Is it worth paying to get a discount? In 2023, it seems just about every retail or grocery store chain has some sort of a rewards-slash-loyalty program that offers you perks in exchange for regularly shopping there. Some of these programs are “free” in the sense that you don’t pay for them (though you might be sacrificing some of your data—your purchase history will be used to target you with ads and coupons, for example).
But more and more stores are launching paid tiers for these programs, inviting you to pay a monthly or annual fee in exchange for supposed benefits. If you’re the suspicious sort, you might wonder how paying a store for the privilege of shopping there could possibly be worth it—but sometimes, it actually is.
Here are nine retailers whose paid membership programs are probably worth it—and seven that likely aren’t.
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Paid Tier Cost: $12.99 per month or $99 per year
Worth it? Yep.
Albertsons (which merged with Kroger in 2022) is one of the largest grocery chains in the country, and its paid membership tier, FreshPass, is a pretty good deal for one simple reason: Unlimited free delivery on orders over $30. There are other perks and discounts, but if you buy groceries weekly, the $99 annual fee comes out to a little under $2 per delivery, which is pretty great.
Paid Tier Cost: $139 per year
Worth it? Very much.
Sure, Amazon Prime is part of Jeff Bezos’ plan to lure us all into his walled garden so he can shut the gates, put up barbed wire, and control our lives. But he is making it very easy to be lured: It’s estimated the disparate services you get with your Prime membership would cost you about $1,100 if you had to pay for them separately. That means even if you don’t use half—or more—of what Prime offers, you’re still doing pretty well. Heck, the free delivery by itself is likely worth it if you shop at Amazon a lot, and you also get to watch that Lord of the Rings show.
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Paid Tier Cost: $29 per year
Worth it? Nope.
Bed, Bath & Beyond is still in business—if you call that being in business—but it’s doubtful it will still be in business by the end of the year. That alone makes this paid membership a waste of money.
Barnes & Noble Premium
Paid Tier Cost: $39.99 per year
Worth it? Yes, if you’re a serious reader
If you’re a big reader and shop at Barnes & Noble a lot, the forty bucks their premium membership costs can be a pretty good deal. It nets you 10% off of most purchases (in-store or online), a reward system that returns $5 for every $100 you spend, and free standard shipping on all orders. There are a lot of other perks, but that discount alone will pay for your membership if you buy books at a steady clip.
Best Buy’s My Best Buy
Paid Tier Cost: $49.99 or $179.99 per year
Worth it? Not unless you looovvvee Best Buy
Best Buy just introduced two new paid tiers to its existing loyalty program. For $50 a year, you get the perks of their free plan (free shipping, enhanced order management) as well as exclusive discounts, faster shipping, and more generous return policies. For a whopping $179.99, you get all that plus 24/7 VIP support, access to Geek Squad folks at any time (even for things you didn’t buy at Best Buy!), and 20% off repairs. But none of that is really worth the investment unless you buy a lot of stuff at Best Buy and need a lot of support. If you buy a TV there once every few years or dash in for a gadget here and there, this is a bust.
BJs, Costco, Sam’s Club
BJ’s Paid Tier Cost: $55/$110 year + $30 for extra members
Costco Paid Tier Cost: $60/$120 year
Sam’s Club Paid Tier Cost: $45/$100 per year
Worth it? For some people
BJs, Costco, and Sam’s Club all operate under the same business model: You pay a membership fee to access goods at wholesale costs. Since the membership fees and perks are all pretty similar, the usefulness of these memberships depends on how you use them. If you shop in bulk a lot, they can be a great deal. But with limited locations and the need to buy everything in bulk (which isn’t always a deal) it’s also easy to get tripped up and wind up wasting money.
Paid Tier Cost: $5 per month or $48 per year
Worth it? Yes, if you shop at CVS frequently.
Like all normal people, I find myself in a CVS 16 or 17 times a day buying essentials I’ve somehow run out of or picking up prescriptions and then buying essentials I’ve somehow run out of. If you’re also in a CVS all the time, the $48 you spend on a Carepass membership will probably pay off, because you get $10 every month as a reward. The $10 is only good for that month, but if you use it every month, that’s $120 in savings right there. Additionally, you get discounts, delivery options, and access to a pharmacist helpline.
Paid Tier Cost: $15 per year
Worth it? Yep.
Even if the only time you buy something at GameStop is when the ever-so-slightly different versions of Call of Duty or Madden drop, this is a worthwhile membership. You basically get your $15 back in the form of coupons within a month or so, plus an ongoing 2% back and other discounts with your membership. That means if you buy just one game, your membership is paid for. There’s also a free print magazine, Game Informer, which is extremely quaint.
