8 Ways You Can Shop at Costco or Sam’s Club Without a Membership

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Sam's Club and Costco shirts

We all know that Costco and Sam’s Club both offer a variety of bulk grocery items, furniture, clothing, services, and more at a nice discount. While most deals are for members only, you can actually take advantage of select services AND score great deals without paying for a membership!

If you’ve been contemplating a warehouse membership OR just want to check out the products and services that each club offers before signing up, here are ways that you can shop in-club for free!

1. Shop with a Costco Shop Card.

man holding a costco membership card in front of a Costco store

Non-members can shop in-club at Costco without paying a membership fee if you have a Costco Shop Card, which is their version of a gift card. You can use a Shop Card to purchase gasoline or merchandise at any Costco warehouse. It can even be used as a means to provide students with money for food, gas, or school and dormitory necessities, while being able to limit their spending.

However, in order to purchase or reload a Costco Shop Card, you’ll need to be a member, so consider asking a friend or family member to purchase/reload one for you and you can reimburse them. And if you’re wanting to send a Shop Card to a non-member friend, note that Costco Shop Cards are sent with a zero balance. To activate, the recipient will need to call the toll-free number that will be included with the card and have the ship-to phone number available at time of activation.

Sam's Club Cart with One day Sale Items

Sam’s Club One Day Pass UPDATE:

Unfortunately, Sam’s Club gift cards cannot be used to make purchases if you are not a member and it appears that they no longer offer their free one-day in-club passes like they used to previously. BUT, non-members can shop online without a membership – check out #3 below for more details.

2. Tag along with another member.

Bruce outside of Costco storefront

If you know someone who is a Costco member, you can tag along with them since all members can bring up to two guests and children into the warehouse. However, only Costco members can purchase items, so they’ll have to pay for the bill at the register and you can reimburse them.

Plus, Costco members receive one free household card for anyone over the age of 18 and living at the same address, which allows them to shop without having to tag along with the primary member.

Paige outside Sam's Club entrance

Similarly, Sam’s Club also allows members to bring up to two guests and children to Sam’s Club; however, only members can make purchases.

Plus, all Sam’s Club members can add complimentary memberships at no charge for anyone living in the same household who is 18 years of age or older. You’ll get your own card and won’t need to be with the primary cardholder to shop.

If you wanna save a few bucks, you may also try asking a member to add you to their account. That’s because add-on memberships receive all Club member benefits for a discounted annual price of $40, as opposed to the $45 annual membership fee. Sam’s Club members can add up to eight additional cardholders to their account at this low rate.

3. Shop online.

Collin Shopping Online

Non-members can purchase from Costco.com without a guest membership pass. However, non-members will pay a 5% surcharge over the member’s posted product prices (except for prescription drugs). You can also shop on Costco.com using a Costco Shop Card.

person at computer with credit card

If you want to shop on SamsClub.com, you can sign up for a free online-only guest membership pass that is valid for 24 hours. However, note that you will be charged a 10% non-member service fee for all purchases.

4. Get your vision and hearing tested.

Costco Optical center desk

Most Costco and Sam’s Club locations have an independent optometrist in the warehouse who you can make an appointment with to get your vision and hearing tested – no membership required. However, a membership or gift card is required to purchase optical products, such as glasses or contacts.

Sam's Club Health Screening sign

Also, Sam’s Club offers free health screenings (includes blood glucose and cholesterol) for members and non-members. These screenings take place from 11am-4pm on the second Saturday of January, April, July, and October at select clubs with a Pharmacy.

*Contact your local Sam’s Club Pharmacy for hours and availability.

5. Fill a prescription at the pharmacy.

Costco Pharmacy prescription pickup window

The pharmacy at Costco is available to members and non-members. Just bring the prescription from your doctor, tell the greeter that you’re using the pharmacy, and they’ll let you in. You can even get your prescriptions filled online and have them delivered to your home at NO extra cost.

Sam's Club Pharmacy aisles

Similarly, you do not need a Sam’s Club membership in order to purchase prescription medications at the Sam’s Club Pharmacy. Even better, for medicines with a script, there is not a 10% non-member service fee.

6. Get a flu shot.

Costco offering affordable flu shots sign

Along with filling prescriptions, Costco and Sam’s Club also offer affordable immunizations to members and non-members who do not have insurance. Be sure to call your local warehouse ahead of time as an appointment may be required.

7. Enjoy the food court.

Stetson with food from Costco's food court

If you have a Costco nearby and are headed in-club to pick up a prescription or get your vision/hearing tested, you may be able to purchase items from the food court without having a membership (note that this appears to vary by location as some readers have not had luck with this)! That means you can enjoy yummy frozen yogurt, hot dogs, pizza, and more treats on the cheap!

