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Mar 2, 2012 01:37 PM

Deferring Costco Membership Renewal


Let's say, on the day before my Costco membership expires, I buy a bunch of $25 gift cards. Then, every time I go to shop at Costco I use one card and use cash or AmEx to pay for the difference between the $25 and my total purchases. Couldn't I postpone the inevitable $55 renewal fee for a while? (I shop at Costco maybe once a month.)

  1. I don't know if it will work, but I like it.

    1. Interesting. I think it would work, because ifthey don't scan your card, how will they know you need to renew? Fortunaltly (or maybe unfortunately) we spend enough to earn back our executive fee and then some!!

      21 Replies
      1. re: CanadaGirl

        If they don't scan your card, why is it I'm the guy next in line in the checkout, waiting for the customer to renew their membership because it "just" expired, though they somehow don't have enough money on them to renew?

        1. re: Brobuckwheat

          You don't need to have a membership to use a gift card. So they wouldn't need to scan the OP'smembership card, therefore in theory they wouldn't know that her membership was expired.

          1. re: viperlush

            If the AmEx the OP says she would use to pay the difference is a Costco Amex, her membership number is on it.

            I just don't think it is right to deliberately/knowingly scam any company. Either do business with them the right way or shop elsewhere.

            Costco has such good prices and an absolutely wonderful, no questions asked return policy. The annual fees are how they make a profit. Every company is in business to make a profit.

            1. re: Cathy

              Playing devil's advocate for just a minute -- gift cards can be used in any number of ways. They can be given as gifts to people who don't have Costco memberships and, with the gift card, they don't need a membership to shop there. That's a decision Costco made -- to allow people who aren't members to shop there with a gift card AND to receive the discounted prices on purchases in excess of the amount of the gift card. The cards can be donated to food banks and other organizations. And, if a member has purchased gift cards for whatever-the-reason, there's nothing immoral or illegal about using them him/herself. Think of it this way: Costco has had the benefit of "prepayment" for those cards, and that adds up to big bucks for the company. Also, how many gift cards go totally unused for various reasons? I don't see that Costco is losing anything by this type of gift card usage.

              And what about the people who "share" Costco membership cards -- anyone who ever shops at Costco has seen this happen. Person #1 pays for their order; when Person #2, who is right behind him/her in line, reaches the cashier, Person #1 hands the cashier the same membership card. It's never questioned. Is that a scam, too?

              1. re: CindyJ

                Basically, you posted asking if you could deliberately with forethought cheat the company from membership fees, since you would be purchasing more than the gift certificate amount on a regular basis.

                I called that a scam and do believe it is cheating and in a way theft, in all the situations you described. I do play by the rules, as to most Costco members. I don't want to encourage anyone to cheat or scam the system. It isn't cool.

                You have mentioned (below) that you vacation in foreign countries, using your AmEx gold card points to fly Business Class. You can afford the $55 per year membership.

                1. re: Cathy

                  My post had nothing to do with the affordability, value or importance of a membership card, and my post did not ask for opinions as to whether I can afford to pay for membership. The intent of my post also had nothing whatsoever to do with deliberate, malicious cheating, theft or scamming. I'm guessing that you've never taken a pencil from work, accidentally or otherwise, and I applaud your commitment to playing by the rules. My query had to do with the legitimate, legal use of gift cards which, as far as I know, do not come with rules and regulations. My guess is, if I asked my question at the membership desk at Costco, I would be told that using a gift card as I've described is quite acceptable.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    If you told someone at the Membership Desk you intended not to pay for membership for some reason such as you were moving in a few months to an area where no Costco exists, you would be told that all memberships are fully refundable up to the day of renewal, that members are notified of recalls and about the return policies available only to members.

                    You would not be told it would be OK to use the gift cards so as to avoid renewing membership for a period of months.

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      <My guess is, if I asked my question at the membership desk at Costco, I would be told that using a gift card as I've described is quite acceptable.>

                      I am interested to see what they say.

