You don't need a membership to shop online—but you should read this first.

By Zee Krstic
February 06, 2019
Getty: ablokhin

Here at Cooking Light, we've become experts on how Costco operates its massive membership-only warehouses. We've discovered the best healthy staples to buy in stores; nutritious options to eat in Costco's cafeteria; the secret-but-amazing benefit of every membership and how to actually shop at Costco without paying for one(!) among other things.

And we've been covering the best sales each month, too (here's what to look for in February). We've also found that, believe it or not, Costco lets you shop online—and you don't need a membership to do it.

Unlike its stores, Costco.com is open to anyone and everyone with a debit or credit card and a Paypal account—but there are some special rules and regulations about shopping with the wholesaler online. For paying members, shopping online is as easy as logging into an account tied to your membership card.

But if you're interested in shopping at Costco.com and don't have a membership, here's what you need to know:

1) Some of the best deals are for members only

Photo courtesy of Costco.

More often than not, you'll find that certain promotions and steeply discounted items are marked as a "member only" deal. This month, for example, Costco is slashing the price of a brand new cordless Dyson V10 vacuum by $80—but you'll only be able to purchase the item with membership credentials. The easiest way around this, besides ponying up the $60 for a membership, is to ask a friend to make a purchase for you.

2) You won't be paying the same prices

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In addition to dealing with member exclusives, non members will not enjoy the same price on online items as Costco membership holders. Shoppers will have to pay an additional five percent surcharge on each item ordered, so if you're thinking of using the site to order groceries, you might want to sign up for a membership instead.

3) To get groceries delivered, use another site

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While you are able to purchase edible items directly on Costco.com, Instacart also offers same-day grocery delivery from Costco—even to non members. You'll have to pay higher prices on groceries than you would if you were a member, and there's also a $35 minimum on all orders. Costco notes that those using Instacart will not have access to warehouse deals, and Instacart will only deliver groceries (so you can't order appliances or furniture through this app).

4) Costco's return policy also applies online

Costco is known for a pretty generous return policy (but don't abuse it!) and this policy also works for products online. Purchases from Costco.com can be returned for a full refund by mail with no extra charge—plus, you can bring the item into your local Costco warehouse to make a return, even if you're not a Costco member.  

5) Costco's price match also applies to past orders

You should know that there's a price match guarantee in place at Costco—but it only applies to items actually purchased at Costco and not at competitors. Fortunately, it applies to orders made online at Costco as well. If you've made a purchase online and notice that it becomes cheaper within 30 days, you can request a price match online here.

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