- Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club are two of the most popular warehouse retailers in the United States.
- I’m a member of both stores, and while it may not be for everyone, there are several reasons why it pays to belong to both.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories
I’ve been a Costco shopper practically since birth — or at least as far back as I can remember.
My family maintained a Costco membership and frequently shopped there when we lived in Staten Island, New York. As a child, I found the warehouse shopping experience to be magical. The aisles upon aisles with towering shelves of products, the jumbo-sized everything, and the free samples all made it particularly memorable.
When I eventually moved out on my own some 12 years later, I naturally purchased a Costco membership of my own and continued the family tradition of bimonthly shopping excursions to stock up on frozen food, organic milk, and stacks of Kirkland toilet paper, among other things.
Eventually, though, Costco’s rival came to town — BJ’s Wholesale Club opened a location in Bensonhurst, within walking distance of my apartment, in September 2014. Prior to that, I’d always made the trek to visit the nearest Costco in Sunset Park, a nearby Brooklyn neighborhood but one that required a lengthy trip by subway or Uber.
Obviously, the convenience of the new BJ’s made it hard to pass up giving it at least a trial run. The chain cleverly ran a discounted trial membership, and I was quickly hooked. But I never gave up my Costco membership, because ultimately, I still believe Costco is the superior warehouse option.
While it’s not financially feasible for every family to pay for the dual memberships — $60 per year for Costco on top of the slightly cheaper $55 per year for BJ’s — I’m lucky in that it’s within my means.
And if you can swing it, there are quite a few reasons why it’s worth it to maintain ongoing memberships at both.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Overall, there are more Costco stores than BJ’s nationwide. As of March, there were 535 warehouses located in the United States and Puerto Rico. That’s a substantial number more than the 217 clubs BJ’s currently operates.
But BJ’s operates exclusively on the East Coast, as opposed to Costco, which has at least one location in nearly every state (with almost a quarter of all locations in California alone). While that means BJ’s is useless to you if you live west of Georgia, if you live on the East Coast, there’s a good chance that the nearest BJ’s is a good deal closer to you than the nearest Costco.
Within Brooklyn alone, for instance, there are three BJ’s clubs and only a single Costco location.
And if you’re like my family and often travel frugally — staying in rentals and cooking your own meals to save money — it certainly comes in handy to have both memberships. Belonging to BJ’s and Costco ups the chances that there will be a wholesale club within a reasonable distance of wherever we’re staying.
(Josh Reynolds/AP Images for BJ’s Wholesale Club
In my shopping experience, BJ’s tends to have superior coupons available on a more regular basis.
Though you need to clip them — they aren’t automatically applied to your account — the coupon book is regularly mailed to your home address. Alternatively, you can electronically "clip" the deals you need via the BJ’s app.
Some of my most common purchases frequently have coupons available, resulting in an average of $5 to $15 in total savings for each shopping trip. On top of that, BJ’s accepts manufacturer’s coupons, while Costco does not. This can result in doubling up on major savings for certain items, if you’re a savvy shopper and avid coupon collector.
"Wholesale clubs don’t traditionally accept manufacturer coupons, but BJ’s is the exception, which provides you a great way to save money," Krazy Coupon Lady co-founder Joanie Demer told CNBC.
Josh Reynolds / AP Images
This may vary based on your location, but in my experience, there’s a marked difference in the crowds at each of my local BJ’s and Costco.
The Costco I go to is rarely, if ever, empty. Practically from the moment it opens — even on weekdays! — shoppers are lined up and waiting to enter at the doors. On the flip side, my BJ’s club is essentially a ghost town during typical weekday business hours.
BJ’s also offers a self-checkout lane, which the typical Costco does not. This, obviously, helps speed things up and reduces the overcrowding and massively long lines that Costco near constantly suffers from.
- 8 unexpected tech products you can buy at Sam’s Club
- 8 hidden perks you can get if you’re a Costco member
- 21 products that prove Costco is a bulk shopper’s paradise