As gas prices rise, are warehouse club memberships worth the savings?

6 June 2022

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Gas prices broke records in North Carolina on Monday.

The cost of a gallon of gas increased by 17 cents in the last week, leaving drivers paying an average of $4.52 per gallon, according to data from AAA.

AAA experts expect prices to continue to rise, which is causing many drivers to welcome even small relief.

“I was looking at Gas Buddy earlier and it was $4.59 everywhere else but it was $4.34 here,” said Raleigh driver Caswell Spencer. “So, it makes me feel like I’m getting a little bit of a deal.”

Spencer has had a Costco membership for over a decade and usually only fills up at Costco.

“I make good money so I can’t even imagine what people are doing who were having a tough time before this all happened,” Spencer said.

For years, memberships to warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s have offered low prices on fuel.

Right now, members are saving anywhere from $3 -3.80 for a 20-gallon fill-up. With the average American using 562 gallons of gas a year, the memberships have the potential of saving drivers $84-$106 a year.

“It helps but I’m fortunate that I don’t have to drive every day because I am retired so hopefully this will last me more than a week so if I have to go somewhere, I live in an area where I can walk to Target and walk to the mall,” said Costco member Wanda Moore.

The discounts at these stores don’t come for free. Annual memberships cost range from $45 (Sam’s Club) to $55 (BJ’s) to $60 (Costco).

Despite the upfront cost, members still walk away saving $30-$60 depending on the location.

ABC11’s analysis found drivers would have to fill up their tank 12 times at Sam’s Club, 17 times at Costco and 19 times at BJ’s to cover the cost of membership.

BJ’s is also offering a first-year membership for just $25. At that rate, a driver would only have to fill up their tank nine times to pay for their membership.

For Spencer, who runs a catering business in the Triangle, the membership pays off.

“It’s cheaper to get some things there, some things in a different area but especially gas because I fill up every other day. Driving everywhere for catering, delivering and stuff,” he explained.

Beyond the warehouse clubs, there are a number of reward programs, but consumers should do the math before assuming they will be saving a ton of money.

Gas prices in North Carolina are up 50 cents in the last month and $1.65 since this time last year. Comparatively, North Carolina drivers are still paying 34 cents less a gallon than the nationwide average.

Even with small discounts, drivers are hoping long-term relief comes soon.

“You can’t hurt people like this. People are deciding whether they are going to get food or whether they are going to get gas, which is not good,” Spencer said.

The AAA recommends drivers save on gas by combining errands, shopping around for prices, paying with cash, removing excess weight in their cars and avoiding aggressive acceleration.

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