Costco is well-known for its rock-bottom prices on bulk volumes of groceries and household items -- a great way to stock up to reduce the frequency of shopping trips that can expose you to the deadly coronavirus. And if you want to avoid stores entirely these days, you can shop Costco.com for many of the same items you'd find in-store and have them delivered directly to your home or business.
Even non-members can shop Costco.com. To buy groceries online as a non-member, you'll have to register directly on Instacart.com. You'll pay higher, non-member prices on most groceries, a delivery fee, and a $2 service fee. When buying non-perishable food and household items on Costco.com, non-members will pay a 5% surcharge on goods.
Most items that are available in-store at Costco will cost a few dollars more online -- even for Costco members. That's because Costco.com bakes shipping fees into the price of each item. You're paying for the convenience.
You'll find a larger variety of product options at Costco.com than you will in-store -- including entire categories of goods available only online. After all, even at Costco's massive brick-and-mortar warehouse club locations, space is limited.
We interviewed smart shopping experts to uncover surprising deals across Costco.com. Take a look.
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The warehouse club has a partnership with online grocery delivery service Instacart.com whereby customers in eligible areas can order and have food delivered to their home the same day. There's a $35 order minimum and Costco members can select a delivery window that best fits their schedule. Costco's online grocery selection offers a variety of goods including fresh seafood, organic produce and bakery items.
What makes Costco.com's grocery service especially appealing is the selection of gourmet items, such as caviar and dried porcini mushrooms, that can't be found in-store.
Costco.com is a great destination for low prices on an array of electronics, says Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. The site offers member-exclusive sales on everything from 75-inch Samsung QLED TVs to Google Nest Smart Speaker systems. Non-members should keep an eye out for products designated as "member-only items" in the listing. It's usually located near the product title.
Costco even offers a generous 90-day return policy on select electronics including televisions, computers, smart watches and touchscreen tablets. If you buy a television or computer on Costco.com, the warehouse club's Concierge Services Technical Support will extend the manufacturer's warranty to two years from the date of purchase. Even better, if you use Costco's Anywhere Citibank Visa Card to make the purchase, you'll get an additional two years, which bumps up the coverage to four years total. (Touchscreen tablets don't qualify for additional warranty coverage.)
Note: Many models of electronics items are exclusive to Costco, so you won't be able to compare prices with other big-box retailers to see if the price listed is truly a deal.
Costco's online-only Business Center lets small-business owners (and those of us stocking up our home offices as we work remotely) purchase a variety of office-related products -- Post-It notes, notebooks, pens, desk calendars and the like -- in bulk at lower prices, says Kristin McGrath, editor and shopping expert for Offers.com. Many products available on Costco's Business Center site simply aren't available in-store.
We compared prices on items available on Costco's Business Center site, Walmart.com and Staples.com. Here's what we found: A 12-pack of Sharpie Accent Chisel Tip Pocket Highlighter Markers costs $6.69 at Costco's site. At Walmart, that same pack of markers is $7.38 -- an extra 39 cents. One Scotch Magic Tape Dispenser (including 6 rolls of tape) totals $14.99 at Costco. On Staples.com, that same dispenser sells for $19.99.
Warning: Orders under $100 will incur a $10 surcharge. For smaller office-supply orders, your best bet is to take advantage of weekly sales offered by your local big-box retailer, McGrath recommends.
SEE ALSO: 15 Things Retirees Should Buy at Costco
In this digital age when everyone stores personal photos on their mobile devices, actually printing them out may not be on your to-do list. Who has the time, right? You may want to reconsider if you're a Costco member. The warehouse club's website has made it easier to preserve those special moments -- in tangible form -- without having to leave your home, says consumer expert Andrea Woroch. Using Costco.com's Photo Center, you can upload images directly from your computer or mobile device and order high-quality photos, canvas prints or photo books. You can have the photos shipped to your home within five to seven business days. The shipping fee varies based on the type of photo product ordered (see the pricing list here). In-store pick-up and returns are temporarily unavailable due to the coronavirus outbreak.
To use the service, you'll need to register at www.costcophotocenter.com. It's free, and your login information is distinct from your Costco.com login credentials. During the registration process, you may also want to sign up for the Photo Center's e-mail newsletter to get access to discount promo codes.
