Both Costco and BJ's Wholesale Club is well-known for exclusive memberships, big-bulk items, and specialty store brands. Costco was founded in 1976, while BJ's emerged years later in 1984, but both have since been compared to one another over time. While the stores have overlapping characteristics, there are still several key differences in how they operate.
In the tossup between the shopping clubs, we've discovered some notable differences that make each brand stand apart. Check out the five biggest differences between Costco and BJ's.
BJ's Accepts Coupons…Costco Doesn't
Unlike Costco, BJ's accepts manufacturers' coupons—and is the only club to do so—meaning that shoppers can save on individual name brands like Cheerios, Wheat Thins, or Nature Valley bars. BJ's company website even encourages members to "stack them on top of in-Club coupons."
Costco, however, does not accept general manufacturer coupons and its website explains why it decided to go in a different direction—it already has sales and offers sourced straight from the warehouse itself. The company says that it's also a matter of keeping the prices low, because "Manufacturers, meanwhile, often will simply 'load' the cost of a coupon program into the original pricing of their product." It adds that "Because it ultimately doesn't provide any advantage to the member, we don't permit our vendors or buyers to carry out that practice at Costco."
Costco has a Food Court…BJ's Doesn't
As another major arm of the warehouse brand, Costco's beloved food court attracts members with its famous $1.50 hot dogs, along with fan favorites like the pizza and the onion crank. But BJ's members don't have the luxury of a food court. There was one once upon a time, but the food courts have been replaced with Dunkin' Donuts kiosks since 2016.
BJ's Non-member Surcharge is Higher
BJ's basic membership status costs $55 annually, and its premium membership is $110 per year. If you want to bypass the membership dues, BJ's offers a 1-Day Shopping Pass for online shopping on the store's website … keep in mind, though, that there's a 20% surcharge for non-members. It also doesn't carry all the perks of a regular membership. Shoppers can only use the "Ship It" service; BJ's notes that its free "In-Club Pickup" and "Same-Day Delivery" options aren't part of the deal.
As for Costco, yearly dues are $60 for the Gold Star/Business basic membership, and for double that amount, you can get the Gold Star Executive/Business Executive membership. Like BJ's, Costco offers non-member shopping for the company's online store, with non-members expected to pay a surcharge. However, unlike BJ's 20% surcharge, Costco has a non-member surcharge of only 5%. Shoppers can't purchase any of the "member only" items, but the warehouse pharmacy, optical center, and vaccination sites are all available and open to the public!
BJ's Has a Bigger Product Selection
BJ's revealed in a 2017 call with investors that at the time a typical store offers about 7,000 products. There isn't much word on if the number of items has changed since then, but the company says the number of items is "roughly double the assortment found in Costco or Sam's Club but well below what is found in a typical supermarket and dramatically less than what Walmart or Target offer."
Costco Outnumbers BJ's in Store Locations
In total, Costco has established close to 600 stores in 482 cities across the United States, with California making up a whopping 22% of these Costco stores (with 132 locations operating in the state alone).
BJ's has significantly fewer store locations in comparison, with only 215 stores in 16 states according to the company's website. This means a stark difference as far as the number of employees with BJ's 25,000 team members versus Costco's 189,000 employees.