Can You Really Shop at Costco with a Gift Card But No Membership?

Updated: Jul. 25, 2023

I tested the viral Costco gift card hack to see if it's too good to be true. But it worked like a charm!

There are so many things I love about Costco. For starters, the $1.50 hot dog deal and the famous rotisserie chicken. Plus the chance to buy a kayak and a case of avocados at the same time. But, alas, though my love of the warehouse runs deep, I gave up my membership many, many moons ago once I ceased owning a car. (Have you ever tried taking a case of toilet paper and a four-gallon bucket of mayonnaise on the bus?) Then I heard about a Costco gift card hack that’s gone viral on TikTok. It supposedly allows anyone to shop at Costco, no membership required.

While Costco membership certainly has its benefits, for someone like me that might only shop there once or twice a year, the Costco gift card hack promised to be a game changer. Would it allow me to refill my freezer with cheeseburgers and taquitos? Or would I leave Costco in disappointment?

What Is the Costco Gift Card Hack?

According to this TikTok creator, the key to shopping at Costco without a membership is the Costco Shop Card, a reloadable gift card that can be purchased by Costco members in any amount.

In order to make the Costco gift card hack work, you’ll need the assistance of a friend that has a Costco membership. One option is to have them purchase a gift card for you online, which can be mailed to your door or sent via email. Another option is for them to purchase a physical gift card in-store, which can be picked up at any cash register when checking out.

Does the Costco Gift Card Hack Work?

A staff speaks to a customer inside a Costco store in Teterboro, New JerseyVIEW Press/Getty Images

I tried to circumnavigate Costco’s membership policy in two different ways: online and in-store. For my first attempt, I asked my best friend/Costco member to provide me with her login info so I could purchase the gift card myself, thus hopefully saving us from the awkward step of transferring cash. Hours after I placed my order, I received an email notification that my order had been cancelled due to incorrect payment and billing information.

In order to purchase a Costco Shop Card online, it needs to be paid for with a card belonging to a Costco member. If you have a friend who doesn’t mind the extra step, they can purchase a digital gift card on your behalf.

Since my initial plan didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, my bestie and I went to Costco together. After we both loaded up our carts, she checked out first and tacked a $25 gift card onto her order. Then she handed it to me so I could (hopefully) check out while she went to grab us hot dogs and churros.

Even though my gift card was only for $25, I still loaded up my cart with nearly $200 of products, because that’s just the sort of thing that happens at Costco. When the cashier asked to see my membership card I showed her my gift card, bracing for possible rejection. Without a beat she waved her manager over, who cheerfully put a key into the register to help me complete my transaction. When I asked if I had made everyone’s lives needlessly complicated (I don’t want to be a menace!), they assured me there was nothing wrong or “illegal” about what I was doing. Costco’s computer system simply requires a manager’s login info to process gift cards, and they don’t mind helping one bit!

After running my gift card through the register, I had a balance of close to $140 to pay. And it was no problem! The only caveat is that when using gift cards, non-members must pay with either cash or debit cards, not credit. Once I was all paid up, I was good to go and free to enjoy my hot dog in peace.

What to Know Before Testing It Yourself

Mayra Guitierrez hands the cashier her membership card to make purchases at the Costco in Huixquilucan, Estado de MexicoThe Washington Post/Getty Images

If you’re going to try the Costco gift card hack yourself, here’s what you need to know:

  • Gift cards purchased online must be paid for by members.
  • The value of your gift card does not matter—as long as there’s some money on it, you’re good to shop!
  • You can purchase as much stuff as you like at Costco regardless of your gift card balance.
  • Any balance owed after you use your gift card must be paid with cash or debit card.
  • Non-members are not allowed to reload their gift card.
  • If you anticipate needing to make multiple trips to Costco, have your partner in crime purchase several gift cards for small amounts in one fell swoop. This way you only need to bother them once!