It takes energy to achieve financial goals, like saving $10,000 in a year or retiring with a seven-figure nest egg. That’s why everyone, including low-income families and other disadvantaged groups, need a way to afford a balanced meal and save money buying in bulk.
The USDA runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that distributes food stamps to low-income families with EBT cards.
But no one needs to break the bank to eat, including SNAP recipients. One of the top frugal living tips with a big impact on saving money is to carry your cheap grocery list to a discount store and buy in bulk to slash the unit cost per item.
That’s where wholesale stores like a nearby Costco or Sam’s Club come in. For millions of Americans who use SNAP EBT cards to supplement their essential food budget, finding a Costco discount store that accepts food stamps is a big win.
Costco wholesale is a chain of membership-only big-box retail stores with about 560 locations in the United States. It sells everyday items like groceries, household essentials, electronics, fashion at discounted prices, deep cycle batteries, new tires, and refills inkjet cartridges.
Does Costco Take EBT?
Short Answer: The good news is, Costco accepts food stamps at all its wholesale stores in the US for in-store purchases. SNAP rules apply at Costco, just like any other retailer. Costco sells lots of essential products in bulk at great prices. You can only use your EBT card to purchase SNAP-eligible items like discount meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, poultry products, soft drinks, and other staple food that you can carry and prepare at home.
But Costco doesn’t accept SNAP as an online payment method. So you won’t be able to use your EBT card for online purchases or pickup orders at Costco. Nor can you use your EBT card at Costco stores outside the United States.
Costco isn’t an approved WIC retailer, and you won’t be able to use your WIC benefits at its stores because all its products aren’t eligible.
All said you must be a member to enjoy discounted deals with an EBT card at Costco. For example, the Gold Star membership costs $60 per year, while the Gold Star Executive membership costs $120 per year.
You cannot purchase your annual Costco membership with an EBT card.
Does Costco Accept EBT Food Stamps?
Yes, Costco accepts EBT cards at all its big-box wholesale stores in the US for in-store purchases. However, you can only buy SNAP-approved items at Costco.
The only trade-off is that you must be a member to enjoy the discounted deals and other Costco perks. You can get started with the Gold Star membership at $60/year. The good thing is that the savings you realize are huge, and the annual membership fee should pay for itself.
You cannot use your EBT benefits at Costco.com because it doesn’t participate in the federal EBT pilot program. The program is designed to allow SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online with EBT cards. You won’t be able to order grocery delivery or place in-store pickup orders. Also, Costco doesn’t accept SNAP at the Costco food court and gas stations.
If you want to order groceries online at Costco, consider paying with another payment method like cash or an unexpired debit card. Alternatively, you can order grocery pickup from grocery stores like Amazon that accept EBT for grocery delivery or pickup.
Also, see our guide on gas stations that accept EBT.
What Costco Payment Methods are Accepted?
Costco accepts EBT cards and many other payment methods if your stuff isn’t SNAP-eligible.
The Costco payment methods accepted at its warehouse locations include cash, all Visa Cards, traveler’s checks, personal and business checks from current members, Costco Shop Cards, EBT cards, PIN-based debit cards, and the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi.
It also takes mobile payment methods like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay for in-store methods.
Costco gas stations accept limited payment methods like Costco Shop Cards, most PIN-based debit and ATM cards, Reliacard, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, and all Visa cards.
Costco payment methods accepted at Costco.com are MasterCard, all Visa Cards, Costco Shop Cards, PIN-based debit/ATM cards, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, and Discover Cards, including JCB and Diners Club.
Frugal Reality Tip: It’s always good to be armed with an alternative payment method when you go shopping. Just in case you want to purchase SNAP-restricted items like pizza or if you buy more than your balance.
See our guide on pizza places that accept EBT.
How To Use EBT Card at Costco?
Using your EBT card at Costco is like using your debit and credit card with a chip. The card is just a type of debit card that the government uses to distribute food stamps and other government benefits to low income families.
Once you become approved to receive SNAP food stamps, SNAP opens an account under your name where your SNAP funds are reloaded every month. To make it easier for you to spend and access your SNAP benefits, you’re given an EBT card locked with a secure 4-digit PIN to prevent the use of a stolen credit card.
Once you’re done shopping at Costco, head to the checkout register and swipe your card as you would a normal debit card. You’ll be asked to choose your preferred payment method. Select EBT and enter your 4-digit PIN to authorize the purchase. You can’t use your EBT debit card without a PIN.
If your order contains SNAP-prohibited items, the transaction will be declined. In this case, ask the cashier to split your order into different payment methods. For example, use your SNAP card first to pay for SNAP-eligible items, then use any other accepted payment methods like cash or personal checks to cover the remaining part of the order.
Can You Use EBT at Costco Food Court?
Per the SNAP rules, you can’t use EBT at the Costco food court. SNAP restricts the use of SNAP funds on hot and prepared food at the point of sale. It’s not eligible because that’s what the Costco food court sells. Also, you won’t be able to use your SNAP card to get cashback at Costco stores. But, you can get up to $60 cash back at Costco if you use a debit card at the register.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, SNAP allows individual states to extend SNAP with the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP). The program isn’t for everyone but is used for the elderly, the homeless, and people with disabilities who can’t cook or don’t have the means to carry and prepare meals at home. So far, only about six states have an approved RMP program.
