Costco Will Limit Access to $1.50 Hot Dogs

$1.50 hot dogs will be for Costco members only after April 7th.

Mans hand squeezing hot dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The legendary Costco $1.50 hot dog and soda deal will soon be out of reach for non-members. In a move reminiscent of the password sharing crackdown in streaming services — Costco is going to require proof of membership at their outdoor food courts before dispensing any cheap hot dogs. This comes on the heels of Costco testing out plans to require members to scan their cards before entering the stores.  

When will the new policy go into effect? 

A sign appeared at Costco's al fresco Orlando location that says "Effective April 8, 2024, an active Costco membership card will be required to purchase items from our food court. You can join today. Please see our membership counter for details," and was posted on Reddit. This will soon be the policy at all of Costco’s 18 outdoor food concessions where the food courts can be accessed via walk-up outdoor windows according to the Hill.com.  

Can I use a Costco Shop Card to get a hot dog? 

What isn’t clear is if the Costco Shop Card will still be accepted from non-members at the food courts. This is a great workaround for when you want to shop at Costco, but don’t want to buy a membership, that we shared in our 20 Secrets to Shopping at Costco. But the clear stipulation in the signage saying “active Costco membership card” gives me some doubt that this loophole will work. 

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Bottom line

I believe Costco found a clever way to not raise prices, and still save costs on the popular combo by excluding outsiders. The rise of inflation made some wonder if the $1.50 deal was in danger, but as former CEO of Costco Craig Jelinek said, in a 2022 interview with 425 Business, “I came to (co-founder Jim Sinegal) once and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty. We are losing our rear ends.’ And he said, ‘If you raise the effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’ 

I think they finally “figured it out” and the way to recoup on this loss leader is to limit sales to paying members.

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Donna LeValley
Personal Finance Writer

Donna joined Kiplinger as a personal finance writer in 2023. She spent more than a decade as the contributing editor of J.K.Lasser's Your Income Tax Guide and edited state specific legal treatises at ALM Media. She has shared her expertise as a guest on Bloomberg, CNN, Fox, NPR, CNBC and many other media outlets around the nation.