You have several ways to earn Costco cash back: Sign up for the Executive membership, get the Costco Anywhere Visa Card or use a general cash back rewards card.
If you have a membership at Costco, there’s a decent chance you allot a good chunk of your household spending to the bulk retailer. The most basic membership costs $60 per year, after all, so you’ll want to get your money’s worth in savings.
Luckily, savers can rejoice. When it comes to Costco, there are a lot more ways to save beyond just buying in bulk. Some of these methods require an up-front investment, though, and others require you to choose: Earn better rewards at Costco or smaller rewards at other stores, too? It can be confusing, but we’ll walk you through exactly how to get the most cash back for your situation.
Can I get cash back at Costco?
- Sign up for the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
- Upgrade to a Costco Gold Star Executive membership
- Pay with a general cash back credit card
Depending on your family’s needs, one or more of these might be your best option. Let’s dive into each one.
Cash back with the Costco Visa card
The most lucrative way to earn cash back at Costco is to sign up for the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi. This card offers 2% cash back on all your normal Costco purchases. It’ll even do you one better, too: You’ll earn 4% cash back on gas purchases, on up to the first $7,000 spent in this category each year (after that, it’s just 1% cash back), plus 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases. There’s also no annual fee.
You should be aware of a few downsides, though. You can only use your cash back rewards at Costco. The redemption strategy is also a little wonky – you’ll only get access to your cash back once per year, in February, when you’ll be issued a certificate for all of your earnings over the previous year. You can use this certificate whenever you want, up until when it expires at the end of the year.
If you close your account, you’ll lose all your rewards. This is a big bummer if, for example, you close your account in January. You’d then lose all your cash back rewards you’ve been accumulating since last February. Thus, February – right after you receive your certificate – is the best time to close your account if you’re worried about losing rewards.
See related: Costco Anywhere Visa is popular, but is it worth it?
Cash back with a Costco membership
Costco’s Gold Star membership ($60 per year) is its most basic tier, and you don’t get much extra besides the ability to shop at Costco. If you’re willing to bump up to the Gold Star Executive membership ($120 per year), though, you’ll get 2% cash back on all your Costco spending, up to a maximum reward of $1,000 per year.
To figure out whether the Executive membership makes sense for you – whether you’re new to Costco or considering a membership upgrade – try to estimate how much you spend (or would spend) each month at Costco, and multiply by 12 to calculate your annual spending. The break-even point is $6,000 if you’re new to Costco or $3,000 to recoup the extra cost to upgrade an existing Gold Star Costco membership.
The way you use your Costco rewards is similar to the options with the Costco Anywhere Visa Card. You’ll be mailed a certificate once per year – about three months before your membership renews – with all the cash back you’ve earned over the previous months. Again, you’ll need to be aware of when your membership renews so that if you cancel your membership, you don’t lose out on a year’s worth of cash back.
Cash back with a general cash back card
Signing up for the Costco Anywhere Visa Card and the Executive level of membership are good ways to earn cash back at Costco. But they have some downsides – you can only use your rewards at Costco, and you only get access to your rewards once per year.
If you’d prefer to use your cash back wherever and whenever you want, a better option might be to apply for a more general cash back rewards card. Keep in mind that Costco warehouses only accept Visa if you’re using a credit card, though. Stay away from American Express or Discover cards if you’re looking for a good card to use at Costco.
Two particularly good choices are the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card and the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card, both of which offer 2% cash rewards rate at warehouses like Costco.
While you might not earn quite as high of a rate with these cards (2% cash back versus up to 4% cash back on Costco gas purchases), you’ll earn it more consistently. By contrast, you can use your Costco Anywhere Visa Card at any store, but you’ll only earn 1% cash back on non-Costco purchases.
Which of these strategies is best for you depends on your spending habits and whether you prefer higher-earning rewards or more flexible rewards.
If you spend more than $6,000 per year at Costco and your goal is to maximize your cash back, we recommend signing up for both the Executive membership level and the Costco Anywhere Visa Card. Paired together, you’ll earn a total of 6% on gas purchases (on up to $7,000 worth of gas per year), and 4% on all your other Costco spending. But you pay for it with less flexible rewards: You only get your certificates once per year, and they can only be used at Costco.
If you spend less than $6,000 per year at Costco or want the flexibility to use your rewards whenever and wherever you want, we recommend opting instead for a general cash back rewards card and a basic Gold Star membership. And, of course, if you don’t mind managing multiple cards, you can always sign up for a general cash back card even if you opt for the Costco Anywhere Visa Card so that you can still earn cash back rewards at other stores, too.