Wholesale clubs are as famous for their low prices as they are for their jumbo packs of garbage bags and pain relievers. But with so many wholesale clubs to choose from (and so many plans to consider), how can you know which is the most worthwhile? Spending time comparing different stores can be tedious, confusing and stressful. Plus, since you can’t really test out any store without a membership (or a friend with membership), making this comparison isn’t easy. Since we’re friends, I’ve decided to help you out by providing this information at a glance. I’ve provided you with comparisons of the personal plans offered by Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club – but of course, I’d be happy to hear feedback about any other wholesale club if you think it’s worth joining.
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Each wholesale club offers different advantages for upgrading your plan. Among the best benefits offered by Costco and BJ’s is 2% cash back up to $500/year. In other words:
If you spend (or anticipate spending) $5000/year at Costco or BJ’s (which is about $416/month), you’ll get $100 back, which will cover the cost of your membership. But, don’t panic by that high number – remember that wholesale clubs sell more than just food. They also sell furniture, clothing, electronics, and various other items at discounted prices. It is therefore entirely possible that you can spend $5000 a year at your local wholesale club. You should know, however, that you’ll need to spend $25,000/year to get the full $500, so you may not want to hold your breath on that one.
While Sam’s Club does not seem to offer the 2% back, their Advantage Plus plan does offer a wider range of services than Costco and BJ’s premium plans. Included in Sam’s Club’s Advantage Plus savings are auto buying deals, travel services and health and wellness services.
Another way to test the value of different wholesale clubs is to compare prices on your favorite items. As a sample, I’ve compared the prices on 2 random items.
Canon PowerShot SD780:
BJ’s – $189.99
Costco – $179.99
Sam’s Club – $198.88
Huggies Soft Skin Baby Wipes (600 count):
BJ’s – $12.99
Costco – sells only Huggies Naturally Refreshing wipes, 1000 count for $34.99
Sam’s Club – $14.85
Other things to consider before joining a wholesale club:
- Location. If you need to drive long distances to save money, you’ll likely be wasting money on gas instead of saving it at the wholesale club.
- Your consumption practices. Buying at a wholesale club requires buying in bulk, which means that you may be stuck with 10 red peppers, when you really only needed 1. If you’re feeding a family, buying in bulk can be fantastic. If not, you may wind up saving money on products you don’t need…which doesn’t really count as saving.
- Your spending habits. When you buy in bulk, you’ll likely spend more money up front than you would if you’d purchased the products as-needed. If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to think ahead, the savings of the wholesale club may be outweighed by the spending required to buy in bulk.
- Brand loyalty. Many wholesale clubs are renowned for their quality store-brand items that offer everything from paper goods to gourmet chocolates. You can save considerably if you’re willing to forego name-brand items for store-brand knockoffs. If not, you may not truly enjoy the full extent of the savings that a wholesale club has to offer.
I hope this helps you determine whether a wholesale club is right for you – but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!