We're Sam's Club Members Even Though I Like Costco Much Better. Here's Why

I really like Costco. The store’s Kirkland brand products are great, and the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo is one of the most bank-account friendly meals I’ve ever come across (albeit, perhaps not one of the healthiest meal options out there!)

Despite my desire to be a Costco member, I’m not one. Instead, I’m a Sam’s Club member — which is fine. There’s one very simple reason why I’ve opted to be a Sam’s member even though Costco is my true love.

It’s a location issue

The reason that I’m a Sam’s Club member instead of a Costco member is simply that there are no Costco warehouse clubs within 45 minutes of my house, but there is a Sam’s Club 15 minutes away.

Location is a really important factor when choosing which warehouse club to join. There are around 600 Sam’s Club locations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and about 603 Costco locations. But while each warehouse club has a similar number of stores, they tend to be located in different areas.

It can make very little sense to pick the one that’s farther away — even if you do have a preference for it — because the distance may make you visit less. And it will definitely increase the fuel costs you’re charging to your credit cards.

You want to get your money’s worth out of the membership fees you’re paying so your personal finances don’t take a needless hit. Sadly, if you have to take a day-long field trip every time you need a rotisserie chicken or an industrial-size jar of mustard, odds are you’ll skip it and just go to your closest grocery store instead.

This would mean you not only wasted the cost of a membership you don’t use often, but you’re also losing extra money by buying at a local (often more expensive) store if a warehouse club would have had a better deal. You’re far better off joining your closer, less-preferred, club so you can visit more often to take advantage of their deals.

Since I do like Costco better and we do live in the age of the internet, it may seem like I could potentially get away with just shopping online at my preferred club. Sadly, the nature of warehouse shopping means that’s not a good option.

Many of the best deals at these types of clubs are groceries or household items. Things like industrial-size packs of blueberries or extra-large frozen pizzas don’t really tend to ship very well. Plus, Costco charges higher prices online than in store, so I wouldn’t be getting the best deals if I became a member and mostly ordered over the internet.

Since getting discounted gas is another major perk of club membership, passing up that perk would be another downside to just joining Costco and using the internet to buy stuff.

The reality is, when you’re picking a warehouse club, you need to think about where you’re likely to be able to shop in person often and without hassle. That’s true even if you get stuck with one club when you’d have preferred another. Only by picking a club that’s close — and that you’ll actually visit — do you set yourself up for your membership being worth the cash you paid for it.

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