Costco is one of the most popular retail chains for buying groceries and other essentials in bulk; as such, many bargain shoppers are left with the same question: does Costco take EBT? For millions of Americans, EBT cards provide a much-needed boost to household income, particularly when it comes to essential expenses like food. So, does Costco accept EBT cards in-store or online? Read on to find out!
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How Costco works
Before we get into the payment options available at Costco locations, it’s important to understand how Costco differs from many other big-box stores. If you walk into a Walmart or similar establishment, you can simply choose the products you want, head to the checkout, and purchase the products with the payment method of your choosing (including EBT cards). However, shopping at Costco works a little differently.
To even get in the door, you must have one of two things: a Costco membership or a Costco Shop card (also known as a Costco Cash card). As of this writing, a Costco membership costs $60 per year and gives you access to any Costco store in the world. When you arrive at the store, you simply need to show your Costco membership card to the attendant at the door. Then, you can shop as much as you like!
However, there are also options for non-members. If you can’t afford a Costco membership, you can ask someone you know to buy a Costco Shop card on your behalf (non-members can only purchase them online). Then, you can take the Costco Shop card to any Costco location to gain access. However, a Costco Shop card does not function in the same way as a Costco membership card. Instead, it is essentially Costco’s version of a gift card. Each Shop card has a set balance that you can use to make purchases. Consequently, a Costco Shop card is not the best option for those who want to use an EBT card.
Alternatively, it’s important to remember that non-members can also access certain specific parts of the Costco store without a membership. For example, if you enter the store with a friend or family member who has a Costco membership, you can shop and make purchases without the need for a membership card. Additionally, anyone can access the Costco pharmacy or the online Costco store without a membership. However, non-members will have to pay a 5% surcharge when shopping at Costco online.
Does Costco take EBT cards?
Fortunately, the answer is yes! Any Costco location in the United States accepts EBT card payments. However, if you wish to shop at a Costco in another country, you may not be able to use your EBT card (depending on the country or location). In any case, using your EBT card at Costco is easy — especially if you have a Costco membership. For just $5 per month (as of 2021), you can have a Costco membership that grants you access to great savings, especially on bulk purchases.
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Additionally, Costco offers cashback deals to members that work in tandem with EBT purchases. This means that you can literally earn cash rewards just by shopping at Costco with your EBT card. As a result, choosing to get your groceries at Costco is actually one of the most cost-effective ways to shop for your household essentials.
Unfortunately, things get a little more complicated if you want to shop online. While the Costco website accepts most standard forms of payment, EBT is not one of them. So, if you want to use your EBT card at Costco, you’ll have to do your shopping in person.
Does Costco accept EBT cards for non-food items?
Costco offers a wide range of products — from automotive parts to fresh vegetables. Since every U.S. Costco location accepts EBT cards, you’re probably wondering exactly what you can — and can’t — buy with your EBT funds. However, this really isn’t up to Costco. When it comes time to make a purchase with your EBT card, the type of funds you have in your account will ultimately determine what you can buy.
If you already have an EBT card, you likely know that there are two primary ways to fund your account: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These may sound confusing, but SNAP is essentially just the latest version of food stamps. Rather than carrying around physical stamps that you can exchange for food at grocery stores and supermarkets, SNAP simply loads funds onto your EBT card. However, if you get assistance through SNAP, you can only use these funds to buy food at grocery stores and similar chains — including Costco.
Alternatively, the TANF program is a lot more flexible. Rather than simply providing funds for food, TANF sends regular money transfers to your EBT card that can be used for a variety of essential purchases, like housing, utilities, household products, food, medical supplies, furniture, clothing, and transportation. Additionally, TANF enables you to withdraw cash at ATMs or participating stores (including Costco). With cash in hand, you can use these funds for virtually any kind of transaction.
Therefore, what you can and cannot buy with your EBT card at Costco will largely depend on the program you use to acquire government assistance. If you get welfare through SNAP, you can only buy food items with your EBT card at Costco. On the other hand, if you get your welfare through TANF, you can use your EBT card at Costco to buy both food and non-food items.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t have a Costco membership, you can still visit the store with someone who does have a membership. Alternatively, you can use EBT funds to get a Costco Shop card (by having an existing member make the purchase for you). However, you cannot use your EBT card at the Costco online store.
So, does Costco take EBT? In short, yes. You can go to one of the thousands of Costco locations around the United States and use your EBT card. However, you will need to consider that Costco memberships are generally required just to enter the store. In any case, you can use your EBT card at physical Costco locations as long as you remember that Costco works a little differently than most other big-box stores!