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Can you use credit cards at Costco?

Costco has a rather strange payment policy that often confuses people, and it’s no wonder, thanks to the fact that their policy is actually different in the stores versus online at

You may have heard that Costco only accepts American Express credit cards in its warehouse stores, and this is true. No Visa. No MasterCard. No Discover. (Costco even has its own credit card — the TrueEarnings American Express Card .)

It’s a different story online, though. Costco treats its Web site like it’s any other e-commerce site, meaning anyone can make purchases on, even if you are not a Costco member. (Though non-members will pay a 5% surcharge on top of the price of anything they buy.) You can also use almost all credit cards, including not only American Express but also Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

So, why only American Express in Costco stores?

Frankly, we don’t know for sure, but it’s

fairly easy to guess. American Express has likely reduced the fee it charges Costco for credit card transactions in exchange for being the exclusive credit card at Costco stores. Costco gets a predictable, low transaction fee, while American Express gets all the Costco credit card business and probably even gets some new customers who open an American Express account specifically for the ability to pay at Costco.

But why does Costco accept the other credit cards online? This one has us stumped. If you think you know, gimme a holler at .

NOTE: The above information pertains to the United States only. In Canada, Costco is switching away from American Express — MasterCard will be the only type of credit card accepted at Costco in Canada beginning on January 1, 2015. In addition, Costco’s branded credit card (that doubles as a Costco membership card and offers Costco-specific rewards) will be issued in partnership with Capital One.

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