Here's How Much Money Costco Employees Really Make

Costco stores are practically everywhere. According to the job and recruiting website Glassdoor, Costco is the largest wholesale club operator in the United States, with the company noting that it operates 828 warehouses worldwide as of December 2021, serving tens of millions of cardholders.

What's truly remarkable about this giant retailer is that, for the most part, the company receives incredibly positive reviews from its employees. In fact, it has made Glassdoor's "Best Places to Work" list 10 times since 2012, ranking number 93 (out of 100) in 2022. The only other (semi) similar retailers to make the list were national grocery-store chain Trader Joe's, and the regional grocery stores, Wegmans and H-E-B, all of which, comparatively, employ many fewer employees. 

So what keeps Costco's employees so happy? Well, for one thing, money. The company actively works to prevent turnover in a variety of ways that are outside the norms of the industry. If you're trying to decide if Costco is the best fit for your talents, skills, and goals or are just curious to learn more about the retail giant's treatment of its employees, you'll want to keep reading and learn how much money Costco employees really make.

Costco raises the minimum wage regularly

You might assume that Costco cashiers aren't in it for the long haul. It's obviously not bad work in any way, but it may be viewed as more of a job than a career. This is a challenge for retailers like Costco because employee retention is an incredibly important part of a successful business model. As The Balance Careers pointed out, the cost of employee turnover is incredibly high. It's expensive — not just in dollars, but in time — to search for, hire, and train a competent employee. 

One of the strategies Costco uses to retain good employees is to pay frontline workers well above the national minimum wage. According to CNN Business, Costco raised its minimum wages from $16 USD to $17 USD in October 2021, while simultaneously providing bumps in pay for supervisors.

What's remarkable about this decision is that this dollar bump in minimum wage came less than a year after the company's previous one-buck bump in the minimum wage in February 2021. Moves like this make it clear that the company is watching, listening, and responding to the needs of the industry and its employees. Costco understands that in order to keep good employees, they have to reward them for their service. A solid minimum wage is an excellent start.

Costco pays time and a half on Sundays

Depending on the company you work for, you may be accustomed to receiving holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's Day, off from work. Or, if you do have to work, you may receive holiday or overtime pay for working days that others get to spend celebrating with their families. However, in the United States, holiday pay isn't a guarantee or anything a company is required to offer, unless you have a contract that stipulates as much. 

And yet, Costco makes special pay a regular thing. No matter the job, no matter the total number of hours worked per week, Costco offers all of its employees time-and-a-half pay every single Sunday that they're scheduled to work, former Costco employee Meghan De Maria revealed in an article for Yahoo! Life.

Just do the math on that for a second. If a part-time Costco employee normally receives $17.00 per hour, they'll automatically receive $25.50 per hour — $8.50 more than usual — on Sundays.

Costco's average hourly salary is higher than you might expect

Determining the average hourly wage for any given company, especially a company as large and wide-ranging as Costco, can be difficult. This is especially true when the company is continually assessing and adjusting its minimum wages for all employees, making older, self-reported employee wages gathered by third-party organizations essentially moot. For example, if an employee self-reported a minimum wage of $13 an hour in 2018, but subsequently received four $1 raises, bumping his or her hourly wage up to $17 per hour, the information gathered by these third-party organizations would greatly underestimate the average, self-reported wage of a company's employees. 

That being said, Payscale, a third-party aggregator of self-reported employee wages, notes that the average hourly wage for Costco employees is just shy of $18 per hour ($17.99, in fact). This number obviously isn't something to scoff at, but it's important to note that much of Payscale's data comes from information sourced before the minimum-wage pay increases of 2018, 2019, and 2021 (four separate $1 raises in total). It can be reasoned, then, that the average hourly wage is even higher. In fact, according a February 2021 article in USA Today, Costco's CEO Craig Jelinek reported that the average hourly wage for employees was $24 per hour ... and this was before the two, $1 increases logged in 2021. 

All Costco employees are eligible for health benefits

In the world of skyrocketing healthcare costs, uncertain government support of universal health insurance, and shady business practices aimed at cutting expenses by limiting employee access to employer-funded insurance, the concept of health benefits for all employees is practically unheard of in the United States. Yet former Costco employee Meghan De Maria revealed in an article for Yahoo! Life that all full- and part-time employees at Costco are eligible for benefits, including health insurance. (For part-time employees to qualify, Glassdoor indicates they must average at least 23 hours per week.) The worth, in dollars, of this employee benefit is incredibly significant and shouldn't be downplayed when it comes to an employee's total salary package.

