Costco Affiliate Program Review


Last updated on February 15, 2021

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Costco Wholesale is an international chain of membership warehouses that carry quality, brand-name products at low prices. It sells many items in bulk to accommodate business owners and families. Costco is one of the largest retailers globally, with operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and several Asian countries. In 2019, it began operations in China.

The company offers many groceries and packaged food items through its private label brand called Kirkland Signature. Other Costco businesses include gasoline stations, pharmacies, optical and hearing aid centers, and travel. Costco is often noted for being much more employee-focused than other Fortune 500 companies.

Company Profile

  • Founded by James Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman in 1983
  • CEO: Walter Craig Jelinek
  • Headquarters: Issaquah, Washington, United States
  • Stock ticker: COST
  • 800+ locations
  • 275,000+ employees
  • 100 million cardholders/members

Memberships & Pricing

Costco has four membership categories:

  1. Gold Star – $60
  2. Gold Star Executive – $120
  3. Business – $60
  4. Business Executive – $120

Costco Affiliate Program

Costco has an affiliate program. CJ Affiliate and FlexOffers hosts it. Let’s review the benefits, drawbacks, commission rate, cookie duration, and program details. Here’s a snapshot.

  • Cost per action (CPA): Cost per sale
  • Commission rate: Up to $6
  • Commission type: Single payment, nonrecurring
  • Cookie duration: Session-based
  • Payout threshold: $50
  • Payment options: Bank account
  • Affiliate software/network: CJ Affiliate and FlexOffers


Program Benefits

The payout threshold is low. CJ Affiliate issues payments when commissions exceed 50 USD or the local equivalent. Payouts are sent to the affiliate’s bank account.

There’s a full-time affiliate marketing manager. When a merchant has the staff to support publishers, it quickens processes and shows commitment. You can contact Costco’s affiliate team via email through CJ Affiliate.

Costco Wholesale is a top retailer and trusted company. It has a robust presence in North America and continues to expand worldwide. Therefore, converting traffic into new members is made easier with Costco’s brand recognition and low prices.

Program Drawbacks

An affiliate landing page outlines the details of a company’s affiliate program. Costco doesn’t have an affiliate landing page. That’s a big miss that won’t help to grow its program. Only by chance will publishers find the program on CJ Affiliate and FlexOffers (like I did).

Costco pays a disappointing commission rate. Affiliates will earn $3 for standard membership purchases and $6 for the higher-priced executive memberships. Those fixed commissions are equivalent to 5 percent of membership charges. Unlike most retailers that pay commissions on goods sold, Costco doesn’t. It should consider adding an ecommerce commission rate structure for online purchases.

The referral period is “session-based.” It’s the first time I’ve come across a session-based cookie duration, which sounds insufficient and disadvantageous. Also, the affiliate manager doesn’t define what that means. A session could start when a user visit’s Costco’s site and end when the user exits or becomes inactive. That’s my guess.

Deep linking isn’t available, but it’s how an affiliate creates a link to a specific page on the merchant’s site. Instead of using a standard homepage affiliate link, you can link to an article or product that relates to your content to increase relevance and conversion rates. Not enabling deep linking is a lost opportunity. It would be beneficial to send traffic directly to Costco’s membership sales page.

There are no ad banners or creative assets. Costco’s affiliate team misses again by not providing marketing materials.

Costco is a laggard in ecommerce, which doesn’t align with affiliate marketing. Costco’s online sales are growing at double digits, but it trails Amazon, Walmart, and other big-name retailers. Costco’s lack of online recognition could mean that most people will purchase memberships offline, which doesn’t align with its affiliate program.


Making Money

Can you make $1,000 a month as a Costco affiliate? Although Costco is a top retailer, it’s unlikely that you will make that amount or a significant income. Low fixed-commissions and a session-based cookie will constrain your earnings and conversions. Also, the limitation of earning only from membership sales is a tremendous disadvantage. Lastly, the program is out of sync compared to popular retail affiliate programs offered by Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and others.

Where should Costco rank in your marketing activities? It should be a low priority. Although you can earn money, you must be practical and maintain meager expectations. The program is ill-conceived and likely won’t appeal to publishers who want to make a lot of money. Costco’s affiliate team should restructure the program to produce win-win outcomes for both parties.

I don’t recommend joining Costco’s affiliate program because there are much better ecommerce and retail affiliate programs available.

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Chad Tennant

Chad is a digital marketer, consultant, and publisher. At Digital Fodder, he offers insights and strategies concerning online marketing, ecommerce, working online, YouTube, and more. At Partnercade, he helps companies grow their affiliate program revenues and partnerships. Connect or start a conversation with Chad on LinkedIn.


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