A question that often comes up in discussions about Costco by people who have heard about all the positives of the warehouse is, “Does Costco offer a free trial membership?” or “Does Costco offer free trial membership coupons?”

While the technical answer is, “No, Costco doesn’t offer free trial memberships or membership coupons,” the truth is they sort of do if you’re willing to look at it from a different perspective.  There’s no official Costco free trial program or even a Costco free one-day pass, but there are ways to get essentially the same thing if you want to give Costco warehouses a try.

Free Costco Membership

The easiest way to get a free Costco trial membership is to actually purchase a membership at Costco. How is the membership free if you have to purchase it? Costco has a customer satisfaction guarantee policy when it comes to its membership. If at any time you aren’t satisfied with your membership, you can just go to customer service, tell them, and they’ll give you a full membership refund.

Yes, you have to pay upfront, but in essence, you are getting a free 364-day free trial because at any point during that time, you can simply ask for your money back. This will give you access to all the benefits of the warehouse including buying top-tier gas from their stations.

Since a free trial should be about figuring out if the warehouse membership price is worth it to you, you should have plenty of time to figure it out. If you like shopping there, you would end up paying to continue to be a member. That means the only difference is you have to pay upfront. While paying upfront may not be ideal, it does have an advantage. Having a full year to decide if a membership is right for your circumstances and needs will actually give you a better perspective than a one-week or one-month free membership trial would.

Go with a Friend

If the goal is to see what the warehouses are like, another option is to visit with a friend who already has a membership. A single Costco card can get an additional two people besides the card holder into the warehouse even if they aren’t members. This will give you a chance to check it out to see if you like it. The only issue will be if you decide to purchase something, you’ll have to pay for it in cash or pay back your friend if she pays with a credit card.

Get a Costco Gift Card

Another option is to get a gift card (called a Costco Cash Card) which will allow you to shop at Costco without a membership. As long as the Cash Card has money on it, you can enter the warehouse as many times as you want. The problem is only members can buy these cards, which would mean you would either have to get a friend with a membership to buy it for you or to buy it on the secondary market like eBay (this also allows you to buy gas at Costco without a membership).

While none of the above options are a true free trial membership at Costco, they ultimately provide the same risk-free ability to check out the warehouse to see if it’s worth the price of the membership. Some people don’t think it is while others see the membership price as a bargain. Either way, you know you can visit the stores knowing you don’t have to pay the membership price in the end if it turns out getting one isn’t right for you.

For more on if a membership is worth it and how to shop without a membership see these great articles.

Is the Costco Membership Fee Worth it?
Costco Membership Fees and Plans
How I Shop at Costco without Paying for a Membership


(Photo courtesy of terrykimura)