Costco vs. Sam's Club vs. BJ's: We Compared Their Fees, Prices & Perks in 2024

Save money this year by discovering the top 3 differences between Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's. This way, you're choosing a wholesale club membership that works best for your budget.

costco vs sam's club vs bj's

Saving money is nearly everyone's yearly resolution, and yet, today's economy makes it difficult to do so. Fortunately, shopping at membership-based wholesale clubs can be a great way to maximize savings and stick to a budget. But how do you know which wholesale club is best for you?

Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's are the three major U.S. wholesale clubs. Costco and Sam's Club have close to 600 locations nationwide, while BJ's has a little over a third of that number and is primarily located on the East Coast. 

Each of these clubs shares different membership fees, product pricing models, and various perks, making it even trickier to decide between the three. Therefore, to make things easier, we've done the research and compiled the top 3 major differences between these major wholesale clubs.


The Top 3 Differences Between Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's


1. Membership Fees

The annual membership fees and levels may be one of the first things to consider before joining a wholesale club. Each of these major clubs offers both a basic-level membership and a 'plus'-level membership with additional benefits. 

Depending on your budget, household size, and anticipated shopping needs, the basic-level memberships may suffice or the additional services and benefits from the upgraded membership may be more advantageous. 

Here are the different membership levels and fees:

  • BJ's Wholesale Club: The Inner Circle membership costs $55 per year normally (but only $30 when you use our exclusive link!), while the Perks Rewards membership, which includes 2% cash back on purchases, pharmacy and optical savings, free shipping for online orders, and other membership deals is $110 annually.
  • Costco: The Gold Star membership is $60 a year, and the Gold Star Executive Membership, which includes additional benefits such as a 2% reward on eligible purchases, is $120 annually.

Based on these rates, BJ's Perks Rewards Membership may offer the best value, but each of the clubs are relatively similar when it comes to membership fees. 


2. Product Pricing

Product pricing is the next big factor to consider when comparing wholesale club memberships. After all, why would you pay $11 for a bag of avocados at Costco if BJ's prices that same-sized bag at $9? This is a minor example, but a scenario that could mean the difference of $100s spent—or saved—over the course of a year. 

To ensure you're getting the best value for the products you buy most often, preview each of the store's listed product prices before enrolling. This is the best way to determine if your family's specific recurring purchases will be at the best rates. 


3. Member Perks and Benefits

The perks and benefits that come from being a member is the final—and most fun—factor to consider when comparing clubs. If you want discounted access to travel features, optical services, or tire care, for example, a BJ's Wholesale Membership Deals may be right for you. 

Here are some of the member perks and benefits for each club:

  • BJ's Wholesale Club: 
    • BJ's Optical Center: BJ's Wholesale Club offers an Optical Center that provides comprehensive eye exams, prescription glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses.
    • BJ's Travel Perks: BJ's Wholesale Club offers a Travel program that provides exclusive savings on vacation packages, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and more.
    • Wireless Discounts: BJ's Wholesale Club offers wireless discounts to its members through its partnership with AT&T. Members can save $10/mo. Per line on AT&T's best-unlimited plan and up to $700 on a new smartphone. 
    • BJ's Tire Center: BJ's Wholesale Club offers a Tire Center that provides a wide range of tires for cars, SUVs, and trucks. They not only provide tire selection, but also installation and general tire care tips, rotation services, and inflation. 
    • BJ's Home Improvement: BJ's Wholesale Club offers a Home Improvement program that provides exclusive benefits to its members. Some of these benefits include 10% off or 12 months interest-free financing on home improvement projects; professional installation and remodeling; and exclusive access to a network of BJ's-certified contractors.
    • Manufacturer's Coupons: So far, BJ's is also the only wholesale club that accepts all traditional manufacturer's coupons. If you like collecting coupons for even steeper savings, a membership at BJ's can help you save even more money. 
  • Costco:
    • Grocery Discounts: Costco offers some of the most competitive prices on bulk groceries and household items. A 60ct box of gallon Freezer Ziploc bags at Walmart, for example, is $10.86; at Costco, you can get that same product but with 152 bags—more than double—for just $6 more. 
    • Gas Discounts: With a Costco membership, you gain access to their exclusive gas stations, which can be up 20 cents-per-gallon cheaper than other area gas stations. 
    • Travel Discounts: Costco's own travel program, Costco Travel, offers its members exclusive travel package deals plus 2% cashback on travel purchases. Some travel package destinations include New York City, Costa Rica, Fiji, Budapest, Amsterdam, and more. 
    • Auto Discounts: Through the Costco Auto Program, Costco members can get discounts on new and pre-owned vehicles from Costco-vetted dealers. Members can also get discounts on tire services for their current vehicle.  
    • Costco Membership Prescription Program: Costco members can get their prescriptions filled at the Costco Pharmacy, which typically holds prices competitive to other pharmacies. Plus, at no additional cost, members can opt into the Costco Membership Prescription Program to get savings on recurring prescriptions. 
  • Sam's Club:
    • Member Add-Ons: Sam's Club Plus members can add on up to 16 club-level members to their account for just $45 each.
    • Free Shipping: Sam's Club offers free shipping on most online orders for both primary and household cardholders.
    • Free Curbside Pickup: Cardholders can enjoy free curbside pickup when orders are placed online.
    • Optical Discounts: Sam's Club members get 20% off their prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses purchase when a complete pair is bought.
    • 2% Cashback: Sam's Club Plus Rewards members get 2% cashback on all qualifying purchases.

