Consumer Alert: Are warehouse memberships worth it?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Are you thinking about a warehouse membership? Do you ask yourself whether they’re worth the annual membership fees? I did the research for you. You should first consider the size of your family. Are you going to buy enough products in bulk to make the membership fees worthwhile? Warehouse members get the biggest savings from the following three areas"

  • Gas.
  • Bulk buys of nonperishable products.
  • Big-ticket items like tires and electronics.

In Monday’s Consumer Alert I shared that my family has three drivers, and at current prices, we save more than $88 a month on gas alone, which more than pays for our annual $60 membership fee at Costco.

If you decide to buy a membership, which should you choose? In the Rochester area, we have BJ’s and Costco. I researched comparative analysis done by Business Insider, Consumer Reports, US News and World Reports and CNBC.

Let’s dig into it. The membership fee is about the same, $60 for Costco and $55 for BJ’s. Consumer Reports surveyed about 75,000 members and Costco scored slightly higher for cleanliness, customer service and product quality. Costco got 86 out of 100 points and BJ’s got 79. Consumer Reports also gives very high quality ratings to Costco’s signature brand, Kirkland. And if you prefer organic products, Costco is your choice. It now has more organic offerings than Whole Foods. For all of those reasons as well as Costco’s vast selection of products, Business Insider gave Costco the nod over BJ’s.

But CNBC compared online product prices from both Warehouse clubs and found that BJ’s prices were lower than Costco’s price for 18 of 26 household staples like paper towels, toilet paper, and diapers.

And here’s something else to consider. While most wholesale clubs don’t take coupons.. BJ’s is a coupon clipper’s Camelot. Shoppers rave about how good the store coupons are, and BJ’s also accepts manufacturers’ coupons allowing the savvy shopper to double up on savings.

In short, the shopping gurus who analyzed both these warehouse clubs found that both provide significant savings. Your choice largely depends on which warehouse best fits your family’s needs.

If you decide on a membership, never pay the full membership fee to join. There are always promotions, coupons, and Groupons. Right now BJ’s is offering membership for less than half of its usual $55 fee. It’s a bargain at $25. Click here.

Costco is offering a $10 gift card to new members. Click here.