12 Rules Shoppers Must Follow At Costco

Costco is a magical kingdom filled with bargains, but if you want to be permitted entry, there are rules you have to follow. Most of them are very reasonable — Costco offers big discounts, but some might be a little more surprising. And some make you wonder how many people pushed their luck before deciding to put that rule into writing. For instance, Costco has a strict no shirt, no shoes, no service rule.

If you've ever ventured into Costco's treasure trove of deals and delights, you know that it's not just your average shopping experience. From towering shelves stacked with oversized products to free samples that seem to appear around every corner, there's a unique rhythm to navigating the aisles of this membership-only warehouse wonderland.

But hold on to your oversized shopping carts, because in this article, we're diving into 12 rules that every Costco shopper must follow. Whether you're a seasoned Costco pro or a first-timer looking to master the art of bulk buying, we have tips to help you conquer your next shopping spree like a true Costco connoisseur. This will give you the confidence to stalk the aisles like you know what you're doing — there'll be no surprises and nobody threatening to revoke your membership.

1. You must bring your Costco membership card

Costco is a membership-only store, with membership plans starting at $60 per year. The one rule that's as essential as that jumbo-sized jar of peanut butter you just can't resist is always bringing your membership card. Consider this card your golden ticket to the land of wholesale wonders. Without it, you might as well be standing at the entrance of a speakeasy without the secret password.

We know what you're thinking. "Do I really need to bring that card every single time?" Short answer: yes, absolutely. Long answer: yep, you better believe it. Your membership card isn't just a piece of plastic with your name on it. It's your passport to incredible deals. Think of it like this: you wouldn't go to a rock concert without your ticket, right? Well, think of Costco as the concert of savings, and that membership card as your VIP pass. It's your way of telling the bulk-buying universe, "Hey, I'm in the club, and I'm here to stock up on life's essentials with style."

You'll be asked to show your membership card when you enter Costco, at the till, and sometimes on your way out. If you're worried about keeping track of yet another card in your wallet, you needn't be. Costco has your back with the Costco app, where you can proudly display a digital version of your membership card.

2. Your membership card should have a photo on it

Here's one rule you might not know unless you're already initiated into the Costco club — you've got to have a photo on your membership card. Yes, that's right, when you get your membership card, you'll have your picture taken in the store, and they'll print it out with your face on the back. Or, if you apply for membership online, you may be able to upload your own photo.

I know what you're thinking: "Do they really need a picture of me? Am I joining a secret spy organization or just trying to buy some snacks in bulk?" It might seem like Costco is going overboard, but it's a way of ensuring nobody else can use your card to get those sweet, sweet discounts. Think of it as your way of saying that you're part of the Costco crew and you're ready to get lost in those endless aisles of savings.

Now, if your card doesn't have your picture on it for some reason, be prepared to show an official form of photo ID. This must be either a passport or a photo ID issued by U.S., Puerto Rican, or Canadian federal, state, or provincial governments. Frankly, it's much simpler to just make sure your photo is on the card. So, treat it like photo day when you hit the Costco membership desk and remember to brush your hair.

3. Lending your membership card to someone else isn't allowed

Next on our list of Costco rules — never lend your membership card to anyone else. You might wonder why you can't help your friends or family by letting them borrow your card. And, we get it — sharing is caring and all that. But when it comes to Costco, your membership card is yours alone. No sharing allowed.

See, the folks at Costco take this rule seriously. It's Costco's way of ensuring its awesome deals are reserved for true Costco members who've signed up and paid their dues. We know that the spirit of generosity is strong, but when it comes to your Costco card, it's a solo mission. Since your photo is on your membership card, lending your card is a fool's errand, anyway. Unless you have an identical sibling, the staff at the door or the till will immediately see that somebody else is using your card. And the punishment might have your membership revoked.

However, there is one way to extend your membership benefits to a loved one. Every Costco member may assign one additional card to a member of their household. So, your partner, kid, or housemate can get their very own card to reap the benefits of a Costco membership without you breaking any rules.

4. You can't pay with someone else's credit or debit card

You know that thrill of scoring epic deals and loading up your cart with goodies? Well, it turns out that the name on your payment method needs to match the name on your Costco account. In other words, you can't flash your buddy's credit card at the checkout and expect to walk away with those amazing bargains.

