Costco vs Sam's Club: What's the Difference? (2023)

Wholesalers Costco and Sam's Club are known for their competitively low prices, mass-produced items, and no-frills shopping experience. They both sell pretty much anything you can think of in a camp environment. At first glance, it can be difficult to determine which of the two is the better option.

These two wholesalers offer a similar range of products at similar prices and have a more or less equal number of stores across the country - as well as their own respective online storesEcommerceplatforms. Both also require customers to paymembership feesBuying from them, which helps increase sales, cover costs and create customer loyalty.

In this article, we'll look at how thebusiness modelsfrom Costco and Sam's Club are the same, but also break down how they differ, including in terms of pricing, locations, and brand choices.

The central theses

  • Costco and Sam's Club have very similar business models.
  • Costco is a public company while Sam's Club is a subsidiary of Walmart.
  • Costco's membership fees are more expensive, but prices are a bit lower -- thanks in part to its own-brand products like Kirkland.
  • Costco has more stores worldwide, but Sam's Club has more stores in the US.
  • Costco's stores are, on average, nearly 9% larger by square foot.


Costco is credited with being the original mass retailer, opening its first location in San Diego in 1976. Since then, it has sold bulk goods through numerous warehouse-style stores and conquered the market in many states.


At the end of its existence, Costco had 815 stores worldwideFiscal year (FY)2021 (ended August 29, 2021), including 564 in the United States and Puerto Rico.The company has aggressively opened new warehouses over the years, including in fiscal 2021 when it opened 22 of them.

There are 131 Costco stores in California alone. Other strong states include Texas (35), Washington (32), and Florida (28), while four states do not have Costco stores -- Maine, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Costco also has stores outside of the US, including in Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and other countries.

At the end of each fiscal year 2021, Costco had 564 stores in the U.S., while Sam's Club had 599.

(Video) 🔥COSTCO vs🔥SAM'S CLUB 2022 | Which Store is better? | Memberships, Prices, Products and more

membership fees

Costco offers twomembershipLevels: Gold Star and Gold Star Executive. Gold Star Membership costs $60 per year and offers access to all stores and two membership cards, while Gold Star Executive Membership costs $120 per year and additional perks like 2%CashbackRewards (up to $1,000) on all Costco and Costco Travel purchases, discounts on many Costco services, and home deliveryCostco connectionMagazine.

It's worth noting that Costco also offers a business-focused membership. This also includes two levels: Business and Business Executive. The Business tier costs $60 per year and includes the benefits individuals enjoy plus the ability to buy for resale. For twice the price of $120, the Business Executive tier adds a few extras, including a 2% cash back bonus (up to $1,000) on purchases, as well as other benefits similar to the Gold Star Executive package.

Benefits and Perks

Costco membership provides access to a variety of different products and services, including gas, pharmacies, car rentals and optometrists, often at lower than normal prices. For business customers, Costco also offers additional third-party services such as B. Payment processing, health insurance and delivery of bottled water.

Costco has one tooCredit cardFor members. The card is co-branded with Citi and offers 4% cashback on the first $7,000 spent on fuel per year (1% thereafter), 3% on dining and travel, 2% on all other Costco purchases, and 1 % off all other purchases - Co-branded card offered by Costco and Citi can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted.

Finally, it's worth noting that Costco sells more private label products than Sam's Club. As a shopper, you're likely to find more branded items at Sam's Club. However, Costco offers its popular store brand Kirkland in its stores. Kirkland items are often cheaper than most other products, but they're still made by big-name companies like Starbucks, Duracell, and Kimberly-Clark. Most Costco stores also offer a larger selection of organic products than Sam's Club.

Costco's private label products like Kirkland are cheaper than name brand products but are made by many well known companies like Starbucks, Perrigo, Duracell and Kimberly-Clark.


Costco is alisted companyunder the ticker symbol COST with a market value of approximately US$223 billion (as of November 11, 2021).It has several smaller onessubsidiaries, such as Costco Travel and Kirkland branded products, and is primarily focused on its brick-and-mortar and online retail stores.

(Video) The Truth About Costco vs Sams Club (Watch THIS Before You Decide)

In FY2021, net revenue excluding dues was $192 billion, up from $163 billion in the previous FYnet resultgrew 25% to just over $5 billion during that period. Financially, too, Costco is in good shape and healthy enoughbalance sheetto weather a downturn and comfortably continue investing in its business where it sees fit.

Sam's club

Walmart's Sam's Club is nearly as old as Costco, opening its first store in Midwest City, Okla, in 1983. They're very similar in terms of business models -- both selling bulk items to customers who pay for membership. However, there are a few things that separate the two retailers, including the locations of the stores, the types of brands they sell, the cost of membership fees, and additional perks.


Sam's Club operates 599 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico. Unlike Costco, however, it hasn't expanded aggressively and has kept the number of stores relatively constant over the past few years.

The highest concentration of Sam's Club stores is in Texas, home to 82 of them, followed by Florida with 46 and California with 29. The Walmartsubsidiaryhowever, is not found across the country - there are no Sam's Club stores in Alaska, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

membership fees

Like Costco, Sam's Club offers two levels of membership. The first is called Club, which includes access to all of its warehouse clubs plus the ability to add additional cards for $45 per year. Then there's the higher-tier Plus membership for $100 a year, which offers all the perks of the club plus other perks — 2% cashback on certain transactions (for up to $500 a year), free shipping, earlier Access to shops and more access to pharmacies and optical services. Overall, both Sam's Club membership tiers are cheaper than Costco's.

Benefits and Perks

For a relatively small fee, Sam's Club members get access to reasonably priced stores that stock just about everything. There are also discounts on certain goods and services for higher-ranking members, such as glasses, fuel, travel, and branded medicines.

