Consumer Reports put Costco and Sam's Club head-to-head -- here's the verdict

Consumer Reports compared Costco and Sam’s Club to see which retailer is a better deal.

Both stores offer deep discounts on bulk-sized groceries, electronics, appliances, and other household items for an annual membership fee.

To select a winner, researchers compared customer reviews on the retailers’ prices, membership fees, product quality, and customer service.

It was a close call, but Costco came out on top as the best deal.

Consumer Reports found that both Costco and Sam’s Club offer comparable prices across all departments, but noted that Costco’s membership is slightly more expensive.

Membership fees start at $55 annually for Costco and $45 annually for Sam’s Club.

In terms of product quality, Costco scored higher than Sam’s Club in several departments, including jewellery, women’s and kids’ clothing, and eyeglasses, according to Consumer Reports. The retailers scored equal marks for quality in the electronics department.

The clubs have similarly flexible return policies on everything but electronics, which they require to be returned within 90 days of purchase. Sam’s Club limits the return-eligible window to 30 days for some electronics, such as cell phones and tablets.

The retailers differ the most in terms of the services they offer.

At Costco, for example, members can get a mortgage, invest in securities, and buy car insurance. Sam’s Club, by comparison, offers services like regular shipping for recurring purchases like printer ink and paper towels. Sam’s Club also offers online auctions where customers can bid on items like laptops and flat-screen televisions.

Each of the companies got low scores for customer service, rating as “poor” to “fair” in that category. But Costco squeezed ahead of Sam’s Club with slightly higher marks for service, according to Consumer Reports.

In the end, researchers determined that both clubs are worth their membership fees, even though Costco has a slight advantage over Sam’s Club.

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