Is an REI Membership Worth It?

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“Are you a part of our club?” is a common question when checking out at almost any store. With so many businesses offering clubs, keeping track of them takes a lot of work. However, a recent shopping trip had us considering an REI membership.

We buy more camping and outdoor gear than the average nature lover. However, that doesn’t mean we were quick to join the club. While it is relatively inexpensive, we consider the bigger picture when making financial decisions.

So is the REI membership worth it, and should you consider it? Let’s find out.

What Is an REI Membership?

REI, short for Recreational Equipment, Inc., was founded in 1938 and is a top outdoor gear, apparel, and equipment retailer. Like many retailers, REI offers a loyalty program.

By joining the club, you can enjoy the benefits and perks when shopping for outdoor gear and equipment.

Discounts, special sales, and members-only coupons can help you save a pretty penny while shopping. However, we’ll share several more reasons why some consider joining their club.

Is an REI Membership Annual or Lifetime?

While some retailers offer annual subscriptions, REI doesn’t. It also has no expiration, and you don’t need to worry about getting kicked out of the club for missing your dues. 

Once you join, you’re in the club for life. If you’re a frequent shopper, the savings can quickly add up and cover the costs of joining in no time.

Can You Shop at REI Without a Membership?

An REI membership is not required to shop or purchase at their locations. Anyone can make purchases, rent equipment, and use their popular services.

However, it’ll likely cost more without it. Consider investing in a membership if you plan to make multiple purchases.

Benefits of an REI Membership

On the fence about whether an REI membership is right for you? Let’s dive in and look at the benefits of joining this club.

Discounts and Rewards

By joining the club, you’ll receive special discounts and rewards only available to members.

While some of these opportunities to save a few bucks are regular occurrences, you never know what will appear in your inbox. Special offers, discounts, and bonus cards can pop up when you least expect them.

If you’re a frequent shopper, it won’t take long to recoup the membership cost (currently $30). For many, the discounts and rewards alone make this a no-brainer decision.

Access to Special Events

Like any good club, you get special member-only events. These special live events occur in local stores and online throughout the year.

It can allow you to connect with other outdoor enthusiasts and experts working for and with the brand. Special events can be an excellent opportunity to educate yourself and meet like-minded people.

Free Shipping

Another tremendous benefit of an REI membership is free shipping. Becoming a member means you don’t have to worry about minimum purchase requirements or shipping fees. While you can find roughly 175 locations, shopping online is much more convenient. 

With only a few clicks, you can have your orders sent directly to your doorstep without paying shipping fees. Thanks to Amazon, consumers have come to expect free shipping when ordering online. Luckily, the company recognizes this and offers it as a perk to members.

Generous Return Policy

REI stands behind the gear and equipment it sells. Any customer that’s not 100% satisfied with a purchase can return it within 90 days. On the other hand, members can extend their return window to 365 days on many purchases.

However, it’s worth noting that there are still limitations to their return policy. While members have more flexibility, they’re only exempt from some policies. Read the fine print when purchasing.

Keep in Mind: Are you looking into joining a camping membership? This is one membership that is Actually Worth the $33 Fee!

Trade-In Used Gear

REI offers the Re/Supply section for co-op members. The program allows partners to trade in and purchase used gear and equipment that still has some life left.

Whether you’re on a budget or enjoy saving a buck when you can, this is a great way to make your money go as far as possible.

If you’re anything like us, our interests constantly change. However, we enjoy having quality gear and equipment when participating in an activity. Instead of it sitting in a closet or corner somewhere, we can recoup some of our initial investment. Something is better than nothing.

Disadvantages of an REI Membership

While you may like the many benefits of an REI membership, it has some disadvantages. Let’s look at some reasons you may want to reconsider.

Membership Fee

Becoming a member is a one-time fee, currently $30, but it is an investment nonetheless.

Depending on how frequently you shop at REI, recouping the membership cost could require several purchases. Some, who rarely shop here, may never get a return on their investment.

If you buy gear regularly, it may be worth it. However, you can’t always assume that the financial benefits of this membership are worth it. It may be better to spend your money at one of their competitors or somewhere that doesn’t have fees.

Keep in Mind: The camping section isn’t the only place to find camping gear! Check out these Non-Camping Items That Are Actually Perfect for Camping

Limited Store Locations

As mentioned earlier, REI has approximately 175 locations in the United States. Unfortunately, a majority of these are in areas with larger populations. This can make it inconvenient for some consumers to use in-store benefits.

While members can go online and take advantage of free shipping, it’s a similar experience to using Amazon Prime. Many of the products sold in their stores are also available on Amazon, potentially at a cheaper price. As a result, Prime members should proceed cautiously.

Sales Events Are Rare

Many consumers overestimate how often the members-only sales events will take place. However, only a handful of these special events occur throughout the year. 

They usually coincide with holidays and other special events, which are standard times for sales in the retail industry. If this is your big incentive to become a member, you should lower your expectations.

Is an REI Membership Worth It?

An REI membership can be very beneficial for outdoor enthusiasts. However, it’s not for everyone. The more you shop and frequent their stores, the more valuable the club can be.

The long-term savings outweigh the membership fee. Take the time to evaluate your spending at the store and weigh the potential benefits before deciding.

1 comment
  1. I recently returned to backpacking and since much of my gear was older technology, investing in the membership was well worth it. The gear is high quality and competitively priced. Add to that the product knowledge of the staff, and the membership was well worth it. Also consider the credit card, we received a substantial bonus for a small purchase outside the store, again well worth it!

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