MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Costco shoppers will often tell you about its great prices on everyday items.

But did you know don’t need to pay that $60 membership to take advantage of some of those deals?

As WCCO’s Christiane Cordero explains, making the most of Costco’s shopping secrets comes down to what you buy, and when.

Uve Hamilton spends enough money filling her prescription at Costco to justify her membership fees. But maybe she doesn’t have to.

“You know I just discovered that,” Hamilton said. “They asked somebody before me if they had a membership and I always assumed that you did need a membership.”

You don’t. Costco told us their pharmacy is open to all. Federal law prohibits stores from denying health services to anyone.

Non-members can also use prepaid gift cards to pay for anything in-store or online. And in 16 states including Minnesota, you can buy beer, wine and liquor — member or not.

“Is this another state statute everybody should be able to have access to good booze?” Hamilton said.

It depends how you look at it. Technically, the statute is meant to prevent alcohol “clubs” from forming. It’s helpful for people who need to stock up for a party, and really helpful if you just forget.

“Sometimes my husband comes and he doesn’t have the card and it doesn’t matter,” Costco Member Diana Benjaafar said.

Non-members can buy anything else in-store, too, if you pay with a Costco “cash” gift card. The catch? You need to have a member purchase or reload your Cash card.

If you do pay the membership fees, don’t worry, Costco has a few secret tricks that might benefit you, too. Next time you shop, Bargain Blogger Michelle Ashamala suggests you pay attention to the price beyond the value.

“You’ll see that most prices end in 99,” Ashamala said.

Costco confirmed to CBS that the 99-ending usually indicates a normal price. But if it ends in 97, it’s probably a markdown.

“So this price tag has a zero zero ending, which means it’s a clearance item,” Ashamala said.

And those items are most likely not coming back, according to Costco. So if it’s one of your staples, stock up. But what if you try something and you just don’t like it? Bring it back.

Diana Benjaafar did.

“And that was fine. There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just a thing about taste,” Benjaafar said.

With one of the most generous return policies in retail, Costco will give you a full refund on almost anything at almost any time after you check out.

“So that’s good about Costco too,” Benjaafar said.

Also refundable? The membership cards themselves. Costco says if you’re not satisfied with your membership at any point, it will give you your money back.


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