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Costco, Sam's Club or BJ's: Which is the best store?

Business Insider Logo By Jessica Tyler of Business Insider | Slide 1 of 33: Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's Wholesaleare similar membership-based warehouse stores that offer a wide variety of products and services.The only significant difference  between Sam's Club and Costco is the cost of membership, with Sam's Club costing $15 less annually than Costco.BJ's differs from the other two stores in a few ways, including the presence of a self-checkout option and the lack of a food court. BJ's used to have a food court, but most of them are  being replaced by Dunkin' Donuts kiosks. I went to a Costco and Sam's Club in New York and a BJ's in New Jersey and found that the costs were comparable, but BJ's ultimately would rank lowest because it didn't have as much to offer. Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's Wholesale are membership-based warehouse stores selling groceries, clothing, furniture, and, well, lots of other stuff. All three stores offer eye and ear exams, a pharmacy, one-hour photo services, and either a food court or kiosk at affordable prices. Even the return policies are similar, though BJ's stops accepting items back after a year, while  Costco and Sam's Club will accept most returns at any time.  After visiting all three stores, I found that aside from the cost of membership, Costco and Sam's Club were very similar, while BJ's seemed like it was struggling to catch up. Costco's yearly membership costs $60, while BJ's comes in second at $55 and Sam's Club is the least expensive at $45 annually. The premium memberships ranked similarly, with Costco costing $120, BJ's costing $110, and Sam's Club costing $100 annually.  According to a grocery-store ranking from Consumer Reports, the higher membership costs at Costco might be worth it - it ranked higher than Sam's Club and BJ's in cleanliness, meat and produce quality, customer service, store-brand quality, and prices of organic items. BJ's ranked higher than Sam's Club in just two categories: healthy, organic options and checkout speed. To see for myself which store offers the best deal, I went to a BJ's Wholesale in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Costco and Sam's Club stores in Westchester County, New York. This is what I found:

Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's Wholesale are membership-based warehouse stores selling groceries, clothing, furniture, and, well, lots of other stuff.

All three stores offer eye and ear exams, a pharmacy, one-hour photo services, and either a food court or kiosk at affordable prices. Even the return policies are similar, though BJ's stops accepting items after a year, while Costco and Sam's Club will do so for most items at any time.

After visiting all three stores, I found that aside from the cost of membership, Costco and Sam's Club were very similar, while BJ's seemed as if it was struggling to catch up.

Costco's yearly membership is $60, while BJ's comes in second at $55 and Sam's Club is the least expensive at $45. The annual cost of premium memberships ranked similarly, with Costco costing $120, BJ's $110, and Sam's Club $100.

According to a grocery-store ranking from Consumer Reports, the higher membership costs at Costco might be worth it - it ranked higher than Sam's Club and BJ's in cleanliness, meat and produce quality, customer service, store-brand quality, and prices of organic items.

BJ's ranked higher than Sam's Club in just two categories: healthy organic options and checkout speed.

To see for myself which store offered the best deal, I went to a BJ's Wholesale in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Costco and Sam's Club stores in Westchester County, New York. Here's what I found.

(Click ahead)

© Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

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