You can only use an EBT card at Costco food court if you live in a state participating in the Restaurant Meals Program, and you qualify for the RMP per your state’s requirements.
You can also use your EBT card to eat out at Costco if you receive other government benefits, like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), through your EBT card. In this case, you can withdraw benefits from any QUEST ATMs that dispense $5, $1, $50, or $100, get cash back at Costco, stores that give the most cash back, and pay for food at the Costco food court. Otherwise, steer clear of the food court.
Frugal Reality Takeaway: You can only use EBT at Costco food court if you and your state participate in the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) or receive other government benefits like TANF.
What Can I Buy at Costco with EBT?
Costco carries various merchandise from household essentials, discount shoes, groceries, inexpensive, trendy clothing, good laptops for online college majors at discounted prices, and saving money on diapers. But don’t think you can walk into a Costco store and splurge on luxuries with an EBT card. That would defeat the purpose of SNAP.
Although Costco accepts EBT for in-store purchases at all its wholesale stores in the United States, you’re limited by SNAP rules. You can only use your EBT card to buy SNAP-approved products at Costco. They’re staple food items you can carry and cook at home as part of a balanced meal.
Here’s a list of SNAP-eligible items that you can buy at Costco with EBT:
- Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Fruits and vegetables
- Seafood like fish, shrimp, shellfish, lobster, and others
- Seeds and plants that you can grow at home to produce food for the family
- Pork products like sausages, chops, bacon, and tenderloin
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Bread and cereal
- Cooking oils like olive, coconut, and vegetable oil
- Poultry products like chicken meat and eggs
- Soft & Energy drinks like red bull, Pepsi, sprite, among others
- Red meat like steak, ribs, ground beef, and more
- Dessert items like brownies, cookies, ice cream, etc.
- Snack crackers and chip
What You Can’t Buy at Costco with Food Stamps
It’s equally important to know what you can’t buy with your EBT card at Costco. Anything that leans toward the luxury side cannot be purchased with an EBT card. When shopping at Costco, avoid the following items and departments:
- Alcoholic drinks
- Tobacco products
- Vitamins and medicine
- Cleaning supplies
- Feminine products
- Cleaning supplies
- Household products
- Pet food
- Hot or prepared food
Nobody wants to suffer the embarrassment of having to return things. So stick to SNAP-eligible items when shopping with an EBT card at Costco.
Always check your EBT card balance before going shopping and ensuring that you have enough funds to cover your purchases. You can easily do that by calling your benefits office or visiting Quest ATMs that dispense $10 nearby. Otherwise, carry an alternative payment method if you wish to buy a SNAP-restricted.
Does Costco Know I’m Paying with EBT Card?
Unfortunately, Costco has to know when you pay for groceries with an EBT card. However, that doesn’t mean everyone in the store will know you’re using it.
Let’s start with the cashier.
First, you have to tell the cashier the payment method you want to pay for your purchase. Then, before swiping the card, you must declare if you’re paying with SNAP or cash. That way, they can select the right payment option for you.
Second, the plastic card has large letters on the front that announce it’s an EBT card. If you don’t want to tell the cashier you’re using an EBT card, simply show the card to them, and they’ll select the right method without saying it. Either way, the cashier will still see that you’re receiving government assistance.
As for the payment system, registers at SNAP-approved retailers are set to recognize whether or not an item is EBT-eligible. That’s why your transaction is rejected when you mistakenly or intentionally try to game the system. So if it’s embarrassing enough telling the cashier you’re paying with an EBT card, but worse if you try to sneak SNAP-prohibited items at the checkout.
The only way you can use an EBT card at Costco unnoticed is through the self-checkout counter. There, your card is processed just like an ATM card, and you don’t have to tell anyone you’re paying with SNAP food stamps. So if there’s a self-checkout counter at your local Costco wholesale store, consider going that route.
Unfortunately, Costco restricts the usage of EBT cards at the self-checkout counter in many states. So most of the time, you’ll have to bear with the minor inconvenience of having someone, especially the cashier, knowing that you’re receiving government assistance.
That said, go ahead and pay with confidence. After all, nobody chooses their circumstances. If a hurricane sweeps your home and you’re living on food stamps to bridge your finances, that isn’t your fault.
Can I Use Costco EBT Self-Checkout with Food Stamps?
Yes, you can use Costco EBT self-checkout with food stamps as long as your local Costco warehouse has a self-checkout counter. It’s a great option if you don’t want anyone to know you’re receiving government aid. However, it’s unlike the cash register, where you tell the cashier the payment method you’re using—an EBT card processes like a standard ATM card at the self-checkout counter.
But before you get excited, note that Costco stores restrict the use of EBT cards at the checkout counter in many states. So it’s a setback you’ll have to deal with if that’s the case at your local Costco Wholesale store. Otherwise, go through the checkout unnoticed. As long as you purchase SNAP-only items, the system won’t embarrass you.
What is the Costco EBT Return Policy?
