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Monday, March 6, 2017

Hundreds of dollars in cash rebates allow Costco members to shrug off June fee hike

Costco Wholesale members who use the Costco Visa Credit Card received cash rebate checks in February for purchases in the warehouse store, and at restaurants, gas stations and other stores.



When Costco Wholesale says the check is in the mail, members know they'll soon be receiving cash rebates on just about everything they buy in the discount warehouse, as well as on many outside purchases. 

And that's why they just shrugged at news the warehouse giant will be raising membership fees on June 1 for the first time since November 2011.

The standard Gold Star membership will cost $60 -- $5 more than the current $55-a-year membership.

And the executive membership will go up to $120 a year from $110.

In addition to cash rebates from the Costco Visa Credit Card, executive members receive 2% cash back on the previous year's warehouse purchases when they renew their membership.

$260 and more to come

In February, my credit card rebates totaled about $260 -- easily more than double the $110 I paid for an executive membership, which also entitles you to Costco travel discounts and other perks.

Those rebates include 4% cash back on gas purchases at Costco and other stations; 3% back on restaurants and travel, 2% back on purchases from Costco and Costco.com, and 1% cash back at other stores.

I'll get another 2% cash back from Costco when I renew my membership in August at the new rate of $120 a year.

"A $5-$10 increase isn't going to break the bank for many Costco members, given that the average customer there has a six-figure income," The Motley Fool reported on Sunday. 

"As a result, there shouldn't be a big change in renewal rates, which have hovered in the 90%-91% range in the U.S. and Canada recently."

"Costco is unusual among retailers in that membership fees account for the vast majority of its income," says The Motley Fool's Adam Levine-Weinberg.

"Its actual warehouse operations barely turn a profit."

More grocery rebates

Although we spend most of our food dollars at Costco, we also buy produce, seafood and other items at ShopRite, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market; and two Korean chains, H Mart and H&Y Marketplace.

At those stores, I use an American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card, which returns a 6% cash rebate on groceries.

Separately, H Mart has a loyalty card that gives customers a 1% rebate after they spend $1,000 ($10 back to be used in the store).

With the American Express card, I earned $275 in rebates on purchases at ShopRite and the other stores from May to December 2016.

The card has an annual fee of $95, up from $75 when I applied for it during a promotion that gave me a $150 credit (covering the annual fee for two years).

See: Sports fan finds major error in The Record

Last Tuesday, I used my $201.94 credit card cash rebate check on our weekly shopping trip to Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, where I bought two GEL Cloud Memory Foam Pillows for $9.99, above and below.
I made purchases totaling about $119, and received the balance of the rebate check in cash.
A favorite snack in our home are sodium-free raw almonds, which we roast in the oven and dust with cinnamon (275 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes). A 3-pound bag sold under Costco's private Kirkland Signature label was $12.99.
Another favorite is a 2-pound package of Jarlsberg Lite reduced-fat Swiss Cheese ($9.69), which I add to egg-white omelets or for a snack, roll up with smoked wild salmon and spring mix, and dip in Dijon mustard.