Buying a Cell Phone at Costco Wholesale: 4 Things To Know – Clark.com – Clark Howard

Costco used to be one of the best places to buy a new cell phone or phone plan. However, the kiosks that used to offer the best deals shut down last year after the vendor went out of business. Recently, Costco’s phone kiosks have reopened, but the deals aren’t exactly the same. 
Money expert Clark Howard recently talked about buying a cell phone at Costco on his podcast. In this article, I’ll share Clark’s latest advice on buying a cell phone at Costco. 
Costco offers excellent deals on many essentials, but unfortunately, cell phones aren’t currently one of them. 
In the past, Costco has had cell phone kiosks set up in the warehouse with excellent deals for new devices and new lines of service on any of the three major cell phone service providers. Now, those same kiosks offer service from one of the three service providers (either AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon) and you won’t find the same great deals on cell phones and plans that you’ve seen in the past at Costco.
That being said, you’ll still find a selection of unlocked iPhones available on Costco’s website that are cheaper than buying your phone directly from Apple. Plus, all of the iPhones at Costco come with AppleCare+.
Before you buy a new phone or phone line through Costco, here’s everything you need to know.
If you’re looking to purchase a new phone, you won’t find the most extensive selection at Costco. Instead, Costco offers a small selection of devices from the latest iPhone series.
If you visit the cell phone service kiosk in person at your local Costco, you may be able to buy a new phone through one of the three major cell phone service providers. However, Costco also offers a selection of unlocked iPhones sold online and in-store that you can activate with any carrier after you’ve purchased the phone
“Costco.com often sells iPhones cheaper than you can buy somewhere else,” says Clark. “They do these regular promotions where they offer deals on iPhones significantly better than you can buy direct from Apple, and often better than what you can buy from one of the big cell phone carriers themselves.”
At the time of writing (October 2023), there were three different unlocked iPhones available online at Costco: 
Buying the same 128GB unlocked iPhone 15 with AppleCare+ directly from Apple costs $978 at the time of writing. The 128GB iPhone 15 Pro with AppleCare+ costs $1,198 at Apple.com, and the 512GB iPhone 15 Pro with AppleCare+ costs $1,498. That means you’ll find a better deal at Costco on any of these iPhone models than you will see directly from Apple.
You can check out the current selection of unlocked iPhones online at Costco. You can also check your local warehouse for in-stock unlocked iPhones. If you order a device online, you can choose to have it shipped directly to your house or to your nearest Costco Wholesale for free in-store pickup.
In the past, Costco’s cell phone kiosks have been a great place to buy a new phone and phone plan. However, those kiosks suddenly shut down toward the end of last year. Now, Costco’s cell phone kiosks are reopening in warehouses, but you won’t find the same deals or plan selections that you’ve seen in the past. Instead, your local Costco will likely be offering postpaid plans from either AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon.  
“Costco had a sweetheart deal for years,” says Clark. “They had an outside vendor that set up the cell phone deal there and Costco members normally got vastly superior deals buying phones and signing up for service inside the Costco versus going to an AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon store or wherever.”

“Unfortunately, the deal that Costco had negotiated was too good, and the vendor went bust. So those booths disappeared. And what’s in their place at least for now… Costco is temporarily renting space to the big cell phone carriers, and the deals stink!
After hearing that the Costco kiosks have reopened, I visited a nearby Costco myself to see what was available. I found that this store had partnered with Verizon and offered the same postpaid plans I’d seen online. 
There was an incentive for customers opening a new cell phone line: a $250 Costco Shop Card. The representative in the store couldn’t confirm that the same deal would be available at every Costco.
I also visited Costco’s website and found exclusive Costco Member discounts for AT&T and T-Mobile: 
While these deals may be worth comparing to in-store or online-exclusive deals from a major cell phone provider, it’s no longer safe to assume that Costco is offering the best deals on cell phone plans.
While you likely won’t find the best deals at the Costco cell phone kiosk, you’ll still find a cheaper price tag on unlocked iPhones. If you do buy an unlocked phone from Costco, it will come with AppleCare+ and can be returned to Costco within 90 days of purchase.
According to Costco’s website, AppleCare+ includes the following coverage: 
You can learn more about AppleCare+ on Apple’s website. Additionally, you can check out the details of Costco’s return policy online.
Costco used to be a great place to buy a phone or start a new line of service with any of the major three providers. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Now, you’ll likely be able to beat the selection, prices and incentives at Costco if you’re looking to get the best deal on a cell phone or cell phone plan.
Instead of buying your next phone or activating a line of service at Costco, here’s Clark’s latest advice:
“So buying a cell phone now, how do you do it? Generally, the thing I’m finding best for people who don’t want to be in a payment contract with any cell phone carrier is you go direct to the selling site of the manufacturer (or often Amazon) to buy a new or reconditioned cell phone,” says Clark.

“Often, if you go to the manufacturer, they’re offering deals for you to buy a phone with an offer of crazy generous trade-ins. So generous that I’ll go and buy a used phone on eBay that’s in good condition and trade it in and often I’ll save $500-$800 on the phone by doing that.”
If you don’t already have an old phone in good condition that may be eligible for a trade-in, you can buy one online at places like eBay or Swappa for a great price. For more options, be sure to check out our top picks for the best places to buy unlocked phones. For more details on how to save at AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon with a trade-in, here are the latest deals for getting a free phone when switching service providers.
To save even more on your monthly phone bill, you may consider a prepaid phone plan instead. You’ll find affordable prepaid phone plans available directly from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. You’ll find the cheapest phone plans available from resellers like Visible, Mint Mobile, Tello Mobile, and others. For more options, check out our full list of the best and most affordable cell phone plans in 2023
Have you bought a cell phone from Costco recently? Tell us about your experience in our Clark.com Community or check out the latest conversations around cell phones.
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