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Warehouse store showdown: Should you join Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's?

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Basic membership is $50 a year at BJ’s, $55 at Costco, and $40 at Sam’s Club. If you want to test the waters first, keep an eye out for free trials.

2. Rewards

Warehouse clubs offer rewards programs, but they’re not free. Become a BJ’s Rewards member for $100 a year (or upgrade an existing membership for $50), and you’ll get 2 percent back on most in-club and BJs.com purchases. Costco’s Executive Membership is $110 a year and also offers 2 percent rewards – capped at $750 a year. Sam’s Club is experimenting with the idea of a cash rewards program; in a new rollout, Plus members ($100 a year) are now receiving $10 for every $500 spent – which also comes out to 2 percent – capped at $500.

3. Nonmember surcharges

Thinking about shopping at a warehouse club without footing the bill for a membership? Costco is the least expensive: the surcharge to nonmembers is 5 percent. BJ’s is the highest at 15 percent, while Sam’s Club’s surcharge is 10 percent.

4. Locations

Costco and Sam’s Club have more locations than BJ’s. Sam’s Club has 620 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, while Costco has nearly 450. BJ’s has just more than 180.

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