The Secret to Shopping at Sam’s Club Even If You’re Not a Member

Bulk retailers like Sam’s Club are either great for your shopping needs or are huge wastes of your money. It all depends on how you shop.

Sam’s and its bulk retailing competitor Costco can offer great ways to save, but both require a yearly membership fee. At Sam’s, the cheapest membership is $45. How are you supposed to know if bulk shopping is for you if you’ve never done it before? Well, you’re in luck. You don’t necessarily need a membership to shop at Sam’s Club. Here’s how to do it.

1. Be the plus-one

Shoppers leave a Sam's Club store

Find a friend who’s got a card. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

If you know someone who is already a member, they can add you to their account free of charge. Some bloggers, like The Krazy Coupon Lady, say a member of the same household needs to add you, but the Sam’s Club website doesn’t specify. If the business or company you work for has a business membership, you can be added to the account. So, hit up your friends or boss and find out if they have room on their account for you.

Next: A reason to start planning your next party.

2. Buy booze

Case of Bordeaux Wine

Feel free to stock up for your next party. | Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images

The law says club membership retailers like Sam’s cannot prohibit non-members from buying alcohol. The gist is, since the store has a public liquor license, it can’t prevent any member of the public from buying booze. It must be noted, however, that each state has its own liquor laws and this policy might not be in effect where you live. Before you hop in the car and head out to load up on booze, check with your local Sam’s first.

Next: The buddy system

3. Find a friend

A sign hangs on the side of a Sam's Club store

Use the buddy system. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

This might be the easiest solution. Ask your friends if you can go with them on their next Sam’s run. You probably won’t want to make a habit out of it and some reciprocal hospitality might be nice, but this is an easy way to avoid buying a Sam’s membership of your own.

Next: This is how you can see your way in.

4. Get your eyes checked

Sam's club health screening

If you’re seeing the eye doctor, you can step inside. | Sam’s Club via Facebook

As we saw with alcohol in item No. 2 on our list, you can walk into a Sam’s without a membership if you are seeing the optometrist. You’ll walk out knowing your prescription, but you won’t be allowed to actually buy your glasses at Sam’s. Like most items for sale there, you need to be a member to make a purchase, as the club website notes.

Next: No need to RSVP

5. Guest membership

A shopping cart sits in the parking lot of a Sam's Club

You can get a guest membership from their site. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sam’s will gladly let you in the front door to shop to your heart’s content. All you need to do is present a guest membership pass, which you can get from the club’s website. The big downside is the 10% surcharge on any purchase you make, which is kind of the antithesis of shopping at a discount club to begin with. But as Lifehacker notes, if you’re shopping for loss leaders or deeply discounted items, going this route might be worth your while.

Next: Welcome one and all

6. Hit up an open house

Shoppers leave a Sam's Club store

Figure out when their open house is. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

The absolute best way for Sam’s Club to lure in potential customers is to just let them in. So that’s what it does with open house events from time to time. You can sign up for email alerts, including dates of open houses, from the Sam’s Club homepage, or keep an eye on its Facebook feed for updates.

Next: Follow doctor’s orders

7. Pick up prescriptions

Sam's club pharmacy

It might be worth it to join if you want to pick up your prescriptions. | Sam’s Club via Facebook

As we’ve already seen, optometrist visits and alcohol aren’t subject to membership restrictions at Sam’s Club. Neither are prescriptions or certain health screenings, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and body fat tests. While anyone can go in for a prescription, this is one area where it might pay to join the club. As the club’s website notes, Plus members get certain prescriptions for free, generics for $10 or less, and up to 30% off name-brand medications.

Next: Let your stomach lead the way.

8. Satisfy your hunger at the cafe

Sam's club cafe

The prices are a pretty sweet deal. | Sam’s Club

Like many major retailers, Sam’s Club locations have concession stands on site. Anyone can dine there and the prices are hard to beat. A hot dog and soft drink combo costs $1.50. A slice of pizza with a drink is $2.50.

Next: Just one card required

9. Shop online

sam's club instant savings

You can get some savings online, but will have to pay a fee. | Sam’s Club via Facebook

There is definitely one way to get around having to show a Sam’s Club membership card — shop online. You won’t get the discounted prices (you’ll have to pay a 10% surcharge, as the website Rather-Be-Shopping notes), but the only card you need to make the purchase is your credit card.

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