Sam's Club hacks you need to know

We're always hunting for the best grocery deals, but some methods are better than others. We're definitely over the coupon clipping hysteria of the early-aughts, and driving around town chasing sales at different stores isn't just stressful, it's also expensive with gas prices perpetually on the rise. 

Enter the warehouse club. You have to pay to gain entry, but once inside you can get massive savings on everything from T-bone steaks to dish soap to tires and back again. Even better? Get yourself a membership, then do some research to find out about all of the little secrets the big wigs don't want you to know. 

These hacks make shopping at Sam's Club a no-brainer. You'll learn the ins and outs of the store so you can always find the best deals, whether that means learning to decode the price tag or using the technology at your disposal to make shopping a breeze. 

Sam's Club shelf tags give you a clue on future price changes

Sometimes, looking for low ticket prices on the shelf isn't enough when you're searching for the best deals in town. Even marked down items can be reduced further, so how do you know you're getting the best deal now, and that you shouldn't wait? 

At Sam's Club, there's a code on each price tag that can give you a clue. You'll see the letters N, A, or C. N stands for "never out," and these items are the least likely to go on sale, since they're always in stock. A stands for "active," which means they still have plenty in stock, and the price is likely to be reduced in the future.

For the best deals, look for tags labeled with a C. The C stands for "canceled," meaning the item isn't going to be re-stocked, and they're trying to get it all sold to free up shelf space. 

Another clue that you're getting the best deal? Check for items that are priced ending in one penny (for example, $.91, $1.71, etc.). This means the item isn't just on sale, but that it's a clearance item. 

Use the Sam's Club Scan & Go App to skip the lines

No one likes to dilly dally when they're shopping, especially in a huge warehouse store that has an abundance of everything but atmosphere. Yet even after you've spent an hour combing through the aisles for your bulk mac & cheese and flats of granola, you face a challenge: waiting in line.

What is it about these big box stores that leads to what seems like constant understaffing? Sometimes it feels like you wait in line longer than you do shopping. 

Sam's Club knows this, and they now just how annoying it can be. That's why they created an app called Scan & Go that helps shoppers purchase everything they need without having to bother with those pesky long lines. 

All you have to do to use the app is download it to you phone then head to the store. Scan items you want to purchase with the app, then pay right on your phone. An employee at the exit will check your e-receipt as you head out the door to confirm you've paid, and then you're free to go on your way, all without having to bother with the check-out line. 

Go shopping at Sam's Club before everyone else

Waking up at the crack of dawn to get your shopping done is usually a futile exercise. After all, what's to stop literally everyone else from joining you in your attempt to shop crowd-free? 

Well, Sam's Club has a solution. The first is, of course, that most people have to have a Sam's Club membership to shop at the store. But Sam's Club offers an additional perk for its Plus Members.

For just $55 dollars a year more than a basic $45 membership, Plus members have exclusive early access to the store. From 7-10 a.m., Monday-Friday, Plus card holders can get their shopping done without having to worry about being hassled by the crowds, a benefit that's almost worth it just for the holiday shopping stress reduction alone. 

Add to that the fact that with a Plus Membership you get free shipping on online orders with no minimum purchase and $10 back for every $500 you spend, and it practically pays for itself. 

Save big on booze at Sam's Club (even without a card)

When it comes to buying booze, it seems like we're always caught in a catch-22 — either pay out the nose for something that'll be gone after a party or two, or get something cheap that tastes like jet fuel and nail polish remover had a baby. 

But what if there was a way to get high-quality alcohol at prices you can actually afford? Before you say it's too good to be true, we'll tell you — you can get it at Sam's Club.

Because of a loophole in liquor licensing laws that doesn't allow the sale of alcohol through members-only agreements, technically anyone is allowed to shop for booze at warehouse stores, even without a membership. 

You'll get the same price savings as card-carriers, without having to throw down cash to be a part of the club. You could end up saving 15-25 percent on name brand beer, wine, and liquor — totally worth braving the crowds of shoppers. 

