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1. Gasoline

HUMBLE, TEXAS, US-OCT 28, 2016: Costco gas station with customers refueling.
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock
Customers line up for inexpensive gas at a Costco warehouse club store.

The cheapest gas in at least half the states is found at one of the major warehouse club chains — Costco, BJ's and Sam's Club — according to GasBuddy.

Prices can be several cents a gallon less that you'll find anywhere else.

The Sam’s Club MasterCard also gives 5% cash back when you buy gas at those stores. As long as you pay your credit card off in full each month, the cash back from filling up your tank can more than make up the $45 cost of a standard Sam's Club membership.

2. Soft drinks and alcohol

HUMBLE, TEXAS,US-MAY 21, 2017:Aisle of bottles in wine section of Costco store.
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock
Wholesale club stores have good prices on wine, beer and other beverages.

Food and drinks for weddings, graduation parties and other big family get-togethers can cost a fortune. Warehouse clubs offer big discounts per ounce on soft drinks and alcohol, and the savings will seriously add up if you buy large quantities.

Of course, the downside is that bulking up on those drinks probably isn’t good for your waistline.

Even in states like New Jersey that bar alcohol sales at supermarkets, warehouse clubs are able to sell alcohol in select locations.

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3. Gift cards and movie tickets

FOLSOM, CALIFORNIA, USA - OCT 3, 2017: Costco wholesale warehouse shopping aisle for coupons and discounted gift cards,  a members only club.
Cassiohabib / Shutterstock
Save on gift cards at warehouse club stores.

Looking to find a great gift for birthdays and holidays? At any of the Big Three warehouse stores, you can get a discount of 15% to 20% when you buy gift card multipacks. That’s like free money!

Movie tickets also are deeply discounted. At Costco, you'll pay an average $9 per ticket, compared to the normal price in most states of $11 to $15.

4. Organic and vegan food

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - November 09, 2017: Two Kirkland organic raw honey in bear bottles with dripping honey in a prep bowl
Yi-Chen Chiang / Shutterstock
Wholesale clubs are a surprisingly good place to find organic and vegan foods.

The typical grocery store may not have loads of selection when it comes to organic or vegan food. If you're on a special diet, your supermarket choices may be limited to Whole Foods.

One of the big perks of warehouse stores is that they offer gourmet, organic and vegan food options in bulk at reasonable prices, which is enough to make any healthy foodie happy.

5. Medications

FOLSOM, CALIFORNIA, USA - OCT 3, 2017: Costco wholesale warehouse shopping aisle for drugs and vitamins on Pharmacy area,  a members only club.
Cassiohabib / Shutterstock
Save on prescriptions at a warehouse club pharmacy.

You may not think of using the pharmacy at a wholesale club store, but those can offer great deals.

At Sam’s Club, upgrading to a $100 Plus Membership will give you five free months' worth of medication. The savings might make the club membership pay for itself.

Just be sure to check if the pharmacy will accept your insurance, or if your specific medication is covered in the program.

The Worst

1. Fruits and veggies

Colorful fruits and vegetables background
Africa Studio / Shutterstock
A wholesale club store isn't your best choice for produce.

Unless you’re on a raw food diet or a juice cleanse, the chances you and your family will finish a jumbo-sized bag of fruits or vegetables may be pretty slim.

Also, much of the produce sold at club stores is more expensive than going to a local farmer's market or Aldi's. If your family can't eat it all fast enough, the food and your money will go to waste.

2. Condiments and spices

Salem, Oregon - July 8, 2017: Condiments, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper at food stand at county fair.
Michael Warwick / Shutterstock
You can easily waste money bulking up on condiments at a warehouse club.

Unless you’re running a restaurant or drenching everything you eat in ketchup, buying condiments and seasoning in bulk can be a waste of money, because those items will expire before you use them up.

Many condiments and spices can be found at dollar stores for $1 or less, and those smaller packages should be enough to last a long time.

A giant warehouse-club container of a non-food item like sunscreen also can expire and lose its effectiveness. Remember to check expiration dates before committing to a large-sized purchase.

3. Electronics

CHIBA, JAPAN - November 15, 2017: Several large 4K TVs on display in a Japanese branch of the American membership warehouse club Costco.
Ned Snowman / Shutterstock
Wholesale clubs tend not to have the lowest prices on TVs and other electronics.

Very occasionally, you can score a great deal on a widescreen TV at a warehouse club. However, the vast majority of electronics are overpriced when compared to what you'd pay just about anywhere else.

Data from BestBlackFriday.com shows that the club stores' best electronic sales of the year can't match the far better deals at Walmart, Best Buy, Kohl's, and Amazon.

4. Books, DVDs and CDs

Books arrayed for sale as you find in a warehouse club store
Tharnapoom Voranavin / Shutterstock
Shopping for a book? Amazon will probably have a better price than your nearest warehouse club store.

Most wholesale clubs have a great selection of books, music and movies, and you may spot a title you’d love to own. However, in most cases you can get a much better deal on any form of media on Amazon.

If you really have your heart set on a new book you see at a club store, you can download the Amazon app and scan the book's barcode with your phone. If Amazon's price is lower, you can buy the book from Amazon before you even leave the store.

5. Furniture

Wooden table and chairs isolated on white with Clipping Path
Veniamin Kraskov / Shutterstock
Other retailers may easily beat the furniture prices you see at your wholesale club.

All three of the major warehouse club chains have a large selection of furniture available both in-store and online. However, the prices can be extremely high compared to, say, IKEA.

A wholesale club may offer furniture that's of a higher quality than IKEA's, but you can find similar styles and quality for less at Amazon or Overstock.com.


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About the Author

Shannon Quinn

Shannon Quinn

Freelance Contributor

Shannon Quinn was formerly a freelance contributor to Moneywise. Quinn is an entrepreneur and writer from the Philadelphia area.

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