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Costco and Sam’s Club are the two most popular wholesale retail chains. Sam’s Club is a subsidiary of Walmart while Costco is a publicly-traded company. Both seem to offer similar products, services, and are alike in shopping experiences. So, which one is better? Take a look at our analysis to see which one may be best for you.

How do membership costs compare?

Costco offers two personal membership tiers

  • $60 a year for the Everyday Value Gold Star membership. Benefits include two membership cards for you and someone in your household.
  • $120 a year for the Executive membership. Benefits include a 2% annual cash back reward on purchases (up to $1,000), two membership cards, and Costco Services discounts.

Sam’s Club also offers two membership tiers

  • $45 a year for the Basic membership. Benefits include complimentary membership with someone in your household.
  • $100 a year for the Plus membership. Benefits include 2% cash back on qualifying purchases (up to $500), two membership cards, and additional benefits and discounts.

Sam’s Club membership is $15 to $20 cheaper than Costco with similar benefits. So if price is your number one factor, then Sam’s Club may be best for you. However, there are other reasons why Costco may be worth the extra cost.

Who has more locations?

Costco currently has 829 locations worldwide, with 573 in the U.S. Sam’s Club has about 600 locations in the U.S. While Sam’s Club has slightly more locations in the U.S., Sam’s Club is only located in 44 states while Costco is in 46 states.

Costco has the most locations in California, and Sam’s Club’s largest presence is in Texas. Sam’s Club, however, is closing 10% of its locations, while Costco is aggressively looking to grow. Both have a similar number of locations in the U.S., so there is a good chance you have one nearby. Based on your location, it may be best to choose the one that is closest to you.

Who has better prices and selection?

Both chains offer bulk products with a no-frills shopping experience to keep prices low. Since they both sell different brands and sizes, it is difficult to compare. Costco is well known for its popular Kirkland brand. Kirkland products are often similar to name-brand products such as Starbucks and Duracell, but at cheaper prices.

Sam’s Club also has its own brand, Member’s Mark. It is not as well known as Kirkland, but Sam’s Club typically offers more brand-name products than Costco. If you want brand-name products at bulk costs, then Sam’s Club may be best for you. Due to the Kirkland brand, Costco typically has a lower price to unit compared to its brand-name competitors. If you care more about costs than name brand, then Costco may be best for you.

Which offers better branded credit card perks?

Like many other rewards credit cards, both Costco and Sam’s Club offer their own branded credit cards. You can use the credit cards as a membership card as well. Both are similar in that they offer identical cash back rewards for dining, travel, and gas.

When it comes to credit cards, Costco Gold Star members receive 2% cash back on all purchases, double the 1% that Sam’s Club members receive on the Sam’s Club equivalent membership tier. However, those on Sam’s Club Plus membership will receive 3% while the higher level members of Costco still receive 2%.

Sam’s Club Mastercard holders earn 5% cash back on gas (on first $6,000 per year, then 1% after), 3% cash back on dining, and 1% cash back on other purchases. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is similar, with 4% rewards on eligible gas (on the first $7,000 per year and then 1% after), 3% on restaurants and eligible travel, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% for all other eligible purchases.

Sam’s Club vs. Costco: Which is better?

Both Costco and Sam’s Club offer similar products, services, and shopping experiences. You can’t go wrong with either one of them. While Costco has higher membership costs, its high-quality Kirkland products are popular. Sam’s Club has more brand-name products and offers similar benefits to Costco. Choosing the right one is primarily based on personal preference.

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By Harriet