Warehouse Clubs

5 Reasons Sam’s Club Is Better Than Costco

Team Clark is adamant that we will never write content influenced by or paid for by an advertiser. To support our work, we do make money from some links to companies and deals on our site. Learn more about our guarantee here.

When it comes to picking a warehouse club, you only have a few options. Two giants dominating the warehouse club space are Costco and Sam’s Club

Recently, money expert Clark Howard was heard talking about how Sam’s Club is shaking things up in a customer-friendly way. 

Clark and I are members of both Costco and Sam’s Club, and besides the rollout of new checkout processes (more on that later), we decided to look into other areas where Sam’s Club excels over their rival Costco Wholesale. 

5 Reasons Why Sam’s Club Is Better Than Costco


Both Costco and Sam’s Club offer multiple membership options, with Sam’s Club being slightly less expensive. 

Costco Membership PricingSam’s Club Membership Pricing
Gold Star: $60Club: $50
Executive: $120Plus: $110

Costco has two tiers for their annual membership: Gold Star for $60 and Executive for $120. With a Costco membership, you can take advantage of all the club has to offer, such as the gas station, tire center, optical department, and more! 

Sam’s Club annual membership fees range from $50 for Club level and $110 for Plus membership. With a Sam’s Club membership, you have access to all services as well, such as optical, tire center, and more! Sam’s offers early shopping hours for their Plus members. My club in Medford, NY, opens at 8 AM for Plus members and 10 AM for Club level members. This is another reason why I love having a Sam’s membership.

Scan and Go™

One of the things that Clark loves most about Sam’s Club is their Scan and Go™ checkout option. 

“Sam’s is way ahead of Costco because Sam’s has Scan and Go where as you shop, you ring up your own items on your own smartphone, you pay on your smartphone, you go right to the door and now rolling out store by store, you then go straight out with nobody checking your receipt because artificial intelligence with all the camera technology they have in stores is able to verify that you have paid.”

This feature is so easy to use in three simple steps and makes Sam’s the most convenient of the warehouse clubs. 

First, you must download the Sam’s Club app and sign in to your account.

The next step is to scan the barcode on items you are planning to purchase while you shop. Don’t worry if, for some reason, you are having a hard time scanning; there is an option to enter items manually. And, if you decide to put back an item, it is easy to remove a scanned item.

The final step is to enter your credit card, slide to pay, and head toward the exit. You may see signs in your club directing you where to go. In my store, it was the same exit. You will receive a digital receipt in the Sam’s App that you can look at. 

Once you arrive at the exit, an associate will greet you with a handheld scanner. They will scan your app and a few random items in your cart for verification purposes, and then you are out the door and on your way.

Scan & Go™ at my local club

Exiting the Club

Sam’s Club is kicking its efficiency a notch by rolling out AI technology to scan your cart as you exit. 

How will this work? 

You will use the same Sam’s Club app and navigate to the same Scan and Go™ section within the app. Here’s the cool part. Instead of waiting to have someone scan your app and random items at checkout, you will just be able to walk out. 

“Rolling out store by store, you then go straight out with nobody checking your receipt because artificial intelligence with all the camera technology they have in stores is able to verify that you have paid for what’s in your buggy or in your basket or in your shopping cart, whatever you call it, in whatever part of America you are in.”

Why is Sam’s Club doing this?

Sam’s Club is listening to what their members are asking for and they feel that AI technology is the way to get it done. 

“This is Sam’s Club at its very best, listening to feedback from members, putting their needs at the center of everything we do,” said President and CEO Chris Nicholas.

I spoke to a member of Media Relations at Sam’s Club to find out when this will be rolling out at my store, and I was informed that it is currently being piloted at 10 locations in the Dallas, TX area, and they plan to roll this out in all 600 clubs by the end of 2024. 

Sam’s Club is the first retailer to use this kind of technology in their stores. Costco has been making it frustratingly difficult for their members by adding new practices such as needing to scan your card to enter the club, verifying the picture on your membership card at self-checkout and even showing your ID. 

Clark was heard on a recent podcast episode talking about why Costco is making these radical changes and why Sam’s Club offers a cheaper membership option.

“At Costco overwhelmingly its profits come from membership. They just try to break even on the operation of the stores and the money is made from the memberships. Sam’s Club on the other hand, charges a membership fee lower than Costco and it’s not where they make all their money.”

The lines leaving Costco are notoriously long while waiting for a manual receipt check. This new technology at Sam’s Club is geared toward making an easier departure from the store while keeping people moving.

My Costco on a recent Wednesday afternoon.

Payment Methods Accepted

When comparing Sam’s Club to Costco in terms of convenience, Sam’s Club is the clear winner when it comes to the payments accepted.

This is because Sam’s Club accepts all four major credit card issuers: American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Discover. Meanwhile, the only credit card that Costco accepts in their stores is Visa.

Of course, both stores accept debit, cash, store gift cards, checks (from members only at Costco), and EBT.

Looking for online accepted payment methods and at their gas stations? Take a look at the entire list for both Sam’s Club and Costco.  

Free Shipping

Need just one more reason to consider joining Sam’s Club? Sam’s gives their Plus members free shipping on most online items. While there are some exclusions to free shipping, I have not found any issue with what I can and cannot have shipped for free. 

The free shipping, in my eyes, is the best perk for members. My closest Sam’s Club is about 35 miles away, and nearly 90% of my Sam’s Club shopping takes place online. In my experience, items come within 2-3 business days and via FedEx. Sure, I cannot get everything via Sam’s Club online, but I can certainly use the site as a comparison tool and purchase what I can at excellent savings.

Final Thoughts

As companies evolve and listen to what their customers are saying, Sam’s Club is taking that to heart by offering so many customer-friendly ways to shop and pay.

If you are still unsure which warehouse club to join, check this comparison which offers a deep dive into memberships at both Costco and Sam’s Club. 

This post was last modified on February 23, 2024 10:48 am

Recent Posts

What Does Clark Howard Enjoy Doing When He Travels?

Sure, money expert Clark Howard loves talking about Costco. Roth IRAs are a favorite topic.…

23 hours ago

Are Annual Streaming TV Subscriptions Worth the Discount in 2024?

Are you trying to get the best bang for your buck with streaming TV in…

5 days ago

Why Clark Says You May Need To Shop for a New Credit Card

When was the last time you took inventory of your credit card spending habits? It…

5 days ago

AT&T Data Breach: Take These Steps To Protect Your Information

Another day, another data breach. This time it involves one of the major cell phone…

5 days ago

Should I Bundle Life Insurance With Auto and Homeowners Insurance?

Your bills and finances can get out of control quickly. You can find yourself drowning…

5 days ago

Pay-Per-Mile Insurance: Is It Worth It?

If you don’t spend much time on the road, then you might want to consider…

6 days ago