Shopper shares 'unethical life hack' to buy from Costco without membership. But does it work?

Juan Llauro/ShutterStock @thelkshow/TikTok (Licensed)

‘They will let you in’: Shopper shares ‘unethical life hack’ to buy from Costco without membership. But viewers aren’t convinced

'That's a lot of work to save $50 a year.'


Phil West


Posted on May 8, 2023

If you were looking for an “unethical life hack” involving Costco, today is your day.

At least, that’s what one TikTok account is offering, sharing what the creator presents as an “unethical life hack” allowing people who want to get into Costco without getting membership cards.

The advice is one in a series of so-called “unethical life hacks” from the @thelkshow account, but this one’s quite popular, getting more than 815,000 views as of Monday.

The on-screen caption on the short video promises, “Instead of buying a Costco membership, just buy a gift card. You can get in and pay whatever else you need using a debit card. Saves you money buying a membership, and with the gift card you buy, you’ll end up spending it on things you would normally get.”

@thelkshow This is how to safe money #savemoney #unethicallifehacks #membership ♬ Blicky – Fresh X Reckless

That assumes you’d typically go in for industrial-sized tubs of pretzel and some loose-fitting Kirkland jeans, but we digress. Commenters weighed in on the TikTokers’ suggestion, debating whether it was credible.

“Tried this in Jersey,” one commenter claimed. “A gift card doesn’t get you in the door without a membership.”

Another observed, “You can’t do this … you will be able to get into the store, but at the till, they scan your membership. So if you don’t have one, you can’t buy anything.”

But another commenter retorted, “You don’t need to scan a membership card to spend a gift card.”

Others asserted it was possible, but could only be done twice a year, whereas others said it required jumping through the hoop of getting a day pass.

Indeed, Costco itself confirms the cards can be used in their stores or on their website by non-members. In an FAQ page on Costco Shop Cards on the Costco website, the company specifies, “Non-members, as well as members, may use Costco Shop Cards to shop at any Costco location in the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico, as well as online at and”

The Motley Fool, exploring this hack in an article from this past September, cautioned, “Only Costco members are allowed to buy Costco Shop Cards. So you would need someone who is a current Costco member to buy a gift card for you. And once you had spent the balance on your gift card, you would need them to get you another card or to reload your existing one.”

That article added, “This is likely not a long-term solution since you probably don’t want to hassle your friends and family with Costco memberships by asking them to buy you gift cards to the warehouse club all the time (even if you do pay them back).”

Maybe you are that pushy, and don’t mind calling on the Costco members in your lives to periodically hook you up with a gift card to go shop for big food.

But as one commenter observed, “That’s a lot of work to save $50 a year.”

Someone else pointed out that’s since been upped to $60 a year, but point taken.

The Daily Dot reached out to the creator via TikTok comment and to Costco via a website form for its public relations department.

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*First Published: May 8, 2023, 6:29 pm CDT