Exterior of a Costco store
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Nearly 89 million people worldwide have a membership to shop at Costco warehouse stores. Depending on the membership level you choose, the cost ranges from $60 to $120 per year.

Here is a look at the types of memberships and benefits to help you decide whether a Costco club card is a savvy addition to your wallet.

Costco: The king of (warehouse) clubs

Costco first opened its doors as Price Club in 1976. It soon found that catering to small business owners and certain non-business members generated more revenue, and the warehouse club industry took roots.

In 1983 the first Costco warehouse opened, and 10 years later, the Price Club and Costco brands merged as PriceCostco, with 206 locations in the U.S. By 1997, the chain had become worldwide and went back to the name Costco.

Costco states that its operating philosophy is: “Keep costs down and pass the savings on to our members.”

The stores accept all Visa credit cards as well as Costco credit cards, cash, checks and debit payments.

Three types of membership

A Costco membership is particularly appealing to those who buy in bulk, business owners and larger families. But individuals and couples can benefit, too.

Costco offers three membership levels: Gold Star, Executive and Business.

1. Gold Star membership

  • $60 annual membership fee.
  • Two cards: One for primary member plus a free household card for the member’s spouse, domestic partner, or anyone under 18 living at the same address.
  • Available to anyone age 18 or older.
  • Shop at any Costco location worldwide and Costco.com.
  • Access to most Costco services: Costco’s auto program (discount purchases on automobiles, parts, service, motorcycles and power sports), identity protection, bottled water delivery, mortgage lending and refinancing, business and personal checks, auto and home insurance, health insurance, individual and family dental plans, life insurance, payment processing, business phone services, and vision insurance for your business (availability of services may vary by state or region).

2. Executive Gold Star membership

  • $120 annual membership fee.
  • All of the benefits of Gold Star Membership.
  • 2 percent reward, up to $1,000, on all qualifying Costco purchases.
  • Greater discounts on many Costco services.
  • Exclusive access to additional Costco services: QuickBooks online, payroll services.

3. Business membership

  • $60 annual membership fee.
  • All of the benefits of Gold Star Membership.
  • Purchase products for business, personal and resale (proof of business ownership required when applying).
  • Add additional cardholders (Affiliates) for $60 each per year at any time, which includes one household card per Affiliate.

Benefits of membership

Along with savings and access to services, Costco cardholders are able to top off their tanks at Costco gas stations and shop Costco Hearing Aid Centers, Costco Optical and Costco Pharmacy.

Costco members have the convenience of shopping from home or visiting one of its many locations. As of June 2017, Costco operated more than 730 warehouse stores worldwide, including 510 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The stores offer a broad array of product categories, including groceries, candy, appliances, tires, toys, hardware, sporting goods, jewelry, watches, cameras, books, clothing and furniture.

Costco offers a “100 percent guarantee” on both membership and merchandise. If you’re not satisfied with your membership, a full refund is given at any time. The same applies to refunds on purchases, with some limitations.

If the cost of a Costco membership appeals to you, you can apply online, by phone or by visiting a Costco store.

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