Paid Tier Cost: $59/$99 per year
Worth it? Maybe.
Kroger, which merged with Albertsons in 2022, offers two tiers of paid memberships: For $59 a year you get free next-day delivery on your groceries, earn points towards gas discounts (up to $1 off per gallon, which is kind of great). The free delivery alone makes that a compelling deal if you regularly shop for groceries at a Kroger. Upgrading to the $99 tier only gains you free same-day delivery within two hours, which is nice…but is it $40 nice? I can’t remember the last time I desperately needed my weekly groceries delivered within two hours, but perhaps your life is much more exciting than mine.
Office Depot Business Select
Paid Tier Cost: $49 per year
Worth it? Yes, if you’re a small business owner
Yes, people apparently still do shop at Office Depot, and while they offer a free rewards program for the little folk, they also have a paid tier for small businesses. For $49 a year, you get discounts, early access to sales, discounts on business services like printing, and free delivery. If you order from Office Depot (or another office supply store) the free delivery it’s a pretty good deal.
Petco Vital Care Premier
Paid Tier Cost: $20 per month per pet
Worth it? Yes.
For those of us with fur babies, Petco’s Vital Care Premier membership is a steal. You earn points, get discounts, and free bags of food or grooming appointments (which you also get with the free tier)—but you also get unlimited routine veterinarian exams (at Petco or at an outside, participating vet), plus discounts on grooming, cat litter, and food. Plus you get rewards (about $15 worth, which can reduce your costs to just $5) and access to an exclusive help line. The free vet exams and discounted grooming by themselves make this one a worthwhile membership.
Paid Tier Cost: One time $30 fee
Worth it? Yes!
If you spend any time at all camping, hiking, or doing other outdoorsy things, you should absolutely sign up for an REI Co-op membership. Unlike other programs, it’s a one-time $30 fee—you never pay another cent to stay in the program. All you need to do is spend at least $10 on qualifying items every year and you get 10% back in the form of rewards you can apply to future purchases. You also get discounts and even free shipping on certain purchases. Getting 10% back every year means you’ll pay for your membership even if you only shop at REI once in a while.
RH (Restoration Hardware) Members
Paid Tier Cost: $175 per year
Worth it? Yes—if you buy furniture often or you’re planning a major redecoration
If your home decor tastes run towards the fancy, you’re probably familiar with RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) and their pricey furniture and knick-knacks. Because it’s a luxury brand, its paid membership tier isn’t cheap—it’ll cost you $175 a year. But that might be well worth it if you’re in the market for what RH is selling, because you actually get a lot of bang for those 175 bucks: 25% off all full-priced items, and 20% off sale items—plus you get complimentary design consultations. If you buy a lot of stuff at stores like this, or if you’re planning to drop a bunch of cash on a refreshed interior decorating plan, this could mean serious savings for you.
Sephora Same-Day Unlimited
Paid Tier Cost: $49 per year
Worth it? Nope.
All you really get for nearly $50 is same-day delivery. Will you ever experience a makeup emergency and find this to be a life-saving perk? Maybe. But Sephora offers same-day delivery (when available) for $6.95, so unless you need it more than four times a year it’s probably not worth it.
Paid Tier Cost: $10.99 per month or $99 per year
Worth it? Probably not.
Target Shipt (which services more than just Target stores) is basically a personal shopper and delivery service. You select your items, someone grabs them from the shelves, packs them up, and delivers them to you. On the face of it, that might be worth $99 a year ($8.25 per month), but Shipt marks up all the stuff you’re buying, so you’ll pay a bit more than you would if you bought the stuff in person (about $5 more on an average minimum order of $35). There are also service fees, depending on the store you’re shopping. Unless you absolutely need to have someone do your shopping for you, this probably isn’t worth it.
Paid Tier Cost: $12.95 per month or $98 per year
Worth it? Maybe.
Ah, Walmart—if you live in a town dominated by a Walmart, you know how easily it invades every aspect of your life. And if you’re shopping at Walmart all the time, its paid membership tier might be worth it. At $98 per year it’s a lot less than Amazon Prime and it’s working towards adding a lot of similar services, like streaming through Paramount+—but it still lags far behind Prime’s value proposition. You get free shipping and delivery, gas discounts, faster checkouts (life-saving at many crowded Walmarts), rebates, and other perks. But it boils down to how often you shop at Walmart. Every damn day? This is probably worth it. Once in a while? Probably not.