What you really need to know about buying a Sam’s Club membership

We get it. Commitment is a scary word, no matter what it involves. And because we know this, we wouldn’t be surprised if you’re sitting on the fence about getting a warehouse store membership from Sam’s Club. Besides, there are a ton of factors to consider before investing in a membership fee, like where the closest outlet is, be it Sam’s Club or Costco, how often you might get to go, how badly you need the option to buy in bulk, what exclusive products you’ll have access to, and even how much money you save since, really, you’ve had to spend what could have been half a week, or a week’s worth of groceries for the privilege of shopping at the warehouse store. Which is why, we agree it’s important to read the fine print before you commit.

Sam's Club offers deals on membership fees

Unlike Costco, which offers four tiers, from Gold Star to Business Executive, and charges $60 for its basic membership, Sam’s Club offers two tiers, and charges $45 for a basic membership. 

But get this: If you don’t need to shop at a brick-and-mortar store, you may not even need a membership to you shop through Instacart (via Sam’s Club); that being said, members receive special discounts when they shop online. If you’ve made it to the store, you don’t need a membership to dine at the Cafe or buy booze either (via Sam’s Club) — you can use both options as a ‘try before you buy’ exercise. And if, after all the freebies, you think a Sam’s Club membership is worth the $45 it takes to join, we invite you to take the next step and scour the internet for Sam’s Club membership deals. These promotions, which include discounts on membership fees, can be found on the Sam’s Club’s site itself, on Groupon, or Living Social (via Slick Deals). In some cases, the deals will actually end up offering you a free membership in the form of rebates through gift cards or shopping credits. 

So, if membership is effectively free, there’s not much to consider, is there?

A Sam's Club membership gives you access to Member's Mark

If you need a list of reasons for you to give Sam’s Club a shot, consider these two words: Member’s Mark. Sam’s Club’s private brand, is the result of a consolidating 21 private brand names into one, and was relaunched in 2017, by a team of product developers, culinary experts, and food scientists. “In the past we made sure we were competitive with national brands,” Chandra Holt, vice president of private brands for Sam’s Club said when the new Member’s Mark line was announced. “But in today’s environment, a lot of our members want better than that. Our goal is to make sure every Member’s Mark item is developed based on what our members want today” (via Store Brands). 

Think of Member’s Mark as Sam’s Club’s answer to Costco’s Kirkland Signature line, which includes gourmet and fresh food items like Italian olive oil, and honey from a bee cooperative. When it launched, Member’s Mark promised premium products across different departments from fresh food, to clothing, health and wellness. Today, the line includes frying pans, storage boxes, snacks, pulled pork, and wine (via Kitchn).

Customer satisfaction rankings are high for Sam's Club Pharmacies

Sam’s Club also has a solid pharmacy on the premises; so solid that it was named highest in Customer Satisfaction with Mass Merchandiser Pharmacies by market research firm J.D. Power for four years beginning 2015 (via Sam’s Club). Customers said they liked the availability of health and wellness services; they also praised a program where Sam’s Club Plus members (those that paid $100 for their memberships) got discounted prescription medicine. The scheme allows the club’s top-tier members to get five select prescription medications for free, choose from 200 prescription drugs and pay $4, or access over 400 prescriptions for $10. Members can also save up to 40 percent on generic prescriptions, and up to 8 percent on name-brand prescriptions. Sam’s Club maintains an updated list of medicines which are eligible for the discounts on their site. It’s also offered a prescription medicine price checker which you can find here. (PS: Sam’s Club even offers pet medication). 

You may not be saving as much as you think with a Sam's Club membership

It maybe true that some things are cheaper at a warehouse club. Traditional stores sell items with markups that run from 25-50 percent, while club items will have margins of between 12-14 percent, which means technically, you’d be able to get some of your membership money back as soon as you start shopping. 

But there’s a catch. Organizational psychologist Billie Blair thinks you really don’t end up saving  in the long run because warehouse clubs (and we’re not just talking about Sam’s Club here) forces you to buy in bulk. “Taken as a whole and over a span of years, the answer is that warehouse clubs almost never save money for the individual shopper,” Blair shared with The Motley Fool. The reason for this, is that we would need to consider “membership fees, wastage from overbuying (produce and such), the necessity to buy in quantity (canned goods that sit on shelves and have to be discarded) etc.” Other experts say bulk buying is generally not a good idea, particularly where fresh produce is concerned, because things spoil and get thrown out. 

Of course, other people live to shop at Sam’s Club, and ultimately the decision to become a member is up to you.

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