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How My Costco Executive Membership Paid for Itself in One Trip

A person taking a new TV out of the box in their living room.

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The Costco Executive membership costs $120 per year, which is exactly twice as much as a standard, or Gold Star membership. So, you’re paying a $60 premium for the higher membership level.

Executive memberships come with a few perks, but by far the most significant is that Costco gives 2% back in rewards on most purchases. There are a few exceptions, such as tobacco, gift cards, and alcohol purchases, but the 2% back applies to most Costco purchases.

In this article, we’ll look at how you can determine whether an Executive membership is worth the cost for you, and how I once justified the more expensive membership in a single shopping trip.

Is a Costco Executive membership worth it for you?

Let’s do a quick break-even analysis. If you’re paying an additional $60 for the Executive membership and get 2% back in rewards, this means you would need to spend $3,000 on qualifying Costco purchases in a membership year in order for the savings to justify the cost.

Now, my wife and I do most of our grocery shopping at Costco and use traditional supermarkets like our local Publix and Kroger to fill in the gaps. After all, Costco doesn’t have everything, and let’s be honest, there are some things we don’t need a large quantity of. But for our family of four, we easily surpass $3,000 in Costco grocery spending in the typical year, so we’ve been Executive members ever since a Costco opened in our area about six years ago.

Mine paid for itself in one trip

If you’re like me, you often leave Costco, look at your receipt, and ask yourself, “What just happened?” But even so, spending enough to justify an Executive membership in a single trip is not a regular occurrence.

It has happened once, however. About two years ago, we had a “perfect storm” of expensive items that we needed to purchase, and the best deals on them were invariably at Costco. We decided to rip off the band-aid and buy them all in one trip, and of course, also did some grocery shopping while we were there so we would be stocked up for the next couple of weeks. After all — who wants to deal with Costco twice on a busy weekend?

We spent about $400 on groceries in that trip, and while I can’t remember the exact prices of each item, we also bought:

  • A new mattress for our guest room, replacing the 20-year-old hand-me-down that had been in there (about $600).
  • A new laptop for my wife, who was about to start a doctoral program (about $1,000).
  • A higher-quality TV for our playroom, as the $99 model I bought just a few years before died (about $300).
  • A new pre-lit Christmas tree after years of using natural trees and cleaning up the mess they make (about $250).
  • A new dishwasher, after the one that came with our house 10 years ago stopped working (about $600).

While I don’t recall the exact prices of the items we bought, there are two things I remember very clearly about that shopping trip. First, we used every cubic inch of my Ford Expedition’s cargo capacity. And second, we had a credit card tab of over $3,000 for a single Costco trip — justifying our Executive membership all by itself.

If you’re undecided about upgrading your membership, think ahead to any large purchases you may be planning to make throughout the next year. You don’t have to make them all in a single trip in order for them to make your Executive membership worth it, but they can certainly cause your Costco yearly spending total to add up, thus justifying the upgrade cost.

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We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
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.Matt Frankel has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool recommends Kroger. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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