MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. – New Jersey residents are about to lose a unique perk that saved a few cents on gas.
Costco next month plans to restrict gasoline sales to club members at its 17 locations in the state, as it does everywhere else in the country.
Signs posted at Costco gas stations pumps in New Jersey this week carry the following announcement:
“Effective July 5, 2022, your active Costco membership card will be required for gasoline purchases.”
On Tuesday at Centerton Square in Mount Laurel, six lanes of cars were waiting to get gas at multiple pumps at the Costco gas station, whose prices tend to be cheaper than many other stations.
The price for regular unleaded gas there was $4.83 a gallon, compared with $5 or more at many other stations.
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New Jersey’s Costco card exception
In 2004, Costco and other warehouse clubs were told restricting gasoline sales to members would violate state law after the retailer posted signs at pumps requiring drivers to present a membership card. The membership-card requirement was ultimately abandoned.
While the state attorney general’s office had not commented on Costco’s move, a New Jersey Treasury Department spokeswoman told NJ Advance Media it has no restriction on gas sales, as long as motor fuels taxes are paid.
Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti confirmed the change to USA TODAY, saying the company now will have a uniform policy nationwide requiring a membership for gas purchases.
An industry association official said he saw nothing wrong with the policy.
“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,” said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, Automotive Association headquartered in Wall Township.
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So I can’t buy gas without a Costco card in New Jersey?
Regardless, customers under the impression Costco cannot legally can limit gas to only its club members were confused.
“I always had to use my Costco card in Ohio, but here in New Jersey they never ask for it,” said Carnita Brown of the Pemberton area. “I wonder why it’s going to change … and I have no idea if it’s legal to do that here.”
Kelly Borreggine, a former Medford resident now living in Naples, Florida, and who is visiting New Jersey for a week, said she has no problem with Costco restricting gas to club members like her. She pulled in for a half tank of gas that cost her $46.33 for 8.7 gallons and saw the announcement sign.
The biggest concern with customers Tuesday, however, were the lines and gas prices. New Jersey and Oregon cities are the only places in the nation that ban self-service gasoline, which can slow the process of filling up.
Driver Jeff Rollins of Marlton, who remembers the gas crisis and lines in 1973, said he waited 20 minutes in line at Costco three weeks ago; last week he said he left after seeing much longer lines because “it’s a waste of time to wait and save only a few cents.”
He called the high prices “awful” but avoidable because, he said, the U.S. could produce more oil than other countries if it chose to.