BJ’s and Costco are two of the most popular warehouse retailers in the United States. To the average shopper, these stores might seem quite similar. Both utilize a membership model, and by paying the upfront membership fee, shoppers gain access to exclusive wholesale savings. Additionally, at Costco and BJs Wholesale, you can buy groceries, clothing, and furniture, and they typically include a pharmacy, photo services department, food court and eye and ear exam center.
As of 2018, BJ’s had 215 existing locations with plans to open as many as 20 new clubs. Costco has 752 locations worldwide, 522 of which are in the United States, and they planned to open at least three new stores in 2018. BJs has over five million paid memberships with an 86% renewal rate compared to Costco’s 90% renewal rate.
As a savvy shopper, you might be wondering—BJ’s vs Costco: which store is really better?
The answer might depend on what you value in your shopping experience. Read on for a comprehensive guide to the pros and cons of each.
BJ’s vs Costco: Price
Upfront, BJ’s beats Costco’s membership price, with BJs offering their yearly membership for $55 per year and Costco offering theirs for $60 per year. However, five dollars might not be what makes or breaks the shopper experience. One analysis that examined 40 different items sold at Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s found that BJ’s prices usually beat out both competitors by a small margin.
Another analysis compared Costco and BJ’s generic in-house brands—Kirkland brand and Berkley Jensen and Wellsley Farms brand respectively. This analysis found that certain Kirkland items were cheaper, such as their:
- Dish soap
- Laundry detergent
On the other hand, two BJ’s brands had cheaper options for products like:
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
So between BJ’s and Costco, who reigns supreme in terms of price? Given the almost equivalent membership costs, it likely comes down to what products you’ll be buying the most.
BJ’s vs Costco: Location
As we’ve discussed, there are almost double the number of Costco stores in the United States compared to BJ’s. BJ’s also operates exclusively on the East Coast while Costco has a location in almost every state.
If you don’t live on the East Coast, a Costco membership is the clear choice. However, if you live on the East Coast, the density of BJ’s locations on the East Coast might make it the more convenient membership option.
For example, Brooklyn hosts three BJ’s clubs but only one Costco location.
BJ’s vs Costco: Hours
Neither BJ’s or Costco standardize their hours across stores, but BJs locations generally have later closing times than Costco. A Brooklyn BJ’s boasts hours from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
On the other hand, the Brooklyn Costco is only open from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m Monday through Friday and closes at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Check the hours at your local BJ’s vs Costco, but if you enjoy late-night shopping trips, BJs might be better for you.
BJ’s vs Costco: Products
While BJ’s and Costco sell many of the same product categories, they don’t have the same inventory. To maintain their unbelievably low prices, these stores have to negotiate with brands and manufacturers. If you love a particular brand, you may need to check out both your local stores to see if either or both stores carry it.
If your shopping list is full of organic products, then Costco is likely a better choice.
Although BJ’s continues to grow its inventory of organic products, Costco has a greater selection of organic items. In fact, in 2015, Business Insider reported that Costco was on track to beat out Whole Foods as the top seller of organic foods in the United States. Costco sells over $4 billion in its organic products annually.
BJ’s vs Costco: Coupons
If you shop at BJ’s or Costco because you love to save, you’re probably no stranger to the power of the almighty coupon. Whether you’re a casual couponer or on your way to TLC reality fame, BJ’s boasts the best coupon options. That’s because they accept both their own coupons as well as manufacturer coupons. Costco does not accept manufacturer coupons.
BJ’s vs Costco: Shopping Experience
Anecdotally, BJ’s stores tend to be less crowded than Costco. If you hate crowds, BJ’s may be a better choice. BJ’s also offers self-checkout which smoothens the shopping experience. BJ’s tends to be more organized than Costco, with each aisle labeled and a general sense of flow between the various departments.
If you work up an appetite on your bargain hunt, the food options at BJ’s vs Costco might also be important to you. Costco is famous for its inexpensive food court filled with products like:
- Hot dogs for $1.50
- Soda for $1.50
- Giant churros for $1
Rather than food courts, most BJ’s clubs have kiosks for other food brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, which are more expensive than Costco’s food court.
BJ’s vs Costco: Return Policy
If a flexible return policy is important to you, then Costo is king. While BJ’s return policy is within one year of purchase, Costco doesn’t have a hard deadline to receive a refund for returns. Costco’s only exception is electronics and major appliances, which can still be returned within 90 days with a receipt.
BJ’s vs Costco: Benefits
Both stores sell similar products at discounted rates. Both offer you in-house dining options, even if BJ’s has slightly less variety. One area in which they do differ is in the perks they offer customers—BJ’s has benefits that Costco does not. If you shop at BJ’s, you can choose to be part of the BJ’s Perks Membership, which gives you access to a 75-page coupon book with additional discounts over and above the significant discounts already available at the store.
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Consumer Reports found that Costco ranked higher than BJs in terms of cleanliness, customer service, brand quality, meat and produce quality, and organic item prices. However, the deal is in the eye of the beholder!
If you value organic product options or the power of a delicious $1 churro, Costco might be the right club for you. However, if later hours and greater coupon availability are more important to your shopping experience, BJs might be a better option. Considering the low yearly membership costs at both stores and the immense savings they offer, some savvy shoppers even maintain memberships to both stores to maximize their savings.
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