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5 Lesser Known Perks of Costco Membership

Everyone knows about the cheap Costco gas [3] and the wonderful Costco return policy [4] (though on electronics it has certainly lost some of its teeth), but there are a lot of lesser known perks that members should try to take advantage of. Here are just five of them.

Sharebuilder New Account Promotion

Sharebuilder [5], recently acquired by ING Direct [6], is a popular dollar cost averaging brokerage. All members can get a $55 account bonus when they open a new account and make one purchase through a special Costco Sharebuilder landing page [7]. Less valuable is the quarterly rebate on automatic transaction fees – Executive Members are eligible for a 25% quarterly rebate while Goldstar and Business members are eligible for a 10% rebate. There are some other terms and conditions that you’ll need to review if you’re seriously considering signing up for their automatic investing program.

Periodically Costco will spotlight a “Service of the Month” and when they choose Sharebuilder, it often comes with some nice perk like a cash card or something like that.

It’s a nice promotion because the $55 beats the typical $50 Sharebuilder promotions [8] that run all the time.

Capital One Direct Banking Member Bonus

There’s another signup bonus available for members and this time it’s with Capital One Direct Banking [9]. Executive members get $60 and Gold Star/Business members get $20 when they open an account and deposit $5,000 within 30 days. Their online savings account is yielding a solid 3.66% APY [10] on balances over $5,000 too, which is a nice bonus. If you’re looking to lock in a CD, they have an 18 month CD at 4.46% APY [11] and a 7-year CD offering 5.55% APY. The online savings rate is certainly one of the better high yield savings account rates [12] and the CD rate is also among the best CD rates [13].

The eagle eye’d may notice that Costco members also get higher yields on both products. The standard online savings account rate only gets as high as 3.55% APY (and that’s if you have a daily balance above $10,000) while the standard 18-month CD rate is 4.41% APY. It’s important that you let them know you’re Costco members if you decide to bank with them!

Car-Buying Service

I’ve read stories about people having a good experience using Costco’s car buying service [14]. I don’t know how it differs from ones I’ve seen offered at credit unions though I imagine they are similar. The website claims no haggle pricing with “special manufacturer rebates & incentives.”

I chose a 2009 Honda Civic Sedan and it listed a 5 Speed Manual DX for $15,405. I looked on Cars.com and the lowest list price they had on that vehicle was $16,825 – a difference of over $1400. I didn’t compare all the features but that’s looking pretty solid just to start. If you’re a Costco member and looking for a car, you definitely want to check out the car buying service.

Bank Checks

Costco also offers check printing services that are pretty competitively priced versus some of those mailers (and you have the confidence you’re working with someone vetted by Costco). 2 boxes (400 checks) of their singles costs $10.59 ($8.47 if you’re an executive member) plus shipping. The same thing costs $13.92 at Wal-Mart, so you save a few dollars.

I personally try to limit the number of personal checks I use because they’re one of the most insecure methods of payment available. All the information someone needs to steal your identity is available on those checks – your name, your address, your bank, your bank’s ABA routing number, your account number, and even your check number (if you ever wondered why sometimes checks start with 1001 or 501 rather than 1, that’s a “security feature”). But, if you like checks, Costco can get them for you cheaper.

Photo Printing

The fact that you can print photos at Costco is nothing special. What’s nice is that you can orders prints and pick up photos up to 12×18 in size within an hour at your local Costco, while paying Costco prices. Their prices won’t knock your socks off when you compare them with online photo printers but they easily beat any other photo printers you know of. Here are their prices as of today:

Size Price (each)
4×6 $0.17
5×7 $0.39
8×10 $1.49
8×12 $1.49
11×14 $2.99
12×18 $2.99
8×8 $1.49
12×12 $2.99
wallets(4) $0.39
16×20* $9.99
20×30* $9.99

* mail order only

What’s your favorite Costco perk?

(Photo: greenwenvy [15])