In today's article about whether a premium membership at Costco or Sam's is worth the extra cost, I listed most of the extra benefits that an individual can receive by ponying up $100. But several fans of Costco have called or wrote to say that paying the extra $50 each year is a "no brainer" because if you don't recoup the extra $50 in your annual rebate, Costco will refund it to you. If you save only $30, for example, Costco will refund you $20 and maybe even $50 if you push it. (Sam's Club has the same policy.)
What is a little confusing is that Costco's Executive members are accumulating rebate dollars toward two separate programs. The first one, available to all members, is through the American Express credit card. Members get a rebate of 1 percent on most purchases, 2 percent for travel, and 3 percent for restaurants and gasoline (for the first $3,000 in gas purchases and 1 percent after that).
Executive members also receive 2 percent back (up to $500) on all purchases made at Costco except on gas, stamps, cigarettes and a few Costco.com purchases. Sam's Club Plus members only get the 2 rebate after spending $10,000 on the Discover card (0.5 to 1.5 percent before that), but it's good on all purchases, not just purchases made at Sam's. The big downside, who takes Discover these days?
I realize that many people don't think they can even save $50 at a warehouse club, let alone $100. Yes, it's true that the larger quantities don't always work well for singles and couples. I, for example, buy the big tub of organic greens occasionally and inevitably I some of it goes bad before I throw it in the composter. Amazingly, the big tub of greens is cheaper at Costco than a small bag at Cub. There's my confession: I'm throwing greens in the composter a few times a year. Take it and run with it, readers who wouldn't be caught dead conspicuously consuming at a Costco or Sam's.
Members, I'll keep you updated on the so-called extra benefits of the $100 membership in the next several months.
BTW, am I wrong about Discover cards? Do a lot of retailers take Discover? I don't own one.
It's an unprecedented offer from Sam's Club this Friday through Sunday. Get all the benefits of a membership without paying anything extra. Normally, non-members have to pay a 10 percent surcharge on all purchases but not this weekend.
It's a good opportunity to see if you think the deals are good enough without commiting to a membership. Still, even if you decide after joining that the $40 or $100 membership isn't worth it, you can always get a full refund.
Should you buy the Advantage Plus membership for $100 rather than the $40 level? Check out my Dollars & Sense article on Tuesday. If the article changes your mind and you feel as if you need to know while you're in the store, go for the $40 membership and you can upgrade at any future date.
Allow plenty of time for shopping and checking out as I'm guessing the warehouses will be mobbed. Locations are in Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Eagan, White Bear Lake, Fridley, Apple Valley, Shakopee, Woodbury and Maple Grove.
Recently when I was paying for my purchases at Costco, a fast-talking employee said that she had looked at my account and determined that I would be an excellent candidate for the executive membership and it would only cost be about $20. After I got over the mild breach of privacy, I figured the $20 amount was pretty misleading because that's only the pro-rated amount until my renewal in a couple of months. At renewal time the membership will cost me $100 per year.
Does anyone have one of the premium memberships who would like to weigh in on their value or lack of it? Both clubs guarantee satisfaction so plunking down the extra amount isn't a huge risk.
For example, Costco members get all sorts of addtional discounts on auto and home insurance, high-yield savings accoutns, Identity protection, online investing and personal check printing. They can also gets individual health and dental insurance. All purchases on the American Express card get at least a 2 percent cash rebate (up to $500), compared to 1 percent for the regular Gold membership.
Let me know what you like or don't like about them. Reply here or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Dollars & Sense at the Star Tribune
Most of the coupons in Sunday's paper will save you 50 cents or a buck. But if you read the small print on page A18 in the Sunday, March 14 paper, you can get a $10 gift card just for renewing your membership. The offer is good through March 31. Usually, the freebie offers are just for new members, so this is a nice perk for existing members.
Just cut out the entire ad, including the bar code to get the credit. You can use the credit the same day. The ad also includes a one-day free pass for non-members, who can also get the $10 gift card with the purchase of a membership.
I went to Sam's yesterday to take advantage of the offer and had no problems. But the cashier surprised me when she said that 80 percent of members at their club have the Advantage Plus membership ($100 per year) instead of the $40 per year Advantage membership. I resisted her upsell, but tell me , Sam's Club members, do you think the $100 membership is worth it? I'm skeptical.
There are plenty of good reasons why roses are so expensive during Valentine's week, but here are four places that offer a dozen regular-sized red roses (possibly a pink, white, red combo) for $17 or less.
Costco. The surprise is that during Valentine's Day week, the home of massive quantities also sells bouquets of 12 roses for $14.99. Costco and Sam's generally sell roses in bunches of 25. This is one of those rare occasions where they downsize. When I checked Monday there were plenty of colors at Costco besides red and the arrangement (vase not included) included some nice greens (not baby's breath).
Sam's Club is selling a dozen roses for $15.87 (various colors).
Not a warehouse club member? Try any location of Trader Joe's, which is selling a dozen roses with greens for $14.97 and you don't need a membership card.
Want long-stemmed roses? Today is the first day that Aldi suupermarkets are selling a dozen red longies for $17. I recommend shopping early, especially at Aldi. Its flowers can look pretty ragged as the week goes on.
Can't get enough of roses? Check the warehouse clubs, supermarkets, Target and other discounters on Monday. Last year I remember seeing roses discounted further on the 15th at Target and Costco. That's no guarantee they'll do it this year. You might want to call before heading out.
Updates: to the person who commented online about a good price on Cub Foods' roses, they are $18 a dozen, about 20 percent more than Trader Joe's, Costco or Sam's. It's helpful if you tell us the price, not just say they're a good deal.
King's Roses (1701 E. Hennepin Av., Minneapolis, lower level, 612-331-3934), which one reader mentioned online, is selling theirs for $15 per dozen of red roses. Other colors (not white or pink) are $10 for a dozen. A dozen red roses in a vase is $45. Two dozen are $25.
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