Can you shop at Costco without a membership? A breakdown of the retail giant's membership plans

Csotco allows non-members to make purchases at their pharmacies

Costco, one of the largest retailers in the United States, is a membership-only warehouse chain that sells products in bulk at discounted prices despite rising inflation. The company's gas prices have been one lowest as the national average rises to $5 a gallon, with customers able to enjoy these perks through an in-store annual membership program. 

However, even Costco is starting to feel the pressure of global inflation as prices at their food court rise steadily. In July 2022, the store hiked the national price on its chicken bake for $1 more at $3.99 and 20-ounce soda selling at $0.69, up 10 cents from June.

Regardless, individuals are still looking to shop at the store to avoid the inflated prices at traditional grocery counters but are hesitant due to the annual membership's cost.

Can you go to Costco without a membership?

Costco, unlike its competitor Sam's Club, does not offer a 24-hour guest membership or give non-members access to discounted items. However, if you are picking up a prescription at Costco, you may make purchases at the pharmacy with cash, debit, or Costco Shop Cards, according to the company's website. All other items in the warehouse are exclusive to members only.

Costco gas station

Due to rising gas prices, many Americans are taking advantage of the low prices offered to warehouse members only.  (Getty Images / Getty Images)

The annual membership shopping club appears to have worked successfully for the retail giant, as Costco reported a net sales increase of 16.9% to $188.34 billion over a 44-week period in July 2022.


How much does a Costco membership cost? 

Costco offers customers three different categories of annual paying memberships. The most basic class is the Gold Star Membership which costs $60 per year and includes an additional Household card for a family member or friend. The Business Membership costs the same as the gold but allows you to purchase products for business, personal, and resale use. 

Costco food court line is seen in California

Costco's Executive Member card costs $120 per year and offers customers a 2% reward on qualified stores purchases. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The Executive Membership is the highest tier package offered by Costco. It costs members $120, includes all the same benefits of the previous categories, provides a 2% reward on qualified store purchases with a maximum total of $1,000 savings annually and discounts on vacations booked through Costco's travel service. 


What are Costco's most affordable items? 

Costco's cheapest prices fluctuate from week to week based on deals offered by the company to its membership in-person and online via their website. However, some items it lists for less than $25 include pet supplies, personal hygiene, office products, and frozen seafood.