You might think that warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club are only useful for buying food and household items for less than you could buy the same items at your local supermarket or department store. To add even more value to your annual membership fee, warehouse clubs have also rolled out additional services like a travel agency and identity theft protection.
Are these additional warehouse club amenities worth the membership fee or should you shop online instead? We break down the details.
This article will look at some of the additional services offered by the two largest warehouse clubs, Costco and Sam’s Club, to let you know if they are a good deal and when you can find a better deal online.
We’ll go in alphabetical order and start with Costco that offer additional services ranging from identity theft protection to a digital travel agency. An annual Costco membership costs $60 for Gold Star and $120 for an Executive membership.
Executive Membership Upgrade
What You Get: Annual 2% cash reward on all Costco spending
Cost: $60 per year
Is It Worth It? Only if you spend at least $3,000 per year at Costco
For an extra $60 a year ($120 total), you can upgrade to Gold Star Executive Membership status. One of the best perks is the opportunity to earn 2% cash back on nearly every Costco purchase, even Costco Travel purchases. At the end of your membership year, you receive your 2% bonus as store credit.
It’s worth the membership upgrade if you spend at least $3,000 a year at Costco. Otherwise, stick with the regular membership. To earn a more flexible credit reward, pay with a Visa rewards credit card where you can earn 1.5% cash back on every single purchase, even in-store Costco purchases, and the rewards can be redeemed for statement credits and not only for future Costco purchases.
Experian Complete ID Identity Theft Protection
What Costco Offers: Real-time credit report monitoring and full access to credit reports from all three credit bureaus. And, Experian provides you with the VantageScore credit score.
Monthly Cost: Executive Members pay $8.99/month and Gold Star Members pay $13.99
Is It Worth It? Probably not
While it’s nice that you can access your full credit report from all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), is it really worth a monthly subscription? Most likely not unless you are a recent victim of identity theft and want to access your credit report each month to ensure there is no fraudulent activity.
For the rest of us, you can access this same information for free from Credit Sesame that provides you with the same Vantage Score and monitors your TransUnion credit report for fraudulent activity. Since most financial lenders use at least two of the three credit bureaus, any fraudulent activity will be detected through a free credit monitoring service.
Also, federal law lets you view your full credit report for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com.
Sam’s Club also offers identity protection through LifeLock. Once again, a free service like Credit Sesame will be sufficient for the average person unless you just want to pay for the extra peace of mind.
What Costco Offers: Online travel booking for cruises, Hyatt and Hilton hotel rooms, rental cars, and vacation packages
Monthly Cost: Included with membership
Is It Worth It? Yes, for cruises and rental cars
Costco Travel is open to every member. You will find the best deals for cruises and rental cars that are often significantly cheaper than directly from the travel company or other third-party booking sites like Expedia or Priceline. Cruises might be their best option as many cruises also come Costco cash and onboard credits that are better than the cruise line packages.
What Costco Offers: 20% discount for first five years on term life insurance policy
Monthly Cost: Cost of life insurance premium
Is It Worth It? Maybe
Life insurance can be one of the best financial legacies you can leave behind for your loved ones if you cannot be there for them. Through Costco, you can get a 20% discount on the monthly premium for the first five years. For 30-year-old non-smoker male the total amount paid for a 20-year premium is $3,213. But, through Policy Genius, the same coverage will only cost $3,120 which is about $100 cheaper and you don’t have to maintain your Costco membership to receive the discount those first five years.
Sam’s Club can be another good option and an annual membership costs $45 (Sam’s Club Savings) or $100 (Sam’s Club Plus) each year.
Tax Preparation Services
What Sam’s Club Offers: Federal and State Tax Preparation with 1-800-Accountant
Cost: $219 to $295 for federal and state tax return
Is It Worth It? No
Once upon a time, you needed to hire an accountant to prepare your taxes if you didn’t want to do everything yourself by hand. With the internet, it’s now possible to file your federal and state tax returns for free through H&R Block and get similar results. Unless you have a complex return, save your money and file your own taxes.
What Sam’s Club Offers: 20% to 25% discount on simple legal services at LegalZoom
Cost: No additional cost
Is It Worth It? Yes
If you need to write a last will, start a business, protect intellectual property, or even file for divorce, you can get a 25% discount (20% for Sam’s Club Savings members) on LegalZoom products. It’s hard to find this deal from other online sites and online legal work is usually cheaper than visiting your local attorney. Since legal document preparation can be relatively expensive (at least $100 per document), the discount from one document alone can be worth your annual fee if the LegalZoom services will be at least $700 if you need to file a design patent.
The main reason you will still choose to shop at Costco or Sam’s Club is to buy your groceries and everyday items at a discount. Since you can also enjoy additional services as part of your paid membership, you might think you are getting a better deal, right? As you can see, sometimes the extra member benefits are worth the investment, while other times it’s better to shop around online and use a site like Ebates to find a better (and maybe even free) deal!
Do You Know Your Credit Score?
Even if you don’t plan on getting a loan, a good credit score can affect your ability to get a job, a place to live, and will save you money whenever you need to borrow. If you don’t know your credit score, you can get yours free at Credit Sesame. It’s 100% free with no credit card required to signup. I’ve been using it for years to monitor my credit score.