Sam’s Club, which is operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), and Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) both offer deep discounts on electronics, groceries and a broad range of household items. Shoppers may wonder which wholesale warehouse membership is better. A 2016 survey from Consumer Reports shows that both wholesale clubs offer similar prices in all departments. Ultimately, the better membership for you depends on your personal shopping habits and preferences, since the wholesale clubs sell slightly different merchandise.
Costco charges $55 for a regular annual membership and $110 for an Executive membership. Sam’s Club regular memberships, on the other hand, cost $45, and Sam’s Club Plus memberships cost $100. Sam’s Club also offers special savings for Military and Student memberships. For example, in August 2016, the company offered a $15 gift card at sign-up for new student memberships. The Sam’s Club Military card offered $120 in savings offers for the first 30 days after sign-up.
Costco sends coupons to members through the mail, and you can also access them on the Warehouse Coupon Offers section of the website or through your Costco app. Sam’s Club Instant Savings deals are available online or for pickup at local locations. You can also check out the Instant Savings through the Sam’s Club mobile app. The company loads Instant Savings directly into your membership account, so you don’t need a coupon to get a discount when you check out.
In August 2016, the Costco website offered a selection of big screen, ultra-high definition (UHD) 4k TVs priced from $1,499.99 to $6,499.99. Also offered were a selection of 30- to 42-inch LCD smart TVs for under $300. A Samsung 4K UHD 65-inch TV sold for $2,179 at Costco. Sam’s Club sold a similar Samsung 65-inch 4K UHD TV for $1,998. Sam’s Club also sold several 4K UHD TVs sized 60 to 75 inches and larger for under $3,500. Sam’s Club also offered several 43-inch TV models for under $400.
Computers and Tablets
Laptops sold at Costco ranged in price from just under $300 to $2,999.99. In August 2016, a HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) Pavilion 15-inch laptop with an Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) Core i7 processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM was priced at $779.99. A similar HP Pavilion 15-inch, Intel Core i7 laptop sold at Sam’s Club for $699. Other laptops at Sam’s Club were priced from $200 to $2,449. Both warehouses sold a selection of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad and Samsung Galaxy tablets priced between $200 and $500.
Costco’s jewelry department offers a selection of fine jewelry that consumers typically associate with luxury jewelry stores. Some diamond rings in the Costco Featured Selection are one-of-a-kind and priced at over $100,000. Similarly, the high-end diamond and gemstone pieces in Sam’s Club’s Statement Jewelry collection are priced between approximately $200 and $72,000. Both warehouses also offer a selection of more moderately priced diamond and gemstone jewelry in the $500 to $5,000 range.
Children’s fashion brands available at Costco and Sam’s vary depending on the time of year and store location. As of August 2016, both warehouses showed clothing prices ranging from $10 or less to over $100. At Costco, Puma short sets for girls and boys sell for $12.99. Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand leggings are priced two for $9.99. At Sam’s Club, Eddie Bauer girls and boys activewear tops and jackets sell for $12.98 and pants sell for $14.98.
You save money by shopping at Costco and Sam’s Club in large part because items come in much bigger packages than they do in regular grocery stores. Some of the best deals are on Costco Kirkland Signature and Sam’s Club Member’s Mark-branded items. Consider some prices on common grocery items, as of August 2016. At Costco, Kirkland Signature organic vanilla soymilk in a 12-pack of 32-ounce cartons sells for $16.99, while Kirkland Signature bath tissue is $19.99 for 36 rolls. Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain organic chicken and pea formula dog food costs $49.99 for 30 pounds. Sam’s Club sells Silk soy milk for $8.58 for 6 quarts, and Member’s Mark Ultra Premium bath tissue runs $17.46 for 30 rolls. Member’s Mark Complete Nutrition dog food costs $19.98 for 55 pounds.
Your warehouse club membership can also save you money on a variety of services. Costco partners with lenders that offer home mortgages, mortgage refinance loans and home equity loans, as well as home, life and dental insurance. Both warehouses offer auto loans and travel discounts on cruises, resort vacation packages, hotel rooms and rental cars. Costco offers an 11-night, Ultimate Caribbean Cruise package at $1,849 per person, while Sam’s Club offers a seven-night Caribbean cruise starting at $399.