Sam’s Club and Costco: Which one is better?

Sam’s Clubs, operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST), offer substantial discounts on electronics, groceries and various household items. Shoppers may want to know which wholesale warehouse membership is more cost-effective. Research shows that the answer mainly depends on personal preference and convenience.

  • A review by Business Insider at the end of 2018 found that there was no substantial difference in price or quality between the two chains, and indicated that the store that suits you best is the store closest to your home.
  • Our own review of some online products of the two chain stores found that there is no clear winner in the low-price war. Both have wide-ranging prices in most sectors, with the lowest prices at the much-hyped low-end.
  • A 2016 Consumer Reports survey concluded that the club provides comparable prices for comparable products in all sectors. In the end, this decision boils down to a matter of personal taste.

Although they have many of the same brands, it is difficult to compare Sam’s Club and Costco side by side due to the constantly changing inventory. Both have a steady stream of special offers, instant offers, daily offers and member-only offers. Sam’s Club even has an auction department that is responsible for closing transactions for everything from battery packs to diamond watches.

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Membership fee

The annual membership fee is slightly different.

Costco’s regular annual membership fee is US$60, and the administrative membership fee is US$120. The general membership fee for Sam’s Club is US$45, and the membership fee for Sam’s Club Plus is US$100. Sam’s Club sometimes provides special savings or gift cards to registered military personnel and students.

Key points

  • Costco or Sam’s Club? There is no clear winner in price or quality.
  • In either case, pay close attention to the steady stream of special offers, instant offers, daily offers and member-only offers. This is where the real bargains are.
  • Don’t ignore the many out-of-the-box benefits of dental insurance, resort vacation packages, and car loans. You can also make deals there.

Costco sends coupons to members via email, and you can also access them in the Warehouse Coupon Offers section of the website or in the Costco app.

Sam’s Club Instant Savings offers can be purchased online or picked up locally. You can also view Instant Savings through the Sam’s Club mobile app. The company loads Instant Savings directly into your membership account, so you don’t need to use coupons at checkout to get discounts.

Both chains have coupons, which can be accessed on their mobile apps or websites.

The following are some details of the product.

Compare TV

In early 2019, Sam’s Club sold large-screen TV models from multiple manufacturers with small countertop models for as low as US$499 and LG’s large 77-inch 4K HDR Smart OLED models for US$6,499.

Costco has many of the same brand names, and the lowest price is $429.99, but some member-only deals require login to set prices. The most extravagant product is the same LG TV owned by Sam’s Club at exactly the same price.

A key feature of these two sites is that their products and prices seem to be constantly rotating, which may change within a day or an hour.

Compare laptops

Sam’s Club has laptops from manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Samsung and Google on the Internet, with prices ranging from US$249 to US$1,469. Some of the best deals are online only, members only, or both.

Costco has the same brand as Microsoft, Acer, MSI and NUVision. Its products start at the same low-end price of US$249, but it seems to have more high-end models that cost more than US$1,000 to choose from.

Both warehouses sell selected Apple Inc. iPads and Samsung Galaxy tablets.

Compare jewelry

Costco’s jewelry department offers a wide range of exquisite jewelry, including some of the high-end options that consumers usually associate with luxury jewelry stores. Some gemstone necklaces cost as high as US$10,000, a large diamond ring costs US$419,000, but there are also a large number of 14K gold earrings that cost more than US$120.

Sam’s Club’s engagement rings also have a similar range, starting at $229 and up to nearly $80,000. Its best-selling products are more common choices, such as the Tahitian pearl pendant priced at $59.88.

Extra service

The club membership of any warehouse can save you the cost of various services. Costco works with lenders that provide home mortgages, mortgage refinancing loans, and home equity loans, as well as family, life, and dental insurance.

Both warehouses offer car loans and cruise discounts, resort vacation packages, hotel rooms and car rental services.


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