Sam's Club Vs. Costco: Which Membership Perks Are Better?

In a world increasingly full of membership fees, one may wonder if it's actually ever worth it to join the club. From grocery delivery to greeting cards, streaming channels to monthly subscriptions that cancel other subscription services, customers might be fatigued by anything touting itself as remotely "members only." However, that membership fatigue might not apply when it comes to Sam's Club and Costco.

These two warehouse-club titans offer myriad discount goods and services for a yearly membership fee. Both stores stock typical items associated with big-box retailers, such as bulk paper towels, toilet paper, and canned goods. But avid shoppers of either chain know there's much more on offer within those fluorescent-lit caverns than pallets of shelf-stable milk.

To be clear, both stores offer shelf-stable milk, and then some. Deals on travel, optometry services, prescription medications, sports tickets, hearing aids, photo services, home improvement, business needs, and more await shoppers at the other end of a Sam's Club or Costco membership. But whether scooping up one membership (or both), when it comes to Sam's Club versus Costco, which club's membership perks are better?

Sam's Club membership perks

Sam's Club offers two tiers of membership. The base option is the Club membership, for $50 a year, and the higher tier is Plus, for $110. Both memberships include a card for the primary account holder, plus an additional card for one other member. Note that additional club-level members can be added to the account for a reduced fee of $45 a year on the Club or Plus membership, with a limit of eight add-ons for the Club primary membership, and 16 add-ons under the Plus option.

Baseline perks shared between the options include Sam's Club's daily savings on name-brand and private-label Member's Mark items and services, as well as Scan & Go benefits, allowing members to scan items and pay via phone app. But the Plus membership perks are where things get interesting. Plus perks include early shopping hours before the store opens, potential for additional optical and pharmacy service discounts, as well as free shipping and curbside pickup. Plus members can earn 2% back in Sam's Cash (up to $500 a year) for qualifying items, and receive even higher percentages back on qualifying purchases if they also hold a Sam's Club Mastercard.

Bigger-ticket Plus membership benefits like 50% discounts on full-set tire installations, access to discounted Broadway, Disney, and sports tickets, and deals on rental car, hotel, and travel might be for some shoppers enough reason not to renew their Costco membership and opt for a Sam's Club card instead.

Costco membership perks

Costco offers three membership options: the base Gold Star for $60 a year, the Executive for $120, and Business for $60. Business members can add affiliate members for $60 a year as well. While all three options offer access to Costco's discounts, Executive members earn 2% back toward an annual Reward Certificate (up to $1,000) that can be used on qualifying Costco purchases. While the Costco memberships are a little pricier than Sam's Club memberships, the potential for loyalty rewards is higher, especially for shoppers who stock up on essentials or specialty items at Costco.

Those specialty items and services (did you know you can now buy gold bars from Costco?) might be enough to lock customers into a Costco membership. Much like Sam's Club, Costco offers a host of everyday savings on food, fuel, furniture, staples, business supplies, etc. Still, Costco's Kirkland Signature-brand items inspire a cult following, unlike Sam's Club's Member's Mark roster. Further, its prescription drug prices and return policy are often considered best-in-class, and cardholders of the Costco Anywhere Visa enjoy even more perks when spending at Costco and beyond, including 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging.

Both Costco and Sam's Club offer its members all-inclusive travel packages at a discount, though Costco's selection is greater. Further, both memberships are valid worldwide, meaning, if you have a Costco card or a Sam's Club card, you can shop at any Costco or Sam's Club in any country. That said, while Costco operates in 13 other countries outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico (Canada, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, China, Spain, France, Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden), Sam's Club only has three international locations: Mexico, Brazil, China.