Buying in bulk is advantageous for many larger families, people shopping for a party or event or even smaller families who like to stock up at once. There are quite a few options out there, but two of the most popular include Costco, and BJ’s Wholesale Club.
With many similarities between the two, you might be wondering: Are Costco and BJ’s the same? Does it really make a difference choosing one over the other? Well here’s what you need to know!
Are Costco And BJ’s The Same In 2024?
Costco and BJ’s share some similarities, but the two chains are vastly different, starting with the fact that they operate under entirely different ownership in [currenntyear]. Another key difference between the two is the number of locations, with Costco in many different continents, BJ’s is limited to just 17 U.S. states.
I’m going to cover in more detail the key similarities and differences between these two chains, whether the memberships are at all interchangeable, which one will save you more money and which has better products and a better experience overall. Stick with me, and keep reading!
Are Costco And BJ’s Owned By The Same Company?
Costco and BJ’s are not owned by the same company; the stores are two entirely different enterprises.
Furthermore, Costco is overseen by the Costco Wholesale Corporation, based in Issaquah, Washington (state), just outside of Seattle.
Additionally, the publicly traded company started out as a merger between the Price Club chain and the recognizably named early Costco company.
Initially called PriceCostco, after the Price Club leadership left the company, the “Price” part got dropped and what we recognize as Costco today began its ascent.
BJ’s Wholesale, which is also publicly traded, was founded in 1984 out of Westborough, Mass., by Mervyn Weich (who named the store after his daughter, Beverly Jean).
After much changing of hands, BJ’s was acquired by two private equity firms, and it is currently overseen by CEO Bob Eddy.
What Is The Difference Between Costco And BJ’s?
Despite similar business models, Costco and BJ’s Wholesale are quite different, from stores and locations to the overall shopping experience.
Here are some key differences:
- Costco operates nearly 600 stores in the U.S. (with another 200 abroad), while BJ’s is limited to 229 stores in 17 states.
This is perhaps the biggest disparity between the two chains, as many won’t even have the option to choose between Costco and BJ’s.
For many Americans, there isn’t a BJ’s Wholesale for hundreds of miles, or even within the state
- Costco memberships cost $60 or $120, while BJ’s cost $55 and $110 (both have “basic” memberships for less and more “elite” memberships for the higher amount)
- Costco stores average around 146,000 square feet, while BJ’s can range from 70,000 to 130,000 square feet
- Costco stocks an average of 4,000 products on shelves, while BJ’s is more on par with Sam’s Club, at 7,000+ SKUs
- Costco has much bigger selection of organics than BJ’s (though the latter has been beefing up its inventory)
- Costco’s Kirkland Signature house brand offers many more items than either of BJ’s store brands, Berkley-Jensen and Wellsley Farms
- Costco stores boast devoted food courts, with deals like the famous $1.50 hot dog and a soda; BJ’s has what Business Insider called an “in-store Dunkin counter”
- BJ’s accepts manufacturer’s coupons, while Costco does not
- BJ’s also puts out a monthly coupon book for members, with extra savings, which Costco does not
- Shoppers found that BJ’s “bulk” quantities were less overwhelming, as in meats where items were packaged closer to grocery store quantities.
Costco is known, of course, for its absolutely enormous slabs of meat, like whole strip loins (which sell for less per pound than they would in a grocery store).
- Shoppers also prefer BJ’s aisle marking, which is also reminiscent of grocery stores, with item groups listed on giant signs overhead, making it easier to find things
It’s fair to point out some of the similarities between the two, as well. This will help you make an even more informed decision about which chain is best for your household.
- Membership-based shopping (unless you use Instacart)
- Additional services for members, including tires, deals on Internet and cell phone plans, appliance sales, travel discounts and perks, optical services and more
- Generous return policies (for many items, there is no time limit at Costco; BJ’s extends up to a year)
- Return policies for both even extend to the memberships themselves; if you’re unhappy with your experience, they both will refund you the membership price
- A mix of store brand and name brand items
- Alcohol sales where permitted
- Sale of merchandise, everything from TVs and other electronics to apparel, jewelry, furniture, pet supplies and more
Is Costco or BJ’s Better?
“Better” is a subjective term, because what works for one household might not be the best option for another.
So let’s break this down by who might find more value shopping at Costco and who might find more value shopping at BJ’s.
Costco is better for:
- Larger families or small business owners who will use the larger bulk packaged items before it can go bad
- Households with the storage space to accommodate bulk purchases
- Shoppers who like an “experience” when they go grocery shopping, complete with busy aisles and a trip to the food court
- Shoppers who want the very best quality items (and are willing to pay a little more for it)
- Shoppers who want a better selection of organics
BJ’s is better for:
- Smaller households of two or three
- Apartment dwellers or households in smaller houses without a lot of storage space
- Shoppers who want a calmer, more organized experience
- Households that have to stock up on snacks often
- Shoppers who want a wider selection of name brands
Which one sounds like you?
However, don’t forget, in some cases, the choice is already made up for you, since BJ’s Wholesale stores are limited to just 17 U.S. states currently.
Is Costco Or BJ’s Cheaper?
Koopy.com did a price comparison between Costco and BJ’s and the site found that the majority of the time, BJ’s was actually cheaper.
The site filled a shopping cart for each store, with identical or near-identical items, and found that the BJ’s cart total came to $945.28, compared to Costco’s $980.92.
Additionally, they found that BJ’s pricing was particularly advantageous where packaged snacks, home essentials, personal care products and pet supplies were concerned.
However, where the two chains were so close, as to be almost identical, was pantry/non-perishables, though they were within cents of each other.
Furthermore, the store’s meat prices were also very close, but where Costco came out the clear winner was in the produce aisle.
Costco was almost six dollars cheaper than BJ’s, and bear in mind that Costco also has a wider organics selection.
Is Costco Or BJ’s Better Quality?
Both Koopy and Rebate Key remark that Costco is known for having better quality items than BJ’s Wholesale.
Says Rebate Key, “Consumer Reports found that Costco ranked higher than BJ’s in terms of…brand quality, meat and produce quality and organic items prices.”
“Costco offers higher-quality products to consumers than BJ’s,” Koopy declares.
So if the best possible quality of store brands and produce is important to you and your household, you might want to make Costco your go-to.
However, it is more expensive, in terms of membership fees and some item prices (but not produce!).
Does Costco Or BJ’s Have More Products?
BJ’s gets the edge on the number of products, or SKUs (stock-keeping units, a.k.a, barcodes, and in this case, the number of each type of item inventoried).
What does that mean practically, when you’re looking at the shelves?
It could indicate that BJ’s carries more brands or has more varieties of different items.
Furthermore, if you’re wedded to a certain brand, BJ’s might be the more likely of the two to carry them.
Can You Use A Costco Membership At BJ’s?
Since the two chains are owned by completely different entities, Costco and BJ’s memberships are not interchangeable.
However, you can shop both using Instacart, and you don’t need a membership for either.
However, you’ll simply pay higher prices than in-store, which helps cover the overall loss of membership fees.
With Costco, if you are a member, you can enter your membership number and get lower prices and have your purchase qualify toward any rewards points.
However, that is not true of BJ’s, which does not currently allow for entering membership information.
Therefore, if you want to get your rewards points for BJ’s, you will have to go into the club to shop.
Costco and BJ’s Wholesale are both membership-based bulk-purchase warehouse chains that, in return for yearly membership dues, give shoppers access to great deals.
While Costco does have the edge when it comes to better quality, in some cases BJ’s prices can’t be beaten, and the latter is also better for smaller households.