Should I Also Be Picking Up Insurance And Mortgages When I Shop At Costco Or BJ’s?

Warehouse stores sell more than just huge sacks of flour, vats of ketchup, and enough toilet paper to clean an army. You can also use a membership at places like Costco or BJ’s to buy everything from auto insurance to credit cards to home mortgages. But should you?

Our siblings at ShopSmart Magazine took a look at a variety of financial and insurance products being offered at these discount chains and found that, at the very least, you might want to include these warehouse stores in your comparison shopping.

MORTGAGES
Granted, the notion of getting a mortgage at the same place you just bought a 2-gallon jug of honey and a four-pack of shampoo might seem strange. But if you have a Costco membership and you’re looking to buy a home or refinance your existing loan, it couldn’t hurt to add the store to the list of places you consider, along with banks (local and national), credit unions, and mortgage brokers. Costco’s mortgage business is actually done through First Choice Loan Services, itself a mortgage broker that lets 10 possible lenders bid on the loan. Additionally, lender fees are capped at $750 for Gold Star members and $600 for Executive members (other fees still apply).

So while Costco isn’t the only place you should look for a home loan, members of the store might want to consider having it on their list of possibilities.

AUTO AND HOME INSURANCE
Much like Costco’s mortgage offering is really just a partnership with a third-party broker, these stores align themselves with insurance companies to offer members home and auto coverage.

BJ’s has a deal with Liberty Mutual, which ShopSmart readers recently rated highly for handling of auto and home claims. Over at Costco, customers are hooked up with Ameriprise insurance, for which there wasn’t enough data to provide a rating. Regardless, these are two incredibly competitive insurance markets, so it always pays to shop around, and warehouse stores are as good a place as any to begin your comparison shopping.

It also pays to carefully read through your policy options, ask questions and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when it comes time to pick one.

BANK CHECKS
Many of us probably only write a few paper checks a year, but until they are completely replaced by other methods of payment, consumers will still need a place to buy new ones when they run out.

ShopSmart found you can get replacement checks through Costco for only about $.04/check. The next least expensive deal it could find was at Walmart, where checks will run you $.07 each. Either is a good deal compared to some banks, like Chase, where you’ll pay around $.19/check.

CREDIT CARDS
You might be tempted to go for the rewards programs offered on no-annual-fee cards from Costco or BJ’s, but you could end up with a card that has a higher-than-average interest rate. BJ’s Visa card, issued and serviced by Barclays, has a variable interest rate ranging from 14-25%, while Costco’s True Earnings card from American Express has a 15.24% variable rate. And though it’s not a warehouse membership club, it’s worth mentioning that Walmart’s Discover-branded card, issued by GE Capital, comes with a whopper of a variable rate, 23%.

“Discount retailers are a good place to shop for financial products and services like mortgages and credit cards,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “But they’re not always as good a deal as the other products in these stores.”