Amid record-high prices across the country, Costco continues to offer a nice discount on fuel compared to most major gas station chains. For most folks, there’s a catch: You have to be a Costco member to use the store’s gas pumps. That wasn’t the case at New Jersey Costco stores. But now, the discount grocery giant says it’s ending its policy of letting anybody fill up at Costco pumps. Sorry, freeloaders.
As far as I knew, Costco gas has always been for members only. As a Costco member myself, I assumed this was the case everywhere. I mean, you can’t fill up unless you swipe your membership card first. It’s even in Costco’s FAQs regarding gas:
Q: Can anyone buy fuel at a Costco Gas Station?
A: The fuel station is open to Costco members only. There is an exception: Costco Shop Card customers do not need to be Costco members.
According to the Cherry Hill Courier-Post, that hasn’t been the case in New Jersey for nearly 20 years, and now, the company wants to change that. Back in 2004, the state ordered Costco locations to open up their pumps to all paying customers. State officials said Costco’s membership requirement for fuel violated state law. So for the past 18 years, Costcos in New Jersey didn’t require a membership to get gas.
As the Courier-Post reports, this week signs went up at New Jersey Costco fuel stations saying “Effective July 5, 2022, your active Costco membership card will be required for gasoline purchases.” An industry analyst told the paper that the state may have been wrong about the membership requirement being illegal. “I am learning they [Costco] are taking a position that it is not illegal to limit their customers to members at their New Jersey gas stations and I see nothing in state law that prevents them from doing this,” Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, Automotive Association, told the newspaper.
Customers don’t seem to be up in arms about it. When the Courier-Post spoke with people in line at a New Jersey Costco gas station, most said they already have a membership. Others were a bit shocked as they had gotten used to not showing their member cards. “I always had to use my Costco card in Ohio, but here in New Jersey they never ask for it. I wonder why that’s going to change” one customer told the Courier-Post.
Whether or not the membership requirement is actually illegal remains to be seen. Just know that, if you fill up at Costco in New Jersey, you’re going to have to whip that membership card out. At least until the state steps in again.