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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Kaitlin Pitsker, Associate Editor
| From Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2017
With more than 600 locations each, Costco and Sam's Club are the most popular warehouse clubs in the country.
We checked how they stack up in several categories -- from who has the better return policy to store credit card. Here's what we found.
Our pick: Sam's Club
A recent Consumer Reports review found that both stores offered comparable prices. But Costco's annual membership is $55 -- $10 more than Sam's Club's fee. And Sam's frequently discounts its fee or throws in freebies for new members.
Our pick: Costco
Costco's Kirkland brand has earned more kudos for quality than Sam's Club's products. Kirkland olive oil was one of only a few imported oils that met international and U.S. standards for extra virgin olive oil in a chemical and sensory study by the University of California, Davis. And Kirkland Signature Tequila Añejo received an "exceptional" score from the Beverage Tasting Institute's Tastings.com. Consumer Reports has named Kirkland's Colombian Supremo whole bean coffee, Greek yogurt and super premium vanilla ice cream as best buys.
Our pick: It's a tie.
For those who spend a lot at their warehouse club, we pick the Costco Visa (0% APR for seven months, then 15.99%; membership fee of $55 includes the card's annual fee). The card will pay you 4% on up to $7,000 in annual gas purchases at Costco and other gas stations, 3% on dining and travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on everything else.
But if you buy a lot of gas, the Sam's Club MasterCard (15.40% or 23.40% APR) gets the nod. It pays an impressive 5% on up to $6,000 in gas purchases each year. You also get 3% back on dining and travel, and 1% on all other purchases.
Both big-box stores offer an array of membership benefits free or at discounted prices, including health insurance, car-buying services and identity protection. But Costco has more: mortgages; auto, home and life insurance; rental cars; and travel packages.
At Costco you can return virtually any item anytime, no questions asked, without a receipt or the original packaging -- unless you're returning a PC or other electronics, in which case you have 90 days. That's similar to Sam's Club, except Sam's highly recommends that you have the original packaging and a receipt.