Costco and Sam's Club Offer Big Gas Savings That Could Cover Your Membership Costs

    As fuel prices rise, the discounts on gas can make your warehouse club membership an even better value, if you live close enough

    Customers filling their vehicles with gasoline at a CostCo gas station. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

    Update, September 21, 2022: The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is now $3.68, 17 cents cheaper than the $3.85 cited below. The price has dropped $1.34 since it reached $5.02 on June 14, 2022.

    Given the high gas prices—the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.85 as of August 29, 2022, according to AAA, an increase of 70 cents from a year ago—it may be worth thinking seriously about joining Costco or Sam’s Club, warehouse clubs where you can buy fuel at discounted prices.

    Those savings could be significant, says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a website and smartphone app that helps drivers find the best deals.

    “Gas prices at warehouse clubs are nearly always lower, ranging from 5 cents to 25 cents less per gallon,” says De Haan. “And when prices rise, they hold their prices down for longer.”

    More on Gas Savings

    But before you sign up, consider the costs. Warehouse clubs charge annual membership fees, which generally range from $45 to $120 a year, depending on the club and level of membership.

    Still, the gas discounts alone may be worth the membership cost, though your savings will vary depending on your location and your mileage. If you get an average 20 cents off a gallon of gas, you could save more than $112 a year, assuming your driving uses up an average of 562 gallons annually. That savings alone would more than offset the cost of a basic warehouse membership or even cover most of a higher-tier membership fee. 

    For example, someone in Independence, Mo., (outside Kansas City) would pay $3.12 a gallon for regular gas at the Costco at 19040 East Valley View Parkway, or 7 cents less than the $3.19 at a nearby QuikTrip station at 2601 Route 291, GasBuddy data show. Even with that small price difference, if that person were to use 20 gallons of regular gas a week, they would save about $73 annually, more than the $60 fee for a Costco Gold Star membership.

    And a driver pulling up to the Sam’s Club at 7480 Carson Street in Long Beach, Calif., would pay $4.59 a gallon vs. $5.29 at a nearby Chevron at 11804 Carson Street, according to GasBuddy. Potential annual savings for the Sam’s Club member who uses 20 gallons of gas a week: $728.

    Before you buy a membership, especially if just for gas, map out the warehouse locations and determine whether you’ll really be able to do your refueling regularly there, says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. 

    And be aware, many other drivers are after those same savings, which means you’ll likely face long lines at the warehouse club fuel pumps. So you may want to get in line early in the morning to avoid the longest waits, Rossman says.

    Also keep in mind, you’ll be committing to shopping at a big-box store, where many of the best bargains come in bulk.

    If you’re not sure a warehouse club membership is worth it, there’s little risk to trying one out. All three warehouse clubs will allow you to join, cancel at any time, and get a refund.

    Comparing the Warehouse Clubs

    When it comes to deciding which warehouse club to join, you have two main options: Costco or Sam’s Club, which have locations throughout the country. A third chain, BJ’s Wholesale, can be found mainly in the Northeast. 

    Costco

    Membership cost: You can purchase a Gold Star membership for $60 a year, which gives you two membership cards, fill-up privileges at Costco’s onsite fueling stations, as well as access to in-store and online shopping. For $120 a year, you can do all that as well as earn 2 percent rewards and receive discounts on some services.

    Gas options: Costco only sells Top Tier Gas, a better-quality formulation that helps maintain car engines, according to a study by AAA. Be aware: You cannot pay cash at the pump, only through a Visa credit card. Costco also offers its own Visa credit card, which pays 4 percent back on gas purchases up to $7,000 per year, then drops to 1 percent. It also can be used anywhere that takes Visa.

    What else you’ll find: As you would expect, you can shop for a wide array of products, including groceries, electronics, tires, and more. Products sold under Costco’s private label brand, Kirkland, tend to be lower cost and are often highly rated

    In addition, Costco provides an array of services, including prescription drugs, auto buying, and travel. Recently, the club was advertising as much as $600 off sofas and sectionals, promising three to five business days for delivery.

    Sam’s Club

    Membership cost: A Club membership costs $45, which qualifies you for discounted gas. You can get a card for an additional household member. For $100 a year, you can get a Plus membership, which comes with 2 percent cash back, free shipping, and additional discounts.

    Gas options: Sam’s Club offers regular, premium, and diesel gas. Most major forms of payments are accepted. Sam’s also offers a MasterCard that pays 5 percent cash back up to a $6,000 annual cap, then 1 percent thereafter.

    What else you’ll find: As you would expect from the warehouse offshoot of Walmart, Sam’s sells a huge variety of household goods, groceries, and other products. It also sells lower-cost private label products under the Member’s Mark name.

    Like Costco, Sam’s Club provides other services, including prescription drugs, auto buying, and travel. Recent deals featured backyard furniture and grills.

    Update, April 27, 2022: Members of the new Walmart+ program can save up to 10 cents per gallon at Exxon, Mobil, Murphy, and Walmart stations and get member pricing at Sam’s Club fuel centers.

    BJ's Wholesale

    Membership cost: You’ll pay $55 for Inner Circle membership, which gives you access to discounted gas. You can receive a card for an additional household member. If you upgrade to Perks Reward membership, at $110, you get 2 percent cash back and travel benefits.

    Gas options: Regular, premium, and diesel gas are available. At BJ’s, gas discounts come through the purchase of eligible products, such as pet food and laundry detergent, a list that is regularly updated. Once you make that purchase, you automatically receive a 10-cent discount on each gallon of gas, and you may qualify for additional discounts.

    Members can also apply for a My BJ’s Perks Mastercard, which gives you 10 cents off per gallon of gas, as well as 3 percent cash back on in-club and BJs.com purchases, 2 percent on dining and non-BJ’s gas purchases, and 1 percent on everything else. 

    What else you’ll find: Although BJ’s does not offer the same array of services as the larger warehouse clubs, shoppers have access to a wide variety of groceries, household items, electronics, furniture, and more. Recently the club was offering $600 off plus free shipping for some TV brands. 

    BJ’s sells products under two private labels. Berkley Jensen can be found on a wide range of items, including vitamins, paper products, and luggage. Wellsley Farms is used for food products.

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    Penelope Wang

    I cover everything from retirement planning to taxes to college saving. My goal is to help people improve their finances, so they have less stress and more freedom. What I enjoy: walks through the city, time with family, and reading mysteries, though I rarely guess who did it. Follow me on Twitter (@PennyWriter).