Imagine this scenario — you and your bestie are on a shopping spree, tossing gigantic packs of paper towels and family-sized cereal boxes into your cart with glee. When you finally reach the checkout, your friend hands over their credit card to pay for your haul. Seems harmless, right? Because of Costco's policy, you might be turned away at the register or left footing the bill.

You need to pay using a credit or debit card in your own name, a check in your name, or cold, hard cash. This rule might seem like a bummer, but it's part of what keeps Costco so cheap — only members can buy from it.

5. Abusing the return policy could get your membership revoked

If there's one thing that sets Costco apart from the shopping pack, it's the company's legendary return policy. You stroll into Costco, grab that shiny new gadget or super-sized pack of socks, and life is good. But then, something happens. Maybe that gadget turns out to be not-so-great at "gadget-ing," or you suddenly realize you've got more socks than you can shake a foot at. This is where Costco's returns policy shines.

You simply stroll back to Costco, receipt in hand — or maybe you've lost it, no worries — and you're greeted with smiles instead of side-eyes. You explain your dilemma, and just like that, the magic happens. People have returned some crazy things to Costco, including a dead Christmas tree and 11-year-old pillows. Some of the only rules are that diamonds must be returned within 48 hours with a certificate of purchase, some electronics must be returned within 90 days, and you can't return alcohol and cigarettes.

However, there are some limits to Costco's generosity. According to a report from Business Insider, one Costco member had her membership revoked after trying to return an 8-year-old printer. When staff looked into the customer's membership, they found she had returned numerous items, many of them years after purchase. So, while they agreed to refund the printer, they also returned her membership fee and asked her not to return to Costco.

6. You must wear a shirt and shoes at all times

There's one rule that seems like it should be common sense, but somehow, it still needs to be said: the policy that says shirts and shoes must be worn at all times. Yes, we're for real — when you step into a Costco, you'd better wear some clothes on your upper and lower extremities.

We know what you're thinking. Who in their right mind would show up at a store without a shirt or shoes? Well, apparently, there are some brave souls who like to challenge the norms of shopping attire. And, while we might chuckle at the thought of someone strolling down the bulk food aisle in their birthday suit, you've got to hand it to Costco for setting some ground rules.

Costco isn't exactly the place you'd expect to see someone walking around like they're in a tropical paradise. And while we're all for embracing your inner free spirit, Costco is all about embracing your inner bargain hunter while keeping things, you know, appropriately clothed.

So, next time you're heading for those towering shelves of snacks or contemplating whether you really need that industrial-sized bag of dog food, remember to throw on a shirt and slip into some shoes. It's a rule that might make you laugh, but it's a reminder that even in the world of massive savings, there are a few lines we shouldn't cross. Stay clothed and classy, Costco connoisseurs.

7. Animals aren't allowed

Costco has a rule that might make your furry (or scaly) companions raise an eyebrow — or a paw, for that matter. As much as we adore our pets, Costco is one place where they can't enter. We know your dog is basically family, and he loves a good deal just as much as you do, but Costco won't be moved. The retailer explicitly says no animals are allowed, not just pets, so you'll also have to leave behind that frog you found in the parking lot. The one exception is where allowing an animal is required by law, so guide dogs and other service animals can come in.

You might imagine you'd enjoy Costco even more if you could bring your pets, but just think about it. You're browsing the produce aisle when a dog, cat, or even a pet iguana suddenly comes zooming by on a leash. It might be adorable, but it could also lead to some unexpected chaos — and let's face it, Costco's a bustling place as it is. While it might be a bummer not to show off your pet's impeccable taste in bargain hunting, just think of it as some quality me time to uncover all those incredible deals with no distractions.

8. You can't carry weapons in Costco

It might seem like a rule that goes without saying, but the world is a crazy place. So, Costco's rules have to state in plain terms that no weapons are allowed. The one exception to this is where weapons are carried by members of law enforcement agencies. Yes, this includes carrying guns in open-carry states. Even if your state laws allow you to carry guns in stores, they're not welcome at Costco.