Hip Tip: Check out some of our favorite menu items from the Costco food court!

Sam's Club Food Court ordering menu signs

Also, according to an online rep, you do not need to be a Sam’s Club member in order to purchase food items from the Sam’s Club Café, and there is not a 10% non-member service fee. However, be sure to call your local Sam’s Club to verify this information before making a special trip as it may vary.

8. Purchase alcohol.

kirkland signatures wine boxes

Select states (including AZ, CA, CT, DE, HI, IN, MA, MI, MN, NY, TX, VT) have laws in place that say it’s illegal to require membership for alcohol purchases. That means you can purchase wine, beer, and spirits at Sam’s Club or Costco without a membership, and you should not be charged a non-member service fee! Note that Sam’s Club’s in-club pickup feature is exclusive to members only.

Just let the door attendant know you’re there to buy alcohol, and they should let you in the door.

Join The Discussion

Comments 77

  1. Lana

    You can shop at Sam’s with a one day pass anytime. We print one from their site and take it with us. We are in SC so we don’t pay the upcharge.

    • Rebecca

      Same! There’s always a pass available.

      • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

        It looks like there is currently not a pass available. I spoke with a Sam’s Club rep and the pass is currently only available to shop online. Hopefully they’ll bring back a 1-day pass soon though!

    • Laura

      Where do you print the one day pass?

      • Lana

        We Google it and have never failed to find a printable one.

  2. Michelle

    We have an Executive Membership and every year the rewards we get back is usually enough or more than enough to pay our yearly membership fees. I just take the rewards certificate to customer service and they take care of it for me. Plus, if the amount us over, I get it back in cash. Also, we have a Costco Visa card which gives us cash back for shopping at Costco, getting gas, and other purchases. Both of those rewards are great to get every year!

    • je

      Ditto. We always get hundreds more in cash back than the annual membership fee.

      • Nana Donna 2 6

        Same here. It’s a WIN-WIN for my sister and me when she tags along. She not only reimburses me, her purchases are on my Costco Visa card so I get extra reward points towards my membership renewal…I have the Executive membership so each renewal I’m basically getting the Executive part for free. The only drawback, she goes once a year so it’s not a quick in-out by any means. I’ll sometimes head to the furniture and sit a bit and let her do her thing. It’s a day out with her and that’s the main thing.

  3. D Lynn

    We are thinking of dropping our membership at Costco for now. We moved and live 3 hours away from one. We live in Michigan and it looks like we can still buy alcohol and wine from Costco (as stated above). Do I understand right that we have to pay with a Costco Cash Card? But in order to buy anything else we would need a membership card to check out at the register, correct?

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      You can use a Costco Cash Card to purchase any items without being a member. According to the Costco site, non-members can use the Costco Cash Cards to shop at any Costco location in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and online at Costco.com (if shopping online, you’ll pay a 5% surcharge).

      You just have to be a Costco member to purchase or reload Costco Cash Cards. Hope that helps!

  4. Sara

    You don’t need cash to buy something from the Costco food court. You can also use a Visa credit card, a Visa debit card, or a MasterCard debit card. They don’t check IDs or ask for membership cards at the food court register.

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      Thanks Sara!

    • Eric

      They ask for you membership card at some Costco stores. I get asked every time at the Marina del Rey location.

  5. Suzanne

    I have a love/hate relationship with Costco. I love their brands, but it is ALWAYS so crowded. I feel like for our small family we spent more than it was worth. Plus it’s an hour away. We let our membership lapse last year. Now I just purchase the few items we can’t live without online when they are on sale and have them shipped to our house (baby wipes, kirkland coffee). Most of the time it’s free shipping. It’s worth it for our small family to just pay the 5% fee rather than a membership. I do miss the bagels and pizza though!

    • KS

      I thought non members didn’t get the sale prices. Am I wrong?

      • Suzanne

        I have been able to get the sale price even though we are no longer members. Maybe because we’re former members? My membership number is on my account so it sends me an order confirmation, reminder that it charges 5% additional unless I renew, but always charges the sale price.

      • Suzanne

        I think there are “member only” items that do charge full price or are not available to non-members.

        • KS

          Thanks Suzanne!

      • Penny

        Can my son, who is away at college, use his household member card in that city?

        • Penny

          It’s a Sam’s club membership.