Take advantage of in-store pick-up at Sam's Club

We love shopping warehouse clubs for the huge savings, but the actual experience of being in the store can be a nightmare. Wrestling with an enormous cart, trying to find that one item in a floor-to-ceiling wall of products, getting elbowed by other customers as you try to reach for a coveted item — it's not everyone's cup of tea.

Thankfully, at Sam's Club you can avoid the madness with a benefit that comes with basic membership. They've initiated an in-store pickup program that allows you to place your order online, and then pick it up in the store, ready to go, the next day. Not only is it easier to find what you need using the internet search tool instead of just winging it in the store, but it's also easier to spot great deals. You'll end up saving big both cash-wise and time-wise — something that's honestly priceless when you're busy and on a budget.

In June 2020, things got even more convenient when Sam's Club announced nationwide curbside service. All the Sam's Club perks, with none of the hassle. 

Get your tires serviced at Sam's Club while you grocery shop

We usually head to Sam's Club for gallon-sized jugs of peanut butter, 36-packs of paper towels, and enough cleaning supplies to sanitize a military barracks. But some of Sam's Club's best deals have nothing to do with groceries and home goods. 

It turns out that while you shop, you can get your car worked on, too. Sam's Club is famous for its tire program. You can get tires installed for $15 each, but the benefits you get after they're installed are what make the deal worth it. 

After your tires are installed, you'll benefit from complementary tire balancing, rotation, tire pressure monitoring, and flat repair for the life of the tire. You'll also be a beneficiary of three years of emergency roadside tire service, and will gain an extended warranty on your tires that covers road hazards like punctures, cuts, and impact breaks, which usually aren't covered under the original manufacturer's warranty. 

You'll drive out of Sam's Club with a car full of groceries and peace of mind knowing that your tires are taken care of for a few more years. 

Pay with discounted Sam's Club gift cards

Clipping coupons is so 2008. These days, there are much easier ways to save when you go shopping, even when you're at a warehouse club. 

This hack is a little unusual, but trust us — it's a great way to save literally every time you shop. Instead of going to the store and paying with debit, credit, cash, or check, try gift cards. That might seem like beating around the bush, but the benefit to paying with gift cards is that you can often get a discount when you buy them, meaning you can save before you even do your shopping. 

Look for a site that sells discounted gift cards online, like Cardpool, Gift Card Zen, Raise, or even eBay. You won't always find cards available for Sam's Club, but if you check back frequently you can often score loaded gift cards for anywhere from 3-5 percent off. It's a small saving, sure, but those add up over the course of the year. If you're trying to stick to a budget, it's definitely worth looking into.  

Get free health screenings at your Local Sam's Club

Juggling grocery shopping, doctor's check-ups, and visits to the optometrist can all get a little overwhelming. Instead of driving all over town to get these essential tasks taken care of, you can consolidate and just head to Sam's Club.

Depending on your location, Sam's Club pharmacy offers health screenings to check for high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, vision, and hearing. They also sell glasses, hearing equipment, and have a full pharmacy, so if there is anything you need after your screening you're able to get it right in store.

Get your cholesterol tested, then decide if you really want that 400-count bag of pizza rolls. 

Split bulk items with a friend to save big at Sam's Club

Buying in bulk is one of the easiest ways to save money when you shop, but not all of us have a basement or roomy pantry where we can store a year's worth of paper towels and canola oil. While it would be nice to just do some renovation and get that space, a more practical and affordable solution is to get a friend to be your bulk buddy.

It goes like this. You and a friend split the cost of a yearly Sam's Club membership, and then purchase large quantities of the items that offer the best savings together. Split the cost, and you'll still be getting a bargain, without having to dedicate half of your living room to canned good storage.  

 

With every Sam's Club basic membership you're allowed to have two guests come shopping with you, so it's easy to have a friend come a long and decide which items they'd like to go halfsies on. 

