Sam’s Club raising its membership fee for the first time in nine years

Photo (c) Virojt Changyencham - Getty Images

The annual fee is still less than rival Costco’s

The big increase in inflation this year has sent more people to warehouse membership clubs where, for a fee, consumers can buy in bulk and sometimes save money. As demand for these memberships grows, one warehouse – Sam’s Club – is increasing its membership fee.

The retailer, owned by Walmart, is increasing the annual membership fee from $45 to $50 – still less than rival Costco’s $60 annual fee. Sam’s Club’s top-tier membership is also going up from $100 to $110.

The new fees take effect Oct. 17.

It’s the first fee increase for Sam’s Club in nine years and the first for the top-tier membership, known as “Sam’s Club Plus.” The retailer, along with its competitors, has benefited from inflation. Budget-conscious shoppers have increased their memberships, especially as gasoline prices hit a record high in June.

According to CNBC, Sam’s Club CEO Kath McLay disclosed the fee increase in a message to members, saying the company is mindful of the economic pressures that many families face. Because of that, McLay said the company will reimburse members the amount of this year’s fee increase in the form of “Sam’s Club Cash” that can be used in stores.

Membership income is growing

Sam’s Club operates about 600 stores in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. The company does not report the number of members it has but has apparently seen the membership rolls grow this year. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Sam’s Club said income from membership fees rose nearly 9% during the quarter that ended July 31.

In addition to food and gasoline, warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club, Costco, and B.J’s Warehouse sell home furnishings, apparel, and electronics. Faye, a Sam’s Club member from Warren Mich., uses the store as a place to purchase hearing aids.

“I came in on April 19, 2022, and he spent a long time preparing my hearing aids and be sure they worked well,” Faye wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “I left (the) same day and I could hear. I would recommend him to anyone.”

A 2021 study found that members of warehouse clubs do save money if they can afford to buy in bulk. The study found that more affluent consumers shop at these warehouses because they can afford to buy in bulk while lower-income consumers end up paying more for smaller quantities at other retailers.

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