According to Forbes, employee benefits account for approximately 32 percent of employee compensation, with employee salaries accounting for 68 percent. In other words, if an employer is funding health insurance and other benefits, thereby picking up a huge chunk of expenses for employees, those are dollars that the employee doesn't have to spend out-of-pocket, essentially increasing his or her total wage by potentially thousands, even if this wage isn't "felt" in take-home pay.

Costco matches employees' 401k

A starting hourly wage of $17 per hour looks a lot more appealing than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and, while take-home pay is obviously an important part of an employee benefits package, you don't want to ignore the additional "pay" that comes from other employer-provided benefits. 

The cost of employer-provided health insurance is an obvious example, but employer-backed retirement funds with an employer match is another way smart companies can recruit and retain good employees. As one employee revealed to Business Insider, Costco auto-enrolls all of its workers in a company 401K plan, offering 50 cents on the dollar match to employee contributions, up to $500 total (it's capped at $250 for West Coast Union employees).

Costco employees who reviewed this benefit on Glassdoor seem to like the system (it received 4.4 out of 5 stars), and some noted that employees can contribute up to ten percent of their total salary to their 401K each pay period, although this appears to vary based on tenure with the company. This benefit can certainly add up to a nice retirement so it's not a shabby bonus at all.

Costco employees get some interesting non-monetary perks

In addition to things you might find in a "typical" benefits package, like healthcare plans and retirement funds, Costco also extends a number of smaller perks to its employees that may not come with big price tags but give the company just a few more selling points. For instance, all employees are given free turkeys for Thanksgiving, one employee told Mental Floss. It has to be nice to pocket that extra cash around the holidays! According to Fox Business, all employees also receive a free executive membership to the store, which clocks in at a $120 value

The real value to this executive membership, though, can be much greater. According to Costco's website, holders of the Gold Star Executive Membership receive a two percent reward up to $1,000 on all qualified Costco purchases, discounts on Costco Services, and free roadside assistance for vehicles covered through Costco's auto insurance program. It's hard to put an exact dollar amount on the overall savings employees receive with these perks, but they're really just another way to help reduce Costco employees' overall cost of living.

Costco employees receive paid vacation

After one year and 2,000 hours at Costco, the company rewards its employees with 40 hours, or the equivalent of one week, of paid vacation, according to a Reddit thread in which one user shared the company's vacation policy. But Costco's vacation policy isn't static — it improves with prolonged time at the company. After two years of service, paid vacation is increased to two weeks per year and after five years of service, it goes up to three weeks per year. 

There's also good news for employees who are dedicated to making a career at the company. After ten years of service, Costco grants four weeks of vacation per year and after 15 years of service, that goes up again to five weeks of vacation per year. So think about that: Costco employees receiving five weeks of vacation a year, plus between eight to ten paid holidays, plus any sick days they need to take based on their ongoing accrual, could be looking at the equivalent of around two paid months off of work per year. 

Again, the dollar equivalent for this benefit is hard to say as it varies based on the employee's status, tenure, and whether the vacation or sick time is actually used. That said, third-party aggregator website Comparably estimates that the combined value of Costco's paid time off and benefits packages have a value averaging between $1,000 and $1,500 per month per employee. 

Costco general managers can easily make six figures

For employees who work their way up to being a store's general manager, the payoff in compensation is significant. Pat Callans, executive vice president of administration at Costco told Reader's Digest in January 2020, the average annual salary for a general manager in the United States was $138,000. Obviously, that's enough to support a comfortable living in most cities around the country. But they can actually earn even more.

Callans went on to explain that managers can earn bonuses and stock-based compensation that far surpass the regular take-home pay. In fact, Callans stated that most GMs earn about triple the annual salary when these other factors are taken into account. As such, a GM might receive closer to $400,000 per year when all is said and done. 

Of course, running a Costco can't be an easy job considering you'd need to manage employees, inventory, quality assurance, and customer satisfaction. And you'd have to be able to effectively manage the stressors that go along with running a large retailer. Costco must be aware of these challenges, though, and in order to hire and keep good employees, they prioritize compensating them well. 