If you've ever perused the furniture section at your local Costco store, it probably didn't take you long. Depending on the time of year, you may see a sectional set, a small sofa or a patio table with chairs on display -- but not much else. This is largely due to space constraints. What you'll find in-store pales in comparison to what's available online, says Offers.com's McGrath. The warehouse club's online inventory includes lesser-known furniture manufacturers such as NewAge Products and big-name brands including Thomasville.
Costco.com runs online-only furniture sales where shoppers can buy everything from bedroom sets to dining tables for hundreds of dollars off, she adds. For example, we spotted an Abbyson Clarence Fabric Euro Lounger on Costco.com on sale for $499.99. On the Abbyson website, the same chair sells for $679.99 -- $180 more than at the warehouse club. Another deep discount we found on Costco.com was Prospera Home's Dobson Leather Sofa, priced at $1.599.99. On the manufacturer's website, that sofa sells for $2,199.99 -- an extra $600.
McGrath notes that many of the larger furniture items sold on the warehouse club's website include threshold delivery inside your front door for no additional cost. In some cases, you can even get white-glove delivery for free, which includes installation and placement of the furniture in your room of choice, as well as removal of packaging materials.
Costco is a smart place to stock up on gift cards. The warehouse club carries a small selection in-store, but customers can find many more options online -- everything from restaurants to Red Box's online movie streaming service to Good Sam's roadside assistance, says Saundra Latham, a staff writer for Cheapism.com. Gift-card inventory varies throughout the year.
You can even score deals on gift cards for popular food-delivery service DoorDash. Right now, you'll pay $45 for a $50 DoorDash gift card, notes Woroch. Stock up to save 10% on every food delivery while supporting small restaurants in your community, she suggests.
The 5% surcharge for non-members applies to gift cards as well.
SEE ALSO: 9 Ways Costco Tricks Shoppers
The next time you need to buy fresh flowers for a special occasion, check out Costco.com's selection. It's an online-exclusive service, and the warehouse club's prices and selection rival those of many popular online flower delivery services. Customers can purchase a variety of flowers -- from calla lillies to orchids to roses -- in smaller quantities or bulk, notes smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae.com. Costco.com doesn't offer extras such as candy or balloons with its floral arrangements. Some come with vases, but most do not. You'll be able to choose your preferred delivery date, and shipping and handling fees are included in the listed price.
We compared prices at Costco.com and 1800Flowers.com for a 20-stem tulip arrangement including a vase. Here's what we found: At the warehouse club's site, you'll pay $39.99. If you buy from 1800Flowers.com, that same arrangement costs $59.99 (plus $14.99 for shipping). That's nearly twice as much in total.
Costco works in conjunction with Flowernet.com to fulfill orders, which are handled by local flower farms and delivered using a third-party carrier such as UPS or FedEx. You can only schedule deliveries Tuesday through Friday.
SEE ALSO: 21 Best and Worst Things to Buy at Aldi
Instead of footing the bill for an annual gym membership, set up shop at home and save some cash over time. Exercise equipment is another online-exclusive at Costco.com, where you can score deep discounts on elliptical machines, inversion tables, treadmills and the like, says TrueTrae.com's Bodge.
For example, a Pro 6 Fitness Dynamic Pro 6 R7 Magnetic Air Rowing Machine was recently on sale for $999.99, and a $200 instant rebate dropped the price to $799.99 (standard UPS shipping included). That same rowing machine cost $1,095 plus a $135 shipping fee when purchased direct from the manufacturer -- $430 more than Costco.com's price.
Costco tends to carry a large inventory of quality patio furniture and grills, but only a small fraction of it makes it into stores, says Cheapism.com's Latham.
A search for "outdoor patio seating sets" on Costco.com produced 249 results. If you've ever shopped for patio furniture at a brick-and-mortar Costco location, you know that you probably won't even find 10 patio sets on display. The same goes for grills, which more consumers may be using at home in the coming months as a result of social distancing. Costco.com's "bbqs & grills" online section recently offered 25 options ranging from compact table-top versions to behemoth nine-burner gas grills.
For example, we spotted an Urban Islands 304 Stainless Steel 4-Burner Grill on Costco.com for $1,699.99. On Amazon, we could only find that same grill being sold and shipped by third-party dealers for $2,155 or more.
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Copyright 2020 The Kiplinger Washington Editors