                      I highly doubt that they are unaware of how people use gift cards. I would think that if they thought that people were scamming/cheating them with the gift cards they would put restrictions on their use.

                      Costco already restricts members because they only allow 2 cards per household. But they also allow non members to make purchases through gift cards, trial memberships, and by allowing a non member to pay.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        I'm pretty sure that Costco has factored this 'edge-case' use of gift cards into their plans, and that they get significant utility from perceptions of generosity / goodwill. How would you like it if all these edge-case uses were detailed, one-by-one, in the membership agreement? They'd seem miserly, which doesn't really jibe with the image they seem to cultivate.

                        Remember: spending that gift card at Costco means that you're shopping at Costco. Hang the membership - it's highly unlikely that everything is sold at a loss in the store (if it weren't for the membership fee) -- the fact that the person using giftcards in this way is still spending money at Costco, and not another firm, is a win.

                        1. re: Arthur

                          SHEEESH!!! I didn't think I'd provoke such strong sentiment by simply asking a hypothetical question. You'd think I was scheming to defraud the population at large. Maybe it's a sign of the times, but some of these responses are making assumptions that are WAY off base and, quite frankly, out of line. And it makes me wonder what those responses are really about, because they're NOT about gift card usage at Costco.

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            You asked if you could postpone paying the annual membership fee while still getting the benefits of membership.

                            For those of us who pay for membership and play by the rules, it is an offensive question, thus the responses.

                            1. re: Cathy

                              Exactly, she said postpone. Not avoid. Not avail myself of the benefits of Costco w/out ever joining. So unless Costco has a policy against it, she wouldn't be breaking any of their rules. I've paid for a membership for years and I didn't find her question offensive. Odd maybe. But not offensive. I can see some reasons for wanting to postpone paying. Don't have the money to pay the fee at that time, membership is shared and the other person is the one who pays for the membership, a change in lifestyle, or a move.

                              1. re: viperlush

                                "Exactly, she said postpone. Not avoid. Not avail myself of the benefits of Costco w/out ever joining."

                                Exactly wrong. She is looking to avail herself of the benefits of membership without incurring the required costs of joining as a member. Her "postponement" is an avoidance of the membership fees that every Costco member is expected to pay. If she were actually "postponing," there would be a debt of all back-dues owed whenever she rejoins. Instead, she found a technical loophole and wants to freely exploit it to the max at Costco's financial loss.

                                "You'd think I was scheming to defraud the population at large." No, just Costco. You and a few others here seem very comfortable with that. But the rest of us aren't.

                                1. re: Arthur

                                  No one is defrauding anyone - she bought the gift cards while she was a member - please go chase GE.

                              2. re: Cathy

                                Get real - the gift cards were bought WHILE A MEMBER - there is nothing offensive in what this person did. She PAID for the gift cards - and Costco made profit from the sales.

                                Get upset about GE's ZERO taxes or $15,000 appendectomies and we might pay some attention to you!

                      2. re: Cathy

                        Costco doesn't sell anything at a loss and if it allows people to buy gift certificates and use them without purchasing a membership, then it is a loophole I'm sure it has analyzed.

                        1. re: hawkeyeui93

                          Costco allows MEMBERS to buy gift certificates so that new people might shop and decide to also become members; that is the purpose of gift certificates- GIFTS.

                          But yes, there will always be people who abuse the system and cheat. I prefer to play by the rules. It's easier.

                        2. re: viperlush

                          The OP should know that their Costco AMEX card will no longer be free after their membership is expired and they will not earn cash back unless they either pay for the AMEX or renew. IMO, this is more effort than just paying the membership and enjoying the benefits. My cash back pays for the membership every year.

                          1. re: cstr

                            FWIW, my AmEx card is not from Costco.

                        3. re: Brobuckwheat

                          Viperlush has it right. I was referring only to the very specific situation the OP described. Otherwise, you're right, they definitely scan it.

                          It sounds like you have the same record picking the "best" line I do! Although I like how, at least at my nearby Costcos, they won't hold the line up for someone that needs to run back and grab something they forgot. Unlike the grocery store...

