Costco might hike its membership fees -- here's how much more you'll pay

Costco is expected to raise its membership fees by nearly 10% in the next couple months.

The warehouse chain’s fees will likely increase $US5 to $US60 for its basic membership and rise $US10 to $US120 for its executive membership, according to UBS analyst Michael Lasser.

The fee hike could be announced Thursday along with the company’s second-quarter earnings report, though it’s more likely the announcement will come in the third quarter, Lasser wrote in a research note published Monday.

Costco hasn’t yet confirmed a fee hike, but it also hasn’t ruled one out.

During an earnings call in December, Costco CFO Richard Galanti signalled that it might be the right time to raise fees, though he hedged that by saying, “I’m not trying to suggest that it’s tomorrow afternoon.”

Several months earlier, Galanti had highlighted the fact that Costco raises its fees every five to six years, and that January of this year was the five-year anniversary of its last fee hike in the US.

The company recently increased its membership fees by 10% in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Mexico, and the UK.

Fee increases shouldn’t have a major impact on sales and membership renewals, which are at a rate above 90% in the US and Canada, according to Lasser. In fact, an increase should support a boost in shares, he said.

“Traffic growth was solid across the company in December and January (up an average of 4% in the US and 3% worldwide),” Lasser writes. “This suggests members continue to be intrigued by the company’s value proposition, and leads us to believe that renewals likely at least remained steady at 90.3% in the US and Canada and 87.5% worldwide.”

UBS estimates that Costco’s membership fee income rose 6.7% in the second quarter of the year to $US643.5 million, compared to the period last year. The firm is also estimating that same-store sales grew 3.7% during the period.

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