How to get the (very) best deals, plus a very cool service you didn’t know they offered

Whether you are a seasoned Costco shopper or new to the joys of this big box wholesale store, you can always use some great tips and tricks. Get the most for your money with these eight insider scoops for getting the most out of your Costco shopping experience:

1. Decode the secret messages of Costco price tags.

Item prices that end in .97 or price tags that have the asterisk on them will always be your best-price option. Prices that end in .99 will always be full price with no specials or discounts.

2. Look for the Kirkland brand.

While in many stores the in-house brand or “generic” option indicates lesser quality in addition to the lower pricing, the same is not true of Kirkland. While it is true that you will always get the best deal on this in-house brand, they actually work with many top companies to make the same products and simply put their label on it. So, you aren’t paying for all that brand marketing and overhead. Kirkland Vodka, for example is the same distillery/formulation as Grey Goose at a fraction of the price. Even if you are brand loyal, I cannot suggest strongly enough that you give them a try—you can always go back to your favorite if you find them lacking.

3. Stock up on gift cards.

Costco is literally the only store I’ve ever found that sells gift cards at a discount, so this is the place to stock up, especially around the holidays for gift giving. And if you spot a store or restaurant you frequent regularly, you can save a ton of money!

4. Order in advance.

Especially if you are looking for party trays, custom cakes, or special cuts of meat, it is always worthwhile to call ahead and have them either make your items for you or set them aside. I often call ahead to the meat counter for whole untrimmed beef tenderloins, because they are anywhere from $5-15 cheaper per pound than the trimmed version that tends to be on display.

Credit: Education Images/Getty Images

Education Images/Getty Images

5. Get your printer ink cartridges refilled.

Talk about a discovery! Most Costco stores will refill your printer’s ink cartridges for around 8 bucks each. With new cartridges costing at least twice that price, you’ll definitely want to check this out at your local store.

6. If you hate it, return it.

Costco has one of the best return policies going. With a few exceptions, almost anything can come back for a full refund. So, if you scooped up an asterisk-sale-priced brand of canned chicken soup you'd never tried, only to discover your kids don’t like the noodle shape? Bring back all the unopened cans for a full refund, even if they were part of a multi-pack.

7. Take advantage of their tech support.

With every electronic item they sell, like televisions or computers, you get free tech support. So, before you call someone else to pay for a diagnostic visit, be sure to contact the Costco tech support line to get some assistance. Save your receipts for your tech products so you have them when you need them, but know that the good customer service folks can also check your purchase history through your membership number.

8. Take advantage of their price match policy.

While Costco is usually the lowest available price on most items, sometimes you will find the same thing cheaper elsewhere. You can get a refund for the difference either in store or by filling out an online form.