Should you join — or re-up your membership to — Sam’s Club? As long as you’re going to take enough advantage of all the savings to earn back your membership fee, it can be a big benefit to your household’s bottom line. But there are some people who may want to skip a membership. Here’s what to consider before you join or renew your annual Sam’s Club membership.
How Much Is a Sam’s Club Membership?
Sam’s Club recently upped its membership costs, which have been the same price for the last nine year. An annual membership to Sam’s Club is now $50 (up from $45), and with that comes the perk of giving a free membership to one member of your household. You can add up to eight more people for $45 per person (up from $40). Besides the savings you get shopping a wholesale club (more on that below), Sam’s Club members get other perks like member-exclusive prices at Sam’s Club gas stations, discounts to sporting events and theme parks, and reduced prices on car tires (and then free flat tire repair, battery testing and wiper blade installation).
How Much Is a Sam’s Club Plus Membership?
Sam’s Club Plus Membership is $110 (up from $100), and that includes one free membership with a member of your household. You can add 16 more Club memberships (at the regular, not-Plus level) for $45 (up from $40) each. Sam’s Club Plus members get all the Club membership-level deals, plus (pun intended) excellent savings such as 2% cash back on qualifying purchases for up to $500 per year, as well as the ability to take advantage of early shopping hours for Plus members only, free shipping if you prefer to shop online instead of in stores, free curbside pickup and way more.
How Many Sam’s Clubs Are There?
There are almost 600 Sam’s Clubs across the U.S.
How Do You Save by Shopping at Sam’s Club?
You’re no doubt familiar with membership warehouse clubs (like Costco and BJ’s). They offer less variety than supermarkets or big-box retailers such as Target or Walmart, and items are laid out on basic shelves or palettes, but their prices are often far lower (anywhere from 20% to 40%, by some estimates). Special holiday savings, like Sam’s Club Black Friday deals, yield even bigger bargains.
Household basics are always a good deal at Sam’s Club. On a recent day, the price of Tide Pods with Ultra OXI was nearly 50% less than the nearest non-warehouse competitor; a 50-pound bag of Rachael Ray Nutrish Dry Dog Food cost the same as a 40-pound bag elsewhere; the jumbo-sized Bounty Select-A-Size Paper Towels package was the equivalent of 26 rolls, while at the same price, another retailer’s package was the equivalent of 24; a two-pack of Arnold Whole Wheat Bread was $5.28, while two loaves at the closest supermarket to me were $6; and Pampers Swaddlers Diapers were on sale and were down to $0.23 per diaper. The competition? $0.32 per diaper.
Not all items are cheaper, though. A KitchenAid stand mixer was the same price as other stores I searched at, as were a pretty set of colored pencils from Prismacolor, so you have to do a bit of savvy shopping to get a sense of what’s best where.
How Else Do You Save at Sam’s Club?
Sam’s Club also provides a variety of member benefits beyond the lower prices. These are a few examples:
- Sam’s Club Gas
Sam’s Club Fuel Centers are at many, though not all, Sam’s Clubs. There, Sam’s Club members can get gas at a discount. Prices vary, but a recent search yielded a $0.20 per gallon savings compared to other nearby gas stations. Fuel Centers are typically open Monday to Saturday: 6 a.m. to 9 pm and Sunday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Sam’s Club Credit Card
If you get a no-annual-fee Sam’s Club Mastercard credit card, you’ll receive 5% cash back on gas and 3% cash back on dining and takeout. Regular Sam’s Club members will also get 1% cash back on Sam’s Club store purchases, while Plus members earn a whopping 5% (that’s the 2% they already get, plus another 3% for the credit card purchase).
- Pharmacy @ Sam’s Club
There are currently 566 Sam’s Club pharmacies, but you do not have to have a membership of any level to get your prescription medications from Sam’s Club. However, members will save on prescriptions and Plus members receive 10 free select generics.
You can even purchase pet insurance and some pet medications at Sam’s Club, too!
- Sam’s Club Optical Center
Some Sam’s Clubs have optical centers where you can have your eyes examined by an optometrist. You don’t need a membership to have your vision tested, but you need one to save on buying glasses or contact lenses. They’ve got good prices on fashion-forward eyewear, like their new line from Elton John.
When you buy tires from Sam’s Club, not only will you save on the cost of the tires, but your installation includes free tire mounting, 24-hour roadside assistance, a lifetime tire balance, rotation, and flat repair, and waste tire disposal.
- Sam’s Club Wine Club
Sam’s Club has a brand-new home wine program in partnership with DRINKS. Sam’s Club will ship its own in-house brand, Member’s Mark wines, to you. Choose six packs or 12 packs. Right now, they offer nine varietals and the affordable bottles range from $7 to $10, with a flat-rate shipping fee of $6 for six-bottle orders and $9 for 12-bottle orders. This is currently shipping to 16 states and Washington, D.C., so it’s not everywhere (yet).
- Travel & Entertainment
Sam’s Club members can search for discounts on hotels and car rentals, theme park tickets, zoos and museums, tours, sporting events and concerts, and more, all at reduced rates.
- Gift Cards at a Discount
Whether you’re buying them for yourself or someone else, you can save on gift cards through Sam’s Club. A three-pack of $25 Fandango movie theater gift cards is $71.98 (instead of $75); $50 in Tim Hortons gift cards only costs $39.98; and for only $56.25, you get $75 in Aéropostale gift cards.
Who Shouldn’t Get a Sam’s Club Membership?
You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck for only $50 a year, but if you’ve got limited storage space at home or only see yourself shopping there occasionally, you may decide to forgo a membership to Sam’s Club. For most households, for all the reasons listed above, it is a savvy way to save while shopping.