This rule is here to help keep staff and shoppers safe. Costco believes that there's no need to carry weapons in its warehouses. Since it's a private membership club and not a public space, it has the right to enforce its own rules, even when they differ from state laws. Of course, this extends to more than just guns, so you should keep your broadsword at home, even if you're a knight in training. And, while you're at it, leave your bow and arrows in the car. Costco is a place of peace — and bargains.

9. You can bring guests, but they can't buy anything

You love shopping with friends or family, but Costco is a members-only space. So, you might feel like you're destined to wander the aisle alone for all eternity — or until you've crossed everything off your shopping list, at least. Well, prepare yourself for an influx of good news. You might be excited to learn that you can bring two guests to Costco with you (you can also bring children, but they're usually way less fun at the grocery store).

No longer do you have to browse the mammoth aisles alone or have nobody to help you load that giant tub of mayo into your cart. Nope, Costco shopping is a team sport now, and it's all the better for it. Imagine it like an '80s movie montage, and you'll truly see the beauty of bringing a friend or two.

However, one thing to consider is you can't just let your guests loose in Costco to do their own shopping. Of course, they can throw a few items into your cart if you're willing to put them on your tab, but they can't buy anything themselves without a membership card. So, as long as everyone's on the same page, it's a great experience, but don't let anyone get caught at the register without a membership card.

10. Costco doesn't accept coupons other than ones it distributes

Scouring newspapers, clipping out deals, and triumphantly handing them over at the checkout is a certain kind of triumph. But before you grab those scissors, you should know Costco doesn't accept manufacturer's coupons or any coupons other than the ones it distributes. Imagine you're cruising through those enormous aisles, snagging bulk-sized boxes of cereal and family packs of toothpaste, when you decide to present a handful of manufacturer's coupons at the register. It might seem a clever move, but you'll be disappointed when these coupons get rejected. It's not about Costco being mean, however. It just has its own way of doing things.

Costco offers unbeatable wholesale prices from the get-go without needing extra hoops to jump through. It also distributes its own coupons and deals to its members, so it doesn't feel the need to accept coupons from manufacturers. In fact, it states that companies often price their products to take into account the cost of their coupon programs, ultimately giving consumers worse deals. Rather than clipping coupons, just head to Costco for excellent deals while saving yourself some effort.

11. Primary members must be over 18

All the cool kids love Costco. But if you're a literal kid, don't expect to be allowed to sign up. To get your own membership, you need to be at least 18 years old. We get why anyone under 18 would be disappointed. After all, who wouldn't want to snag those oversized snacks and super-sized electronics at a steal? But Costco's age requirement isn't about excluding the young'uns; it's about ensuring that the fine print, responsibilities, and rewards of membership are well understood.

There's a silver lining if you're currently excluded — it won't be too long before you hit that magical 18-year mark. Then the doors to Costco's treasure trove of deals will swing wide open for you. We get it if you're counting down the days until you can score epic bargains, enjoy exclusive perks, and maybe even indulge in those legendary food court hot dogs.

But all isn't lost for the under-18s. If your parent or guardian has a membership, you can be added as their additional household member if you're 16 or 17. So, it's worth getting your homework in on time, volunteering to do the dishes, and asking nicely if you can get that coveted Costco card. Anyone younger than 16 will have to be content going to Costco with an adult in their life.

12. You have to show your receipt when you leave

If you often crumple up your receipt and shove it deep in your backpack or toss it in the nearest trash can when you're done at the register, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise when you leave Costco. Before you march out of the door with your cart full of savings, you might be asked to flash that receipt. It might seem strange, but there's a method to this receipt-checking madness.

Costco's all about keeping things legit and ensuring you're walking away with exactly what you paid for. According to Costco, it's all about ensuring that your purchases were rung up properly by the cashier and that you're being charged correctly for what you bought. However, this is Costco's polite way of saying that it's checking that people aren't walking out with items they haven't paid for — whether accidentally or intentionally. The fact is, it's working. Costco has low rates of shrinkage — an industry term for profit lost due to theft and fraud — compared to other grocery retailers.

Having your receipt checked when you leave the store isn't personal. Costco does it to everyone. Ensure you have your receipt in hand and factor in a few extra minutes to get out of the door. It's well worth the small inconvenience when you consider the savings.