The Costco Membership Benefit No One Knows About

Navigating the maze of Costco seems to require a slew of insider knowledge — and many members pride themselves on knowing all of the savvy shopping hacks, bargain-hunting tips, and best food buys they can get their hands on. But though everyone is familiar with (and loves) the free samples, $1 hot dogs, and in-house food courts, even hardcore fans of the wholesale chain may be missing out on a lesser-known perk that accompanies their membership: water delivery.

Delish recently ranked Costco's water delivery service as one of the nation's best but added that "some of the most dedicated Costco members don't know about this stellar deal." According to Costco, members simply select their preferred type of bottled water (spring or purified), available in three- or five-gallon bottles, then choose a water dispenser, which can pour hot and/or cold water, and schedule deliveries. The spring water starts at $7.49 per bottle while purified water starts at a buck cheaper, $6.49.

Water delivery to the home or office certainly has some obvious perks: convenience, potentially lower pricing than buying individual bottles, and better-tasting water than one might pour out of the local tap. But is Costco's water delivery service a good deal overall?

Expect a third-party service

For home or office water delivery, Costco facilitates the process, but the company clarifies that "Costco and its affiliates do not sell the water or provide the equipment and/or delivery services associated with this program." Rather, Costco teams up with suppliers, so the service is available in "most U.S. markets" but not necessarily everywhere. According to The Spruce Eats, Costco works with a company called ReadyRefresh, a carbon-neutral outfit, for its water delivery service. And while the customer has flexibility, such as choosing the frequency of deliveries and the number of water bottles needed, there is a minimum purchase requirement of roughly $12 for each delivery.

ReadyRefresh is owned by Nestlé Waters North America, so most of the brands available for delivery are ones under the massive company's umbrella. Availability is determined by geographic location, but in addition to Nestlé Pure Life, the company stocks well-known regional brands, such as Deer Park, Poland Spring, and Zephyrhills, among others (via Nestlé Waters). The company notes that water deliveries can be scheduled at various intervals. Businesses might require weekly drop-offs while home users may choose monthly plans. Customers can change the amount they want to be delivered during the subscription, but if you skip a delivery altogether, tough luck — you can expect to pay the same monthly fee.

The perks and costs of Costco water delivery

As Costco notes, water bottles are delivered "clean and sanitized," eliminating any germaphobes' concerns. And dispensers (though the availability of different models will vary by location) have a removable drip tray for easy cleanup. For those who want to minimize environmental impact, ReadyRefresh will pick up any empty bottles, then sanitize them in-house, and recycle them. The company claims it "lead[s] the industry in reusing 3- and 5-gallon bottles."

Business.com explains that the water bottles are spill-proof for zero leakage when installing, and some customers may be able to receive bottom-load dispensers for 5-gallon bottles — but every dispenser costs extra, of course. And Quick Sprout adds that bottom-load dispensers also incur an additional fee, roughly $3 for Executive Members and $5 for Gold Star Members, charged every four-week billing cycle.

Meanwhile, the overall cost of a subscription will be lower for Executive Members than Gold Star Members. After all, Executive Members, according to Costco, pay an additional $60 "upgrade fee" for their yearly membership, so they receive optimal pricing.

The fine print behind Costco's water delivery service

The company notes that, in addition to needing a Costco membership, customers must enter into a service agreement to get the lowest pricing on bottles. Members should also factor in the price of the dispenser itself as well as possible fees for delivery and bottle deposits. Want an old-school paper invoice? That might cost you, too. In fact, some Reddit users have expressed serious frustration with the service. While some approved of the "super positive experience," others complained about incorrect charges and orders, late deliveries, and difficult service agreement cancellations.

The takeaway: review every detail of the delivery agreement before signing on the dotted line to avoid unpleasant surprises. Since you'll be working with a third party, Costco likely won't be able to swoop in to handle any complaints. Still, for those who would rather save their valuable Costco cart space by not having to pile in mega-size packs of water bottles — and save themselves the trouble of hauling them to the home or office — Costco's water delivery may be yet another perk to help justify those pesky membership fees.