Why doesn’t your American Express card work at Costco?

Young woman in front of refrigeration case with cheese and dairy, shopping in a warehouse-style grocery store. Young woman in front of refrigeration case with cheese and dairy, shopping in a warehouse-style grocery store. Image:

In a Nutshell

If you’re headed to Costco and planning to use a credit card to pay for your wholesale goods, make sure it’s a Visa because your American Express card won’t be accepted there anymore.

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You head off on your errand run and swing by Costco to stock up on paper towels, potato chips and protein bars. You’re calculating how much you’re saving in your head and head to the register. That’s when it hits you.

You don’t have a Visa® credit card and don’t have enough cash to pay for the items in your cart. You take out your trusty American Express® card to swipe it through the machine only to see that the payment doesn’t go through.


Why doesn’t your American Express® card work?

For a long time, starting in 1999, American Express was Costco’s exclusive credit card partner. It was the only type of credit card accepted at the store, and if members of the wholesale giant wanted a credit card with Costco-related rewards, their only option was to get a co-branded American Express/Costco card.

But that changed when Costco and American Express decided to end their relationship in 2016. After that, Costco went on to name Citi as its exclusive credit card issuer and Visa as its new exclusive credit card network for Costco in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Since then, American Express has been out and Citi along with Visa has been in — and that has a few implications for Costco members.

Today if you want to use a credit card after shopping at the bulk superstore, there are a few things you should know:

  • You can only use a Visa if you’re paying by credit card at Costco
  • If you want a co-branded credit card with a Costco logo on it, you can now only get it through Citi
  • In addition to Visa cards, Costco still accepts cash, checks, debit and ATM cards, electronic benefit transfer (EBT) and Costco Cash Cards

So, what cards do work at Costco?

If you’re a Costco fan but don’t have a Visa® credit card, there’s no need to worry. There are many cards available to meet your needs and still give you the option to continue shopping at Costco.

Here’s one we recommend checking out.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi 

From our partner

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is a co-branded Costco/Citi credit card and a great option for frequent Costco shoppers. It’s a rewards card that gives you cash back at the pump, when eating out, while shopping at Costco, on Costco.com® purchases and more.

Here’s a full summary of the cash back rewards you’ll get with this card.

  • 4% cash back on eligible gas around the world and at Costco gas stations (up to $7,000 annually, 1% cash back after that)
  • 3% cash back at restaurants and eligible travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on all other purchases at Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

A quick note on cash back rewards: You’ll get an annual reward certificate at the close of the billing cycle each February summing up the amount of cash back you accrued throughout the year. You can then redeem your cash back at any Costco® warehouses in the U.S. in the form of cash or merchandise.

Beyond the cash back rewards, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi also has other benefits, including car rental insurance, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and trip interruption protection.

The card also doesn’t have an annual fee if you have a paid Costco® membership. But you’ll need a Costco® membership to shop at the store, and annual memberships range from $60 to $120. Fortunately, once you have a membership, this card can act as your membership ID card.

Is the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi right for you?

Your lifestyle and interests can play important roles when deciding on a rewards card. Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi might be a great fit if you shop regularly at Costco, enjoy eating out and fill up your gas tank at least weekly.

However, you may find a different Visa that better matches your needs. Here are three other Visa cards you might want to consider:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Good for travel rewards
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Good for balance transfers
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Good for cash back

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

From our partner

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

If travel is your main goal, this rewards card could be right for you. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you two points per $1 on travel and dining and one point per $1 for all other purchases.

It also offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, which is $750 in travel you can redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card has an annual fee of $95.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

From our partner

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

This card has a $0 annual fee, and its rewards are easy to remember. You’ll earn 3% cash back on all purchases during your first year of having the card (on up to $20,000 spent). After that, you’ll get 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Plus, the card offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months from account opening (jumping to a variable APR of 17.24% - 25.99% after that). Keep in mind that balance transfers come with a fee of 3% (minimum $5).

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

From our partner
See Details, Rates & Fees

Similar to Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card comes with a sign-up bonus of $150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Credit cards rewards can differ widely, so it’s wise to look into each card to see what’s right for you.

“I always advise people when they’re choosing a rewards card to choose one that is meaningful to them,” says credit expert John Ulzheimer, president of the Ulzheimer Group.

“If someone is happy using points earned at Costco, then I think getting a Costco Visa is a good choice,” he says. “That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t use some other method of payment to buy things at Costco if they’d rather utilize a different [Visa] rewards card.”

To compare more cards, check out Credit Karma’s list of credit cards by credit score.


Bottom line

Before you head out to Costco, make sure there is a Visa in your wallet if you’re going to use a credit card because your American Express® card will no longer work there. The good news is there are many types of Visa® cards to choose from if you want to keep using a credit card at Costco.

Whether you decide on going with the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi or another Visa card depends on your situation and interests. No matter which card you choose, make sure it makes sense for you and gives you what you want from a credit card.