It’s not a well-known trick, but we’ve written before about how it’s possible to shop at Costco without a membership as long as you have a member purchase a gift card for you. But maybe this loophole is closing. A few months ago, one reader reported being turned away at the door, even with the Cash Card in hand. Stephen reports that he was allowed to enter the store, but was told that he couldn’t make purchases without being a card-carrying member. They let him do it just this once. But allegedly never again.
A couple years ago, I had a friend buy me a Costco gift card because I thought I would shop there semi-frequently and could buy some snacks in bulk. I used the card on that first shopping trip and it has sat half-full since then. I decided I should go ahead and use it since it is essentially money sitting in my wallet. That friend has since moved out of town so I have no member to get me into Costco.
I learned on this site that the Cash Card can be used to purchase things at Costco, even if you are not a member. I checked the Costco website and it confirms this.
I remembered a story a few weeks ago how someone with a Cash Card was not allowed to enter a Costco. I went to a Costco in [the Southeastern U.S.] this weekend and braced myself when I showed the card at the entrance. The employee checking cards said thank you and told me to enjoy my shopping trip. Good, it seems he was familiar with the publicly posted policy.
I got the items I wanted that totaled just slightly more than the card’s value so I could empty it out. I got in line and when it was my turn to check out, the cashier asked for my membership card and I said I didn’t need one and that the Cash Card would be sufficient. He said the computer needed a membership ID number and I countered with what the website said about the card. He called a supervisor over and the supervisor also said I needed a membership card and asked if I wanted to buy one. I said no, I just want to use the rest of the value on my card which your website says is allowed.
I also mentioned that I got into the store with no issues. He said the door employee must not have been paying attention (Cash Card is blue, membership cards are white or black. Seems hard to mix up.) He confirmed that the website does indeed say non-members can make purchases but that they are being pushed to always check for a membership and that the Cash Card method of shopping isn’t really allowed anymore. He said that the website needs to be changed and mumbled something about mentioning that in some meeting he would be having on Monday. He did some sort of override and I purchased my items which emptied my gift card.
I am happy they let me use the card this one time, but anyone currently shopping this way should be advised that your mileage may vary significantly.