Sam's Club also offers a credit card. The firmsMasterCardis issued by Synchrony Bank and works anywhere credit cards are accepted. Mastercard perks include 5% cashback on the first $6,000 of fuel purchases per year, then 1% thereafter. In addition, the card offers 3% cashback on dine-in and 1% on all other purchases.


Sam's Club made $64 billionnet salesa third of what Costco recorded during fiscal 2021. However, Sam's Club's parent company, Walmart, has $414 billionmarket capAs of November 11, 2021, which is nearly twice Costco's dollar market value.

For the fiscal year 2021 ended January 31, 2021, Sam's Club reported an 8.7% increase in net sales and a 16.1% increase in net salesoperating result. In the previous fiscal year, before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation, those same metrics were up 1.6% and 8.0%, respectively.

Key differences between Costco and Sam's Club

Costco and Sam's Club operate very similar businesses, although there are several differences that separate the two and make each one unique. First of all, Costco is a public company that trades on the Nasdaq under theTicker-SymbolCOSTS. Sam's Club, on the other hand, is a subsidiary of Walmart, trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker WMT.

Membership dues from Costcoare more expensivethan Sam's Club - it's $15 and $20 more per year for the base level and top level, respectively. Meanwhile, Sam's Club offers more brand names, while Costco stocks more private label and organic goods.

(Video) Costco vs Sams Club: The Ultimate Comparison

In terms of location, Costco has a larger international footprint and stores than Sam's Club, despite not being in the United States. California is the state with the most Costco stores, while Sam's Club has its largest footprint in Texas. Both retailers have also refrained from opening stores in some states, although only one, Rhode Island, has neither a Costco nor a Sam's Club.

Costco has more stores around the world, is expanding rapidly, and generally offers cheaper prices than Sam's Club, although the latter charges slightly less for membership, has a larger US presence, and carries more brands.

Right now, Costco comfortably beats Sam's Club in the sales category, generating about three times as much revenue, although that's largertop lineis perhaps to be expected given the higher number of global stores. Costco also has slightly larger stores, averaging 146,000 square feet compared to Sam's Club, which averages 134,000.

One clear takeaway is that Costco appears to be growing faster, both in terms of store count and revenue. Sam's Club closed several stores a few years ago - about 10% of its number of stores at the time. Meanwhile, Costco has seen a steady string of net store openings.

Which is better, Costco or Sam's Club?

That depends on your personal preferences, e.g. B. on what type of products you buy and which of these two retailers is a reasonable distance from your home.

Both companies have similar business models, sell comparable goods and services, and only grant access to paying members. Location aside, the main differences between them are the brands they sell, extra perks, and annual membership fees -- Sam's Club costs a little less. Ultimately, it is up to each consumer to decide which one he prefers.

(Video) Costco vs Sams Club (Who ACTUALLY has the cheapest prices?)

Do Costco or Sam's Club have better prices?

Overall, prices tend to be cheaper at Costco. However, Sam's Club offers a larger selection of branded products and a cheaper membership fee.

Can I use my Costco membership at Sam's Club?

No, Costco memberships only work in Costco stores and online at The same goes for Sam's Club, where membership is limited to Sam's Club stores and e-commerce platform.

Is Sam's Club cheaper than Walmart?

Overall, Sam's Club is cheaper per product unit. However, at Sam's Club you spend more overall because you are buying more of a product (i.e. in bulk). At Sam's Club, you might spend 45 cents a roll of toilet paper, but you're buying 45 rolls, so you're spending $20.25. At Walmart, you can spend $8.57 for the same toilet paper, but you get 12 rolls, which is 71 cents a roll.

The final result

The typical customer for warehouses like Costco and Sam's Club are those who like to save money when buying in bulk. However, making a purchase this way doesn't always translate well to online shopping, as delivery of bulk items can be cumbersome.

Shopping at warehouse locations can be prohibitive for customers who don't have the storage space (e.g. freezer size to accommodate bulk shopping) or the money for a more expensive shopping spree compared to, say, Walmart. The average transaction total is higher at bulk retailers than at discounters because, even though you get cheaper unit prices, you buy more overall.

For many shoppers, it comes down to which store is closer to home. Other than that, there isn't much difference in terms of member pricing or product pricing. Part of the choice between the two comes down to shopping experience (e.g. asCostco consumerYou can get a $1.50 hot dog combo).

Of course, not everyone is familiar with these stores and understandably wants to test them out before making a choice and paying for membership. At Sam's Club, you can achieve this by signing up for a 90-day free trial. Unfortunately, Costco doesn't offer such an option. If you want to visit one of his stores, you'll have to befriend a member or hope no one asks for a card the day you show up.


(Frugal Fit Mom)
2. Costco vs Sam's Club | Which Is Better?
(She's In Her Apron)
4. COSTCO VS SAMS CLUB 2021 | Which Is better?! | Everything you need to know!
(Brittany Rose)
5. Can Moms Taste the Difference? Costco vs Sam's Club
6. Costco vs. Sam's Club: What's the Difference? | Know Everything Today!
(The Business Hour)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terence Hammes MD

Last Updated: 04/25/2023

Views: 6503

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (69 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terence Hammes MD

Birthday: 1992-04-11

Address: Suite 408 9446 Mercy Mews, West Roxie, CT 04904

Phone: +50312511349175

Job: Product Consulting Liaison

Hobby: Jogging, Motor sports, Nordic skating, Jigsaw puzzles, Bird watching, Nordic skating, Sculpting

Introduction: My name is Terence Hammes MD, I am a inexpensive, energetic, jolly, faithful, cheerful, proud, rich person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.