  6. Carol

    Before we moved close to a Costco we used gift cards twice for 2 different locations.The cashiers were very rude about not having the membership card. Managers had to come to over ride the register one was great and did it ASAP but another manager was insistent we get a membership. We informed them that it was not required for gift cards he called around to the membership desk and was told the same thing we told him. Honestly it was very embarrassing in the demeanor he was speaking to us, not to mention the long line that was behind us because he took so long to override the register.

    • Kare

      I totally agree with you. If you don’t have a membership, the cashiers treat you like you are cheating them. For this reason, I stopped giving Costco gift cards for the holidays.

      • Patti

        Good idea, why would you give a Costco gift card to someone who isn’t a Costco member in the first place? Really?

        • PrincessMom

          It seems that giving someone a gift card “should” allow them a chance to go and buy some things there to check it out before deciding to purchase a membership. I guess not all the people working there see it that way, though, and have given people a hard time. Personally, I’d like to get one so I had a chance to check it out before committing to a membership.

        • jbar

          I agree, and they shouldn’t allow members to by gifts there either. Items purchased at Costco should only be used by Costco members. LOL

    • Dovesmith

      Yes they are truly very rude ! The one at south Dakota Sioux Falls , exactly same thing happen to me ! Very rude & made me feel bad

  7. Sandy

    You cannot check out at Costco with a cash card if you don’t have a membership.

    • KS

      So what do you use then, cash only?

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      Hi Sandy, I was told that you can use a Costco Cash Card without a membership. You just have to be a member in order to buy or reload one.

      • Sandy

        Hi Mary, I was denied last time I tried to do this. So perhaps it depends on each warehouse.

      • Holly

        You’re correct, Mary. I returned a gift there last year…I’m a non-member. Was given a cash card as credit, then bought coffee with the credit. As someone stated above, the cashier’s friendly demeanor changed when she realized I was a non-member. Must be something in the training to try to get us “non-members” to “convert,” LOL.

    • Christy

      Yes you can! I do it all the time.

  8. Emily

    My mother in law has a Sam’s Club Plus membership and our local Sam’s Club told her that she can only add one member to her account, but they also told her that she can let someone borrow her membership card so shop in club. I have used her membership card without her being with me and never had any problems.

  9. Vickie

    Lol yeah use your Mom’s membership! That’s what my daughter does! 🤣❤️
    Always free for her!

  10. lindak

    Our Costco said my 92 year old mother had to have a membership in order to come in and have her hearing tested. As she is in assisted living she doesn’t have much use for a membership. We’re a Sams family now since Costco dropped Fage yogurt.

    • Sarah

      Next time just say you are going to the pharmacy then go over to the hearing center and check with that person.

  11. riss

    I tag along with my friend at Sam’s Club and with the self-check out lane, I use my own credit/debit card, though I’m not sure if she swiped her membership card beforehand (didn’t pay attention – busy unloading my items) and even returned an item without her. Now for Costco, I downgraded to basic membership as the kids are in college and out of the house. I rarely go to Costco now, except for gas. My local Costco is about 3 miles awa, and there’s one about 15 miles away, and now they’re building a new one about 6 miles away!

  12. Tina

    All Sam’s club members can add up to 8 members at no charge?!? Could you link where it says we can do that?

    Also, for our costco, no membership then no purchase with cash card. Is there somewhere in their policy that states you can do that so i can show them? We have membership but under my husband and mom. I just wanted to go when we need only milk and strawberries for the toddler. But no biggie if we can’t.

    • Mary (Stellar Sidekick)

      Hi Tina! You can add free memberships for anyone living in the same household who is 18 years of age or older, but only add add-on memberships for up to 8 additional memberships for $40 per year.

      You can find this info in your account page under Additional Cardholders. Hope that helps!

  13. Mel

    I haven’t had a Sam’s Club membership for like a year, if not longer, and was still able to make purchases at my local one…they just added 10% to the bill. Is that not a thing anymore?

  14. DJ

    Costco is extremely strict when it comes to letting people into their doors.

    • Jeff

      Before I had a membership I was at a Costco with an indoor food court. And they wouldn’t let me in the store.

  15. FloridaGirl1218

    Costco would not even let us in the door without a membership card. Not to eat at the food court, not to walk around and see if we wanted a membership, nothing. We will stick with Sam’s Club.

    • Sarah

      Just say you are going to the Pharmacy and they have to let you in. Federal law about anyone being able to use any pharmacy. I doubt they will tail anybody in the store to make sure they are going to the pharmacy.

  16. KS

    So if you’re not a Costco member and you shop with a cash card, can you only buy as much money as you have on the cash card? Or do they accept cash?

