How to get double cash back at Costco

Cashing In columnist Tony Mecia
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for

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Question Dear Cashing In,
Is there any benefit to combining the Costco executive membership with the Costco Anywhere Visa over just a regular Costco membership combined with the same Costco Anywhere Visa? – Dan

Answer Dear Dan,
When Costco switched its co-branded credit card from American Express to Citi in June 2016, it generated a lot of buzz. It’s not everyday that a major company such as Costco just switches credit card providers.

Holders of the old American Express Costco card had their accounts transferred to Citi, and they received new Costco Anywhere Visa cards (no annual fee, but Costco membership required). The change also meant that Costco members could begin using any Visa card at Costco, which opened up all kinds of reward card possibilities. Previously, Costco accepted only American Express, which has a more limited menu of reward cards.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, using the new Visa card at Costco can help you save money on gas. It will also help you save in your travels since the card removed its foreign transaction fee in January 2018.

Of course, it also helps you at Costco, because the card gives you 2 percent back on purchases at Costco and its website, Ordinarily, the card earns just 1 percent back on purchases, except on gas (4 percent) and travel and restaurants (3 percent).

Generally, if you happen to spend a lot of money at a particular store, it can make a lot of sense to have the credit card affiliated with that store. That’s because many of these cards offer discounts or bonuses for purchases made at that store. For instance, that’s true of the Nordstrom Visa card (2x points at Nordstrom), the Target Redcard (works only at Target, but gets you 5 percent off) and the Toys R Us MasterCard (8x points at Toys R Us and Babies R Us, plus 10 percent off in-store purchases every Thursday).

The same holds true at Costco.

To be eligible for the Costco Anywhere Visa, you have to be a Costco member. The basic membership – Gold – is $55 a year (plus tax). There is also an Executive membership that costs $110 a year (plus tax). That earns you 2 percent back on Costco purchases. That rebate, of course, is in addition to the money you save from buying, say, your peanut butter in 48-ounce vats.

Now, you can combine an Executive membership with the Visa card, to give you in effect 4 percent back at Costco. Like the card, the Executive membership rewards come in the form of an annual certificate redeemable at Costco stores.

Whether it makes sense to pay the additional $55 for an Executive membership depends on how much you spend, and it doesn’t matter if you have the Visa card or not, because the card rewards are calculated separately. If you spend more than $2,750 a year at Costco, it makes sense to splurge for the Executive membership ($2,750 x 2 percent = $55). That works out to about $230 a month.

That might sound like a lot to spend at a warehouse club, but if you have a small business, an infant in diapers or hungry teenagers, you can hit that amount pretty quickly.

See related: Save money on gas, at Costco and elsewhere, Which cards maximize rewards at grocery stores?, FAQs on new Costco Citi Visa card


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Updated: 02-18-2019