Decode the Secrets of the Costco Prices to Save Money

Costco Price Label

If you shop at Costco Wholesale, you know that you are buying in bulk at low prices to save money. In fact, Costco refuses to mark up the price of any product by more than 15%.(1) This fact gives me the confidence that I always get great prices at Costco, even though that I know other stores sometimes sell products at even lower pricesas loss leaders. However, when taken as an entire shopping trip, I would save enough money and time by sticking to shopping at one place without driving all of the town to get the lowest prices.

To help you save even more money at Costco, know the secrets of Costco price stickers. Once you know, you would be able to decide whether to buy a product now or wait until it goes on clearance. The price tags at Costco tell more than just prices, the labels indicate when products are being discontinued or on clearance.

  • Prices that end in $0.97, such as $14.97, means that they have been marked down from regular prices, which end in $0.99. If there are a lot of stock left, the clearance prices may drop even more if you are willing to wait.
Costco Price Ending in $0.97
  • An asterisk * on the upper right corner of the price sign means that this product is being discontinued. Please note that there is a chance that Costco may stop selling this particular product, brand or model. In other words, there could be a newer model of the same product coming soon.
  • If you see a Costco price label that ends in $0.97 and has an asterisk, it is one of the best time to buy a product you need because you are getting a limited-time deal. Once the product sells out at a discounted price, it could be gone from Costco. For example, an office lamp was selling for $19.99. Then, the price dropped down to $12.97 a month ago and has an asterisk. About a week ago, I saw the price dropped even further to $9.97 with an asterisk.
  • Instant rebate items are a form of limited time discounts that you can see when the rebate period is . I notice that some rebates appear on a regular cycle. For example, the KitchenAid electric mixer has a $80 rebate every few months or so.
Costco Price with Instant Rebate

What if you bought an item at the regular price, and then the item goes on clearance? Many Costco warehouses offer a price protection guarantee. At my local Costco, I have been advised that:

  • If the price of an item drops within 45 days of my purchase, I could just bring the receipt back for a price adjustment.
  • If the item has an instant rebate within 14 days of my purchase, I could also bring the receipt back for the price adjustment.

I know that other warehouses have different guarantees, such as different time limits, so talk to warehouse associates at the membership counter to confirm. Here are the strategies I learned over time from shopping at Costco. For even more tips and strategies, visit Len Rapoport’s Personal Finance site.

Source: (1) Bary, Andrew. “Kings of the Jungle.” Barron’s. N.p., 23 Mar. 2009. Web. 11 June 2014. <>.

Photos credit: Brian Chow

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