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Costco vs. BJ’s | A Detailed Comparison (A to Z)

By Ferdi Vol
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Warehouse Clubs are the best places to buy groceries and other daily necessities at a cheap rate. Both Costco and BJ’s are popular warehouse clubs in America where you can buy almost anything at low cost. If you have both stores nearby, you are probably thinking, Costco vs. BJ’S - Which one is better for my next shopping trip?

Costco and BJ’s both offer great discounts and deals to the customers. BJ’s is comparatively cheaper, but Costco has more product ranges. Costco also has more stores all around America, which makes it a bit more available for shopping. 

In this article, I am going to compare different aspects of Costco and BJ’s so that you can choose the right one for your future shopping. These wholesale warehouses are around for quite some time now, and they have a lot to offer. But there are some differences between them that make them unique and would make some choose one over the other.

Comparison Between Costco and BJ’s

Costco and BJ’s are membership-only warehouse clubs where you can buy your daily necessities like groceries, clothes, electronics, furniture, and even discounted gift cards for restaurants, movie theatres, vacations, and so on. The stores might be selling similar products, but there are also a few differences in operating their business. 

Here are some aspects of both warehouses to help you understand the similarities and differences between them:

Store Location and Branches

Both of the warehouses opened their first stores in the 1980s. But Costco managed to grow its business faster than BJ’s. It managed to get the attention of customers for being cheap and gradually increased the business all over the country.

Costco opened its first store in 1983 in Seattle. However, it was known as Price Club (Founded in 1976 in San Diego, California) and changed to Costco after separating business. Costco’s current headquarters is in Issaquah, Washington. 

According to a recent estimation, Costco has 803 warehouses in America and many other countries. It has 558 warehouses in 45 U.S. states, and the rest are scattered in other countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, Spain, China, France, Iceland and South Korea. It is planning to open more stores worldwide.

As the company is growing both nationally and internationally, it is employing more people every year. The current number of employees working for Costco is about 255,000.  

On the other hand, BJ’s started business in 1984 in New England. Its current headquarters is located in Westborough, MA, The United States. Compared to Costco, BJ’s has fewer warehouses around the country. 

It has only 219 warehouses in 17 states. BJ’s operates its business mostly on the east coast of the U.S., and they have no warehouses outside the country. The number of employees is also very low compared to Costco, which is only 25,500.  

So, based on the numbers of stores, locations, and employee numbers, Costco seems to be a bit more successful than BJ’s. You can find a warehouse of Costco in nearly every state of America. But BJ’s mostly work in areas in the east coast and Ohio.

Membership Fees

Costco and BJ’s are membership-only warehouses, meaning you cannot buy from them if you are not a member. There are very few cases when you can buy from these clubs without a membership. To be a member, you have to pay an annual fee. Both of the clubs have two types of membership programs- Basic Membership and Premium membership.

The membership price is almost the same in both clubs. To get into the Costco Basic Membership Program, you have to pay $60 per year, and it is $55 for Basic BJ’s Membership program. The premium charge is $120 for Costco and $110 for BJ’s. 

Interestingly, BJ’s has an online membership program for $10 per year. With this membership, you can only buy from BJs.com and not from the physical stores. This kind of offer is not available for Costco membership programs.

However, BJ’s offers special fees for militaries and their family members. The membership fee is 25% less for people related to the armies. BJ’s also gives $10 coupons with this membership. This way BJ’s convey their gratitude to people who protect the country.     

Costco might seem a little more expensive than BJ’s, but the range of products and quality may be a reason why it is comparatively expensive. BJ’s does not have much variety for the same category of products. Hence, they offer cheaper prices to convince customers to buy what they see.

Products and Pricing 

The warehouses may have the same type of products available in their stocks, but the company and the brands are mostly different. If you visit both of the stores, you can find similar products on the shelves. However, the product range is quite extensive at Costco stores. 

Both of the clubs are collaborating with different brands, and they also have their private labels. If you love products from Kirkland, then Costco is the place for you. This brand has products from home decors to clothing to food. People love Kirkland for the price and the quality of the products.   

BJ’s also has two private labels- Berkley Jensen and Wellesley Farms. Berkley Jensen is famous for selling home and office furniture and decors. Wellesley Farms is about foods like fresh or preserved foods, frozen foods, and beverages. 

BJ’s may not have a wide range of products but it is cheaper than other wholesale clubs. Costco has a variation, and customers say that the quality of the products is also great. For example, the club has a great selection of organic produce. The prices of organic products are as cheap as BJ’s but the quality is reported to be better.

So, if you want to buy organic produce, you should visit Costco since the price and quality both are better.  

Cash Back Rewards

The premium members of both clubs enjoy great cash back rewards on most purchases. Costco gives back 2% annually for buying selective products, which is yearly $1,000. However, it can be double if you buy $4,170 worth of products monthly or $50,000 yearly. So, you have to spend quite some money to get cash backs at Costco.

