starting with the company's world-famous rotisserie chicken, we share 25 top secret shopping tips from Costco super shoppers.
They Buy the Rotisserie Chicken
Perhaps the greatest Costco deal of all is the rotisserie chicken. Savvy shoppers are well aware that you can buy a 3-pound bird for $4.99 at Costco instead of paying a dollar more for a bird half the size at a supermarket. Plus, Costco has strict standards when it comes to hot lamps: Birds under the lamp for more than 2 hours cannot be sold.
You can buy a bird and eat off its meat for days. Think chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, chicken breast sandwiches. The healthy options are endless.
This incredible deal won't be changing anytime soon. Last year, Costco sold a whopping 87 million rotisserie chickens. The massive demand has led the company to invest over $300 million in a new bird factory in Nebraska, scheduled to open in 2019.
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They Compare Prices
Costco buys in bulk and is therefore able to keep markups under 15 percent, passing the savings on to shoppers. But that doesn't mean you can't score an item for less on Amazon, at Walmart, or at your local grocery store.
Savvy shoppers use the Amazon app to scan a bar code and quickly see if the product in front of them is indeed offered at the best price. If it's not, they buy elsewhere.
They Know How to Read the Signs
If there's an asterisk in the corner of a store sign, it means that item will soon be discontinued. So if you see an asterisk by a product you like, better stock up because you may never see it at Costco again - or at least not until next season.
They Know How to Read the Price Tags
Want to know if a price is a really, really good deal? Look at the price tag. If the price is marked down, it will end in $.97. If it's regular price, it will end in $.99.
They Know When to Shop
Savvy shoppers avoid the large weekend and evening crowds by shopping during the day or in the morning. Mondays are a particularly good day to shop, they report.
They Upgrade to Executive Membership
Regular Costco membership costs $60 a year while Executive Membership cost $120. But the Executive Membership card comes with lots of perks. You get 2 percent back at the end of the year in the form of a rebate check. If it turns out you aren't getting the benefits you'd hoped for, you can downgrade to regular membership and Costco will refund the extra $60, no questions asked.
They Know You Don't Have to Be a Member to Shop Certain Items
While you need a $60 Costco membership to shop most items, in many states, you don't need a Costco card to dine at Costco's food courts, get an eye exam, fill a prescription, buy alcohol, or get a flu shot or a shingles vaccination.
They Head to the Middle of the Store
Some of Costco's best deals to be had are in the middle part of the store called "action alley" because of the high traffic the area sees. The worst bargains are in the displays at the end of the aisles where the samples are handed out.
They Don't Discount the Weirder Deals at Costco
You may be proud of that Nutella two-pack and the 40-pack of Kirkland Signature bottled water you scored last month - and savvy shoppers report you should be, as both items are great Costco buys - but did you know you can also buy a package of 5,000 rose petals, a $400,000 engagement ring, and even a casket at Costco? You can, and you should. Well, maybe not the engagement ring.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the average casket sold in America costs upwards of $2,000 with fancier options selling for $10,000 or more. You can score a deal at Costco where the caskets are provided by the Universal Casket Company and range in price from $999 to $1,799. Check them out here.
They Book Their Vacations Through Costco
Not many Costco members know what an excellent deal Costco's in-house travel services are for members. You can score incredible package deals to destinations all over the world. You can also score rental car deals and theme park passes.
The Points Guy analyzes Costco's travel services compared to buying on your own and proves that $60 Costco membership could be worth it for the travel deals alone.
They Buy Cars Through Costco
According to Costco, the Costco Auto Program has helped members purchase more than 2 million vehicles over the past five years. Costco members reportedly save up to $1,000 off the purchase of new or used cars.
They Buy Their Gas at Costco
As long as you're willing to wait in line for Costco gas, the cost savings may be worth it. Super shoppers report they save on average 30 cents a gallon at Costco compared to competitors and they know to gas up in the off-peak hours to avoid long lines. Off-peak hours are considered early afternoon and early mornings when the Costco gas stations are open, but the warehouses are not.
They Know What to Avoid
Unless you're feeding an entire football team, it's best to avoid buying anything in bulk that comes with an expiration date, because the chances the items will spoil before use are excellent. We're talking giant bags of walnuts, giant wheels of cheese, and two-packs of oils that may turn rancid.
