Costco can be a great place to shop, but you want to be smart about what you buy there to keep your credit card bills down and avoid wasting money. Surprisingly, you can actually get an idea of whether a purchase is a good deal or not by looking at some key details on the price tag (beyond just the price alone, obviously).
If you understand the ins and outs of Costco pricing, you can keep as much money in your bank account as possible. Here are some important details about what the tags can reveal — and how you can use them to be a smarter shopper.
1. An asterisk means you need to act quickly
When you see a Costco price tag with an asterisk in the upper right corner, this means the item isn't going to be restocked. Your chance to buy it is limited as a result. So, if it is an item you use regularly or something you definitely will want at some point, you shouldn't hesitate to purchase it as you may not have another chance if you delay.
An asterisk doesn't necessarily mean the item is deeply discounted, though. It could be on its way out simply because the manufacturer has discontinued it or Costco decided not to carry it any more for various reasons. So, don't assume the asterisk means you're getting a rock-bottom price — it just signifies you soon won't be able to buy the item at Costco.
2. A .99 at the end could mean the item is full price
If you see an item with a .99 at the end of the price tag — like something that is $9.99 or $21.99, this .99 is an indicator the item is a full-priced item set at the standard price.
You won't get a special discount on purchasing this item, but will pay whatever Costco's normal going rates are.
3. These numbers could mean a sale
Certain other numbers at the end of a Costco price tag are good news for shoppers, because they mean that you're likely getting a discount.
When a price tag ends in .49 or .79, this is usually an indicator that the product manufacturer is offering special promotional pricing. When a price ends with .97, on the other hand, this is a sign that Costco has put the item on clearance or is offering a manager's discount, so you're likely getting a great deal for the item.
4. Items with these numbers need some extra scrutiny
Finally, if the number on the price tag ends in either .00 or .88, this typically means there aren't many of the items in stock and the goal is to sell off the remaining items.
In some cases, these tags can indicate the item was actually returned, which means it will be really important to give the item a careful once-over to make sure all the parts are there and there's no problem with it.
By paying attention to the ending numbers on a Costco price tag, you can decide whether to buy now or whether you can wait a while on a full-price item to see if it drops in the future. It only takes a second to check out these numbers and make an informed choice about whether to buy.
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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.Christy Bieber has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.