Shop at Sam's Club without a membership

One of the hurdles to getting into a warehouse club is that you have to buy a membership. It's kind of a gamble — do you really want to spend all that money before even knowing if you'll like shopping at the store? 

Because of this, Sam's Club has at least three official ways to shop without a membership.

The first is to print out a one-day guest pass and bring it to the store. You'll be able to test the waters and still get the same great prices, though unless you live in California or South Carolina, there will be a 10 percent service fee on all purchases (though it'll likely still mean paying way less than you would at the grocery store). 

The second option is to go as the guest of a friend who already has a membership. You'll also have to pay a 10 percent service fee on each item, but it's an easy way to get a feel for the store and what it charges for items you'll be buying regularly. 

The third and easiest option (you don't have to leave your house!) is to shop on SamsClub.com. Yes, you'll have to pay the 10 percent surcharge, but you'll still have access to their generally low prices. You'll have to pay shipping, though, so it might be worth it to pull on some pants and head to the store with your gift pass so you don't have to be saddled with that additional cost. 

Keep an eye out for free Sam's Club membership deals

Even though warehouse stores have been around for a while, the idea of paying for the privilege of shopping somewhere still sounds a little weird. But there's good news — there are so many deals out there on Sam's Club memberships that there's absolutely no reason why you should be paying full price.

In April of 2020, CNet reported on a pretty awesome deal. All you needed to do was sign up with your email address, and you'd get a confirmation email and promo code you could enter when you bought a membership. But — while you'd still pay the usual $45 membership fee — you automatically got $45 in discounts. Basically, that means you got a free membership!

Groupon regularly has deals on memberships, too. Some come with freebies and discounts bundled into a one-time price, while others include a membership for a standard fee, but also come with gift cards and instant savings, like free rotisserie chickens, free pastry platters, and other bakery goodies. Those are some freebies that will never go to waste. Bottom line? Don't just pay regular price for a Sam's Club membership — keep an eye out, and you can definitely get them for deeply discounted, or with tons of freebies.

Regularly fill prescriptions? Look into a Sam's Club Plus membership

As of 2020, a standard Sam's Club membership is $45, and a Plus membership is $100. The Plus comes with all kinds of perks, but one thing that definitely can make it worthwhile is if you or your family fill regular prescriptions.

The Sam's Club pharmacy gives almost insanely discounted prescription prices to their Plus members, including some generic prescription drugs that are completely free. That includes blood glucose monitoring systems, Donepezil (which is used to treat Alzheimer's), and D2 vitamins.

Others are heavily discounted: they carry more than 200 generic prescription drugs that cost just $4 for a 30-day supply, and more than 400 costing $10 for a 30-day supply. That includes super common drugs like amoxicillin and hydrocortisone, and if you have a furry friend, you can get some of their meds there, too. They carry Heartgard and Truprofen (a puppy pain medication) for much cheaper than you might find elsewhere, so if you're spending a fortune to keep your dog happy, healthy, and pain-free, you might want to consider a Sam's Club Plus membership.

Don't skip Member's Mark products at Sam's Club

We get it — you have your tried-and-true favorites, and store brands can be kind of... well, cheap, right? Questionable? Not nearly as good? Sam's Club struggled for a long time with a chaotic approach to their store line, but in 2017, they announced (via BusinessWire) that they overhauled their line, consolidated it into Member's Mark products, and added hundreds of new items — all of which were created with an eye toward not just affordability, but quality.

Did they succeed? According to AllRecipes, yes. Some products are so good that you need them... even if you think you don't. Their chicken broth is delicious enough to warrant adjustment-free inclusion in almost any dish, their coffee is so good you might just start skipping the milk and sugar, and their giant tub of Member's Mark ketchup is a total win. 

So, bottom line? Give them a try. Worst case, you can always bring back something you don't like for a full refund, so there's really no risk to you. And best case? You'll cut down your grocery bill by a lot. Consumer Reports says that by switching to private label brands like Member's Mark, you can save as much as 25 percent on your shopping, and that's something we can all get behind.