In terms of cash back, BJ’s is in a better position. It gives 2% cash back to premium customers on most purchases. So, there is no limit to getting cash backs from BJ’s. Therefore, customers are able to save more money at BJ’s if they shop wisely.  

Coupon Availability 

Coupons are another way to save more money. BJ’s is one step ahead of Costco and many other warehouses in terms of giving coupons. The coupons are not automatically added to your account. The coupon guides are sent through mails at the customers’ home address. You can clip the coupons with the BJ’s app.  

Coupons are regularly available for many common purchases. Hence, $5 to $15 or even more can be saved for monthly shopping. Another fact that makes BJ’s different from Costco is that it also accepts manufacturers’ coupons. Again, BJ’s seems to be the better choice for saving money.

Operational Hours

The daily operational hours for BJ’s and Costco are different. However, starting and closing times of both warehouse clubs depend on the area of operation. 

Most of the BJ’s clubs start the business from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day except Sunday. On Sunday, the warehouses are open from 9 a.m. and close at 9 p.m., which is very convenient for people who want to shop on Sundays. 

Unfortunately, Costco does not follow the same pattern. From Monday to Friday it’s open from 9 a.m. to 8.30 a.m., but it closes an hour or two earlier on Saturdays and Sundays. Moreover, these two days are really crowded in Costco. 

So, when you need to do some late-night emergency shopping on Saturdays and Sundays, Costco will not be available, but BJ’s will stay open for a while longer. 

Delivery Service

If you are not interested in going shopping in the stores, you can order your groceries to be delivered to your doorstep from these two warehouses. This way you can save a lot of time but you have to pay a little extra for the services.

You can select the Costco Grocery service option from Costco’s website and order your groceries. The two-day shipping is free for $75 and above purchases. If the purchase is below $75, you have to give $3 for the delivery. Costco also offers same-day delivery through Instacart and the delivery fee depends on what and how much you are ordering.

A similar same-day delivery offer is available at BJ’s. They also use Instacart but free of charge for over $35 shopping based on some conditions. To get the same day delivery service you have to pay at least $10. There is also a free delivery option with a 3-5 days delivery window for non-perishable goods. 

Both of the warehouses offer affordable fees for delivery. But Costco is again comparatively more expensive than BJ’s. Sometimes, the online prices of many products are also higher in their websites than the in-store prices. So, if you are more interested in saving money, go get your groceries directly from the shops.

Return Policies

Both Costco and BJ’s are very generous in their return policies. You can return Costco products anytime, even without a receipt if you are unhappy with the products. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, you must return many electronics and cell phones within 90 days. Also, you cannot return custom-made products.

BJ’s is not as generous as Costco when it is about taking back products. Customers can return any non-grocery item within a year of purchase. Electronics like laptops, tablets, and televisions have to be returned in 14 days.

But computers and cell phones can be returned in 90 days. Items like gift cards, CDs, DVDs, Video games and jewelry cannot be returned.

Therefore, it is clear that Costco is a much better option for having such a flexible returning policy. The time Costco offers to return various is really exceptional. However, it requests the customers to be honest and not to take advantage of the company’s generosity.  

Shopping Experience

Sometimes, the in-store shopping experience can influence people to become regular customers. When you have both the Costco and BJ’s store nearby, the setup of the stores can influence your shopping tendencies. 

People who have shopped at both warehouse clubs reported that Costco is much more organized than BJ’s when it comes to managing crowds of customers. The Costco stores are cleaner, and there are enough employees to carry out the daily operations. The customers are also satisfied with the overall environment and quality of the products.

Just because Costco is great, it does not mean that BJ’s is not. The shelves of BJ’s are much more organized, and the customers can easily find what they want to find. On the weekdays, BJ’s stores are not packed with too many customers, so one can shop without much problem.

Besides, BJ’s has self-checkout lanes in many stores which allow customers to check and pay quickly without standing in long lines. So, you can go to BJ’s if you prefer less crowded shopping places.

According to some reports, about 86% of the customers of BJ’s renew their membership programs. On the contrary, 90% of Costco customers renew their membership programs.

Although the renewal rate is 4% higher at Costco, the rate of membership renewal is also pretty overwhelming for BJ’s. Both of the stores have loyal customers who are ready to keep on shopping in the warehouses.

Moreover, there is a large number of customers who have membership of both warehouses because they find it very convenient to switch stores from time to time to get the best deals on various products.

The debate of Costco vs. BJ’s can keepgoing on and on. But the main point is you need a shopping place where you can buy the best quality products at a cheap rate. Costco may seem to be the winner here, but BJ’s is also useful in many cases. So, it is better to become members of both and shop according to your need from any of them. 

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The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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