That may be obvious, but what's not to obvious are the not-so-great deals at Costco. Savvy shoppers know to avoid buying in-season produce at Costco because chances are good it will go on sale at the local grocery stores. The same goes for paper products like printer paper (buy it on sale at Staples) or even toilet paper or paper towels (buy it on sale at the grocery store).
A bit trickier are electronics. Super shoppers recommend looking up competitor prices before purchasing. You may be able to score a better seasonal deal at Best Buy, Sears, or Macy's than you could on an average day at Costco.
Why? Prices at warehouse clubs tend to stay the same, whereas supermarket and big box store prices fluctuate weekly, monthly and seasonally to make room for more inventory.
They're Not Wine Snobs
Turns out Costco is the number one wine retailer in the US. Who knew? The company stocks name-brand labels for 20 percent less than wine stores and super shoppers report you can score some great wines for under $20 a bottle.
Booze is a good deal at Costco, too. It's reported that the Kirkland Signature Brand vodka is a particularly good buy - Grey Goose is rumored to be the vodka's maker.
An added bonus: You don't have to have a Costco membership to buy alcohol at Costco stores in 12 states.
They Use Rebate Sites
Costco doesn't honor manufacturer's coupons, but super shoppers use rebate apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Mobisave to get rebates on items they buy. Simply scan your receipt into the app and get rebates back to use later.
They Don't Buy the Free Samples
Super shoppers may eat Costco's free samples, but they don't feel obligated to buy the products, which typically aren't great deals and will just crowd your freezer.
Flickr/Panegryics of Granovetter/CC BY-SA 2.0
They Don't Turn Their Noses Up at the Store's Signature Brand
Kirkland's Signature Brand products get generally good ratings on consumer sites. Rumors abound that some Costco brand products are produced by name brands - it's been claimed that the tuna is made by Bumblebee and the batteries by Duracell.
The two Kirkland products super shoppers won't buy are facial tissues and toilet paper; the quality is simply not as good as brand names, they claim.
If They Miss a Sale, They Speak Up
If you buy something only to find out days or even weeks later that it's gone on sale, Costco will give you back the difference, as long as it's within 30 days of purchase.
Andrei Gabriel Stanescu/Dreamstime.com
They Arm Themselves With a List
Super shoppers don't succumb to impulse buys (hello giant plush teddy bears!). Instead, they come armed with a list of the products they actually need.
They Buy the Gift Cards
You can score gift cards and save 20 percent on movie theaters, restaurants, water and theme parks, tourist attractions and even food delivery programs like Blue Apron.
They Take Advantage of Costco's Incredible Return Policy
Did you read about the Costco customer who successfully returned her dead Christmas tree after the holiday season was over? Costco has an incredibly generous return policy because the company wants its customers to remain happy. It's one secret as to why 90 percent of Costco members in the U.S. renew each year.
If you've made a purchase you regret, return it. Electronics and major appliances can be returned within 90 days but almost everything else can be returned whenever and a receipt isn't always required. You will, however, need the proper paperwork to return that $400,000 engagement ring.
They Buy Bulk Meat to Freeze
A good way to save money is to buy bulk meats and freeze them individually, pulling them out to defrost and prepare as needed.
They Buy Over-the-Counter Drugs
Generic drugs sold everywhere tend to have the same ingredients as name-brand drugs but cost much less. But at Costco, the savings are even bigger. And if you must have that name-brand allergy medicine, it's like cheaper at Costco than at your local Rite-Aid or Walgreens.
They Score Off-Season Deals
Super shoppers never buy wrapping paper, holiday cards or ornaments at full price. Instead, they head to Costco for the post-holiday sales. The same goes for deals at the end of summer, when you can nab discounted outdoor furniture for a fraction of the price you'd pay in May.
They Score Costco Prices at Other Stores
This may seem sketchy, but it's actually legit. Even if you aren't a Costco member, you can score Costco's famously low prices at other stores. Here's how it works: While Costco won't price-match competitors, you can use Costco prices to score deals at stores that do (think Best Buy, Sears, Target, Staples, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Office Depot, and PetSmart). Simply scan Costco's website for deals, print out the pages and then take them in to a store that matches prices to score a great deal. If you aren't doing your food shopping at Costco, then you should be doing it at the best grocery store in your state.
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