Some Costco employees make less than others

As with most big retailers, employees in entry-level positions — cashiers, cart collectors, stockers — at Costco tend to make the company's minimum wage of $17 in the United States.

Prior to Costco's 2019 and 2021 bumps in minimum wage, Business Insider compared the self-reported wage data from Glassdoor and PayScale for many of Costco's popular jobs. While this article can no longer provide deep insight into actual wage averages due to the outdated information on minimum wages, it does provide a pretty good picture of which roles pay more and which roles pay less. In addition to the roles already mentioned, other positions you can expect to start at the minimum wage include gas station attendants and front end assistants (those checking membership cards and receipts).

Due to Costco's increased minimum wage, though, employees filling these positions are still making much more than they would if they were working for one of retailer's competitors.

Specialty positions can receive pay above Costco's minimum wage

According to a Business Insider article comparing different self-reported salary information, it's evident that positions that require special training or skills can expect to be hired at a slightly higher hourly rate or, in some cases, may be offered a full-time annual salary. Examples of these positions include cake decorators, tire technicians, travel agents, and photo lab technicians. 

The higher starting wage makes sense. A college student waltzing in off the street without any prior training can't just start changing tires or developing photos professionally, and you probably don't want a newbie without experience trying to decorate your grandma's birthday cake (even decorators with experience have been known to make pretty epic cake fails). So if you happen to have the training or skills necessary to be hired into one of these positions, you can expect your experience to be rewarded with a slightly higher wage than the minimum salary. 

Costco's pharmacy employees rake in the big bucks

Costco is known for offering pretty great deals in its pharmacy, and with a steady stream of customers heading to the retail giant specifically for this purpose, the company wants to keep their pharmacy employees happy. Of course, it's not just pharmacists that work within the pharmacy. There are also pharmacy technicians (some labeled as "certified" or "senior") and pharmacy cashiers, according to self-reported salary data on Glassdoor

Pay rates vary according to the role, with pharmacy managers averaging over $137,000 per year, technicians making almost $52,000 per year, pharmacy interns making roughly $20 per hour, and pharmacy cashiers making closer to Costco's minimum wage. Costco's pharmacists earn roughly $75 per hour, which amounts to a solid six-figure annual salary. 

Obviously, not just anyone can be hired into these roles — they require more specific education and training and, as such, receive significantly more compensation. Really, all of Costco's healthcare-based employees can expect to receive a significant salary. For instance, opticians can expect to make over $20, or even closer to $30, depending on licensing and experience.

Costco drivers make bank

It doesn't matter if you're driving a forklift at a Costco facility or if you're a truck driver making long-haul shipments of the retailer's wholesale goods, those who hold the appropriate certifications for operating various vehicles can expect to be compensated well. This higher payment comes, in part, from the expense of receiving the appropriate training and certifications to take on these positions, but it's also a result of these positions carrying more risk than that of a standard store clerk. 

Just think about it. Loading and unloading pallets and navigating in and around a giant warehouse with a forklift — without doing major damage or causing an injury — takes practice and skill. We've watched The Office; we know. The people who invest in learning how to safely do this type of driving deserve a bump in pay. Likewise, the men and women who are willing to drive hundreds of miles each day on America's highways to make deliveries, often while spending time away from family and friends, likewise deserve to be well-compensated for their efforts.

According to self-reported salaries listed on Glassdoor, Costco forklift drivers make an average of $26 per hour and truck drivers average about $67,000 per year. 

At Costco, it all depends on the position you have

According to the most current information provided by Costco, the retail giant employs more than 288,000 workers worldwideMany of those positions are in-store roles, but as Costco's website points out, they hire for numerous corporate jobs as well. These include careers in marketing, human resources, customer service, merchandising, journalism — the list goes on and on.

Payscale, which provides self-reported salary information for specific jobs, lists an incredible 21 pages of different self-reported roles and salary averages at Costco. The overall pay of any given Costco employee varies based on the position in question, the number of hours and years worked, and the level of education or training a position requires.

In general, though, Costco makes every effort to compensate its employees well, which is reflected in how its employees review the company; as of February 2022, Costco has a 4.1-star rating on Glassdoor and an impressive 90 percent approval rating of Costco CEO Craig Jelinek.