All SNAP-approved retailers must follow the SNAP rules. Recipients must be treated to the same store return policies as any other customers. They shouldn’t be favored, but they can’t be discriminated against.
Thus, there isn’t a separate Costco EBT return policy. That would amount to discrimination. Instead, Costco EBT customers are subject to the same return policy as everyone else. Since Costco offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can return any products to any Costco warehouse.
Your return will still be processed with or without the receipt. An EBT cardholder can return anything and take advantage of Costco’s generous store policy.
Does Costco Accept Calfresh?
Yes, Costco accepts Calfresh. Calfresh benefits aren’t separate from SNAP. It’s the name that SNAP goes by in California. Since Costco accepts SNAP at all its locations in the US, all Costco locations in California accept Calfresh.
In fact, 23% of all Costco warehouse locations are in California, with about 131 stores. So if you live in California, go ahead and spend your Calfresh benefits on Calfresh-eligible products at any location.
Does Costco Take EBT for Delivery?
No, Costco doesn’t take EBT for delivery orders. Unfortunately, that means you can’t use EBT to purchase items online at Costco.com. Unfortunately, Costco doesn’t participate in the USDA EBT pilot program designed to add EBT as an online payment method in every state.
But you can use other payment methods like Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi to shop online at Costco.com.
Does Costco Take EBT Online?
Unfortunately, Costco doesn’t take EBT online to buy things. Though EBT isn’t an accepted payment method at Costco.com, all Costco warehouse stores accept EBT for in-store purchases. However, Costco.com only accepts the Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi, MasterCard, Discover, and Costco Shop Cards for online grocery orders.
See our related guide on meal delivery kits that accept EBT.
Does Costco Business Center Take EBT?
Yes, Costco Business Centers take EBT for SNAP-eligible purchases. Though there are subtle differences between regular wholesale stores and Costco Business Center, they follow the same store policies. Since all Costco locations accept EBT for in-store purchases, the Business Center takes it too.
The only difference is that Costco Business Centers are tailored for small businesses and small business deliveries. So if you’re a business member, you’re better served at a Costco Business Center than a regular Costco Wholesale store.
Executive business members enjoy an additional perk of entering the store one hour earlier than Gold members, Monday to Friday. Otherwise, everything else is the same.
How Can I Save Money When Shopping at Costco?
While shopping at chains like Walmart and Costco already offers you low prices, you can always aim to save more money. If you’re a regular customer at Costco, using these tips will help you get the most bang for your buck.
Did you buy something from Costco that went on sale just the next week? You can actually get the difference back from the store. Costco has a policy that if something you bought goes on sale within 30 days, you can bring your item back to the store and Costco will refund the difference to you.
This means that you should keep an eye out for sales in the store, not just for new things to buy but also to see if the stuff you’ve recently bought shows up.
Use the Return Policies
Costco has user policies that are very friendly to the customer. If you open something up and do not like it, you can return the item and get all your money back. Just make sure that you keep the receipt and do not damage the product.
You might also need to return electronics and appliances within 90 days to be able to get a refund or an exchange. Ninety days is a long time for a return window, as most retail supermarkets do not allow you to return items after 30 days.
Know What to Buy in Bulk
While buying in bulk is supposed to save you money, make sure that you’re only buying items that will last before buying them in bulk. For example, you might be tempted to buy flour in bulk, but it can absorb moisture from the air and go bad before you get a chance to use it all.
Similarly, buying condiments in bulk might seem like a good idea, but they might go bad if left on the shelf for too long. Most condiments have a lot of sugar, salt, and preservatives, which doesn’t let them have a long enough shelf life to justify buying them in bulk.
Another thing you should not buy in bulk is coffee. Being left in the open makes coffee lose a lot of its aroma and strength, and you might lose most of the flavor before you end up finishing the bag. If you’re a coffee enthusiast, buying coffee in bulk is not the best idea.
Are you not getting as many points as you thought you would on your Costco membership? A lot of people end up spending a lot of money on the membership and then not making enough points from the card. At the end of the day, this means you’re losing money.
The good news is that you can easily downgrade your card. If the executive card is not worth the membership fees you’re paying, you can request a refund anytime.
Does Costco Take EBT SNAP Summary
Costco accepts food stamps at all its over 558 stores in the United States. It’s a great shopping destination for bulk purchases, especially for bargain hunters and SNAP recipients with large families.
You can only use EBT to purchase SNAP-approved items at Costco. Unless you live in a state that participates in the Restaurant Meals Program(RMP) or receives other forms of government aid like TANF, you won’t be able to use an EBT card at the Costco food court. Also, Costco doesn’t accept EBT for online orders or at the Costco gas stations.
Always check your EBT card balance before you go shopping and carry an alternative payment method. Then, in case you run out of SNAP funds or want to purchase a few SNAP-restricted items, you’ll have an extra payment option.
You can also make EBT returns to Costco. EBT returns are subject to the same return policy, and you’ll enjoy a 100% satisfaction guarantee like everyone else. See our related article about Walmart Return hours and policies.
Costco is not a 24-hour store and is closed all major holidays to allow employees to rest and spend time with their families.