                      3. The original comment has been removed
                        1. Sorry hounds are dogpiling on you Cindy; One comment had me envisioning Sam the Eagle from the muppet show. I've been curious about how the gift cards work because my friend John wants his dad to try Costco but his dad hates me and won't tag along on one of my excursions. So I've been thinking of buying a gift card so that John's dad can buy stuff from Costco without having to be within six feet of me.
                          Some years I've been a bit tight on finances and have delayed renewing my membership until I had a bit more money. Once I think I ended up waiting six weeks. When I renewed it was for the original date, even though I hadn't used the membership for six weeks. I was tempted to cancel and then have a new membership but I'm glad I didn't as I had to return something (a present that someone didn't like) and I would not have been able to return it if I had a different membership. Hope this helps.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: givemecarbs

                            If I understand what you're saying, carbs, this sounds entirely different from what Cindy is talking about.

                            No one is forced to accept or "buy" into the Costco business model. If, however, one wishes to accept what Costco offers, then one should be willing to pay the cost. Would I prefer a Costco membership to be free? Well, sure. In fact, I started a thread a couple of months ago, asking if anyone had heard that the Costco membership cost was to be increased. Would I like the membership cost to be reduced? Of course. But I weigh the cost v. benefit, and I choose to renew my membership. I could have chosen not to renew. Certainly that's a personal decision for all of us. But to try to cheat Costco, or any other legitimate business, by trying to get around, to defeat, the ground rules, is disheartening, to say the least, and dishonest, in my opinion,

                            Certainly I can't determine what anyone's motivation is. Sometimes I may not even be sure of my own. But, on the face of it, it appears Cindy is trying to afford herself the benefits of Costco, without paying for them.

                            Perhaps Cindy's post was simply an "intellectual exercise", a "what if" question. If so, it seems that those types of queries might better be directed to other areas of our world. From which, perhaps, we might all get some benefit.

                            1. re: peppergal

                              Funny, Peppergal, my original query was, as you suggested, "simply an 'intellectual exercise'." It was a thought that occurred to me the last time I left Costco, when the person in front of me used a gift card. I never guessed it would escalate into a discussion of morality vs immorality. :-)

                              1. re: peppergal

                                >>on the face of it, it appears Cindy is trying to afford herself the benefits of Costco, without paying for them.<<

                                ...or maybe I'm trying to MAXIMIZE the benefits of the Costco membership I've already paid for.

                              2. re: givemecarbs

                                I typically delay renewing my membership by shopping there just before my membership expires and stocking up on certain things that usually prompt a trip there. Then I can usually wait 2 months or longer, before I go back. And when I do renew, I make sure it's for a full year, not 10 months. (Is that immoral, too?)

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  Delaying your membership is not immoral, it's your choice. When you renew it's always for 12 months but you'll miss two coupon cycles which may net you the $9.16 you saved by defferring in the first place.. just a thought. BTW - why not get the free Costco AMEX and reap a few more dollars?

                                  1. re: treb

                                    I rarely use Costco coupons, so that isn't a factor for me. I get Membership Rewards points on my AmEx gold card and, without going into detail, it's a card that serves us well.

                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                      Just the opposite for me, the coupons save me a lot and depending on the item(s) like laundry detergent or paper products, then I'll stock up. I get it on the AMEX, there's only so many points programs before you become saturated!

                                      1. re: treb

                                        We stockpile AmEx points, then travel in Business Class to places like Italy or France. :)

                                  2. re: CindyJ

                                    At BJs, they changed their rules that if you expire and then renew anytime in the next 3 months, the membership goes back to when it originally expired. I too used to stock up and then take a month or two off before I returned. Guess they figured that one out at corporate headquarters. They didn't advertise it, I only found out when I renewed, so Costco may very well have the same policy.

                                2. Hate to break it to you, but this isn't an original idea.
                                  Have a great time.

                                  1 Reply