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Comparing Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club

Kimberly Palmer with NerdWallet said to figure out if joining a club makes sense financially.

INDIANAPOLIS — A new wholesale club in town means Julie Okotie is there.

"I did want to come check it out," Okotie laughed.

Not only did she check out the BJ's Wholesale in Noblesville, Okotie bought a membership because of a new member incentive.

"It was a no-brainer," she said.

Now a member at Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's – she said volume works for her family.

"It saves me money," Okotie said.

Each store offers her family something different. For example, at BJ's, she said she found a meat that's hard to come by.

"This is a big meat for us that we use in Mexican soups, stews," Okotie said, "I haven't seen it in either one [Costco or Sam's Club]."

Okotie also felt Costco offers a better organic selection.

Before you join any wholesale club, there are questions to ask yourself.

Kimberly Palmer with NerdWallet said to figure out if joining a club makes sense financially.

"You just need to do a little mini calculation and see if you'll shop there enough to justify paying that annual fee."

The annual fee is $55 a year at BJ's Wholesale, $60 at Costco and $50 at Sam's Club.

If you travel, Costco and Sam's Club have close to 600 locations nationwide. BJ's has a little over a third of that number.

The next question – what 's your storage situation?

"Be really careful about buying more than you can reasonably use within a six-month period, or however long the life is for these items," Palmer said.

As for prices, name brand items were comparable. Generic is where we saw a difference.

Fragrance-free baby wipes are the cheapest at BJ's – selling a 900 count for $14.79. In second place is Sam's Club – selling 1,100 wipes for shy of $19. Costco is the most expensive – selling a 900 count for $20.99.

BJ's is also the only store that accepts manufacturer coupons.

Before buying a membership, visit each store with your grocery list to feel it out. There's no charge to browse.

If you decide to join, ask for a new member discount or search coupon sites, including Groupon.


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