    • Michelle

      I read some of the reviews on the Costco website for the cash card and it seems they do not allow you to supplement with cash if there is not enough on your card.

    • SJ

      It was fall of 2017, but I was able to pay the difference by cash over what was left on my Costco Cash Card.

  17. Emily

    FYI the January health screening is this Saturday, the 11th

    • Amber (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh awesome! Thanks, Emily! We’ll have to check for that!

    • Jen

      Correction: It’s this Saturday, January 12th from 11 am to 4 pm

  18. Julia

    Also, if you subscribe to Shipt, you don’t need a membership, but would receive a 5% discount if you did. Similar to Instacart.

  19. Judy Trac

    They will let u walk inside with a cash card at Costco? Hmmm

  20. Gisette

    We have Sams Plus membership and we get money back every year. Last year I earned 80$ its free money so I’ll take it:)

  21. M

    I don’t think it’s ok where I live to eat the food with out a membership.

  22. Michelle W

    Weird. Costco pharmacy told me I had to be a member to get the RX filled.

    • Lori

      Same here.

    • Sara

      You don’t have to be a member to use the pharmacy. The pharmacy has member and non-member pricing for people not using insurance. Members get a bigger discount.

      • Sara

        I am a member. The 90 day member prices for four of my five prescriptions are low enough that I am switching them to Costco next month. The fifth prescription is still cheaper at Walmart because it is on their 90 days for $10.10 list.

        I have been using insurance on 30 day prescriptions at Walmart. If the prices that Costco quoted on 8/4/18 are in effect for the entire year, I will save about $255.48 by not using insurance.

  23. Michelle

    My area Sam’s (2 different ones) do not require you show your member card to enter any longer. I’m currently a member but previously I had downloaded the Sam’s app and added my CC using my parents membership ID on the app and never had any issue!

  24. Vivian

    My husband a non member has used his cash card several times. He hates it and it’s annoying because they give you a hard time and need manager override, but it works

  25. Judith

    I went to Sam’s Club last week with a free day pass and was told that they’re not accepting them anymore! I wrote an email to the company to see if it was nation-wide and they said yes they are stopping those passes.

  26. Heather Staebell

    Sams Club also has a list of prescription medications that are FREE for members. Pays for our membership!

  27. Sara

    Costco wouldn’t let me in to eat at their food court without being a member. 😨

  28. Stefanie

    I am a Costco member, but I walk into the “exit” all the time without showing my card and no one bothers me at all. Sometimes it’s to go to the restroom first, sometimes it’s to get food, and sometimes it’s to get a motorized cart, but they never ask for a card check on that side. It’s only when I enter in the regular entrance that they look for the card.

  29. Andrea

    Sams only allows extra cash d per household according to the rules on the app

    • Andrea

      Sorry I’m not sure what happened there. Anyway they only allow 1 extra card per household.

      • Mandi

        Yes. That’s correct. You get the primary card and one complimentary add on. After that it is $40 for each additional person.

  30. Jo

    I am actually super frustrated with Costco. I hate feeling harassed for my membership card when I go in the door. It’s hard enough to shop when you have small children but then when it’s always so busy and you’re trying to get them buckled in the card and move out of the way and have your wallet/card out. I will usually just say I’m going to the pharmacy but most employees don’t even know their own policy that anyone is legally able to enter for the pharmacy. Kind of frustrating! Enter Amazon prime!

    • peretz12

      YES!! I totally agree. I have 2 small kiddos, and it’s hard enough to get them buckled in and try to get out of the way without having to fumble for my card. We get the point that you need a membership to buy!! I’ve spilt the contents of my wallet at the entrance trying to show my card. So frustrating. Really makes me not want to even go there sometimes. That being said, going in through the exit works to not get hassled. But couldn’t really do it with a cart. 😬

      • Sarah

        Okay, I know you are busy with the kids and all but what about putting your card in your pant’s pocket before you leave the house. Even if I’m shopping myself I always make sure I have my card ready before I leave the house.

        • DebJ


  31. Meredith

    This is misleading. Grabbing a hot dog at costco isn’t ‘shopping’

  32. Ann Stokman

    Love these tips

  33. Patrícia

    What do you all know about the Join for $45 Get $45 back? I just saw on Instagram and they send me by mail too.

  34. Joanne

    If I shop at Costco with a gift card – will I get there sale/coupon book prices? Or will I have to pay the full price?

  35. shinepm

    Will Gap Inc. Visa Cardholders get a Costco membership free again this year? Was so awesome last year, mine is about to expire in a couple of weeks.

  36. Lindalee Fisher

    Can Member whom purchased giftcards, return them?

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