Which Has the Cheapest Groceries: BJ's, Costco, or Sam's Club?

Shopping the cheapest grocery stores, like Trader Joe's or Aldi, can be one way to save big on groceries. Another way? Becoming a member of a wholesale club. Wholesale clubs like BJ's, Costco, and Sam's Club often have even better prices than cheaper grocery stores because the items are packaged and sold in bulk, reducing the unit price substantially. 

But which of these clubs has the cheapest groceries? Based on a price comparison study of groceries, Sam's Club offers the best value on groceries among BJ's, Costco, and Sam's Club. This is largely due to its parent company, Walmart, and its buying power, which allows for lower prices. 

Another comparison by Insider found that Costco has better prices on more grocery staples than Sam's Club, but Sam's Club still had the lowest price points overall. BJ's is a potential middle ground for most people.

Here are some price examples to compare:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast (per pound):
    • Sam's Club: $2.68/lb
    • BJ's Wholesale: $15.72-$24.70 for 3.5-7.5lbs
    • Costco: $139.99 for 11lbs (12-pack of chicken breasts, about $12/lb) and $149.99 for 10lbs (20-pack of chicken breasts, about $15/lb)
  • Pasta:
    • Sam's Club: $8.52 for 6-pk of 16oz Barilla pasta variety pack
    • BJ's Wholesale: $8.79 for 6-pk of 16oz Barilla elbow pasta
    • Costco: $12.99 for 6-pk of 17.6oz of Garofalo Organic Pasta
  • Peanut Butter:
    • Sam's Club: $11.66 for 48oz 2 pk of Jif Creamy (or about $5.83 each)
    • BJ's Wholesale: $11.79 for 48oz 2 pk of Jif Extra Creamy (or about $5.89 each)
    • Costco: $12.99 for 28oz 2-ct of Kirkland Signature Peanut Butter (or about $6.60 each)

Store Locations

BJ's Wholesale Club is the smallest of the three wholesale clubs, but still has over 200 locations in 17 states, primarily in the Eastern United States, as well as in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Tennessee. The states where BJ's Wholesale Club is present include Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina. 

Costco is the second largest club with more than 500 stores in the U.S. and stores also in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, Australia, Spain, France, Iceland, and Sweden. 

Sam's Club is the largest of the three, with almost 600 clubs across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. With 81 stores, Texas holds the largest amount of Sam's Club locations. The majority of the rest can be found along the East Coast. 

To find a club near you, be sure to use the Store Locator tool on each club's website. 


Final Thoughts: Decide What's Right For You With a Free Membership Trial

From this research, Sam's Club appears to offer the best value, with it's competitive club membership pricing, product pricing, perks and benefits, and geographical availability. 

However, similar to how you might take a free trial class at a new gym or use a trial subscription for a new streaming platform, a free trial membership with one of these wholesale clubs can be instrumental in comparing the three, particularly if you've never shopped one or any of them. 

Here are each of the club's free trial options:

  • See if BJ's Membership Deals are right for you with a BJ's One-Day Online Pass.
  • Take advantage of the Free Trial offer from Sam's Club, which can be canceled for totally free at any time during the trial period. 
  • Costco doesn't offer a formal free trial; however, you can join and then cancel anytime for a full refund if it's not right for you

And for more money-saving tips, be sure to follow MySavings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


- Vanessa