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Should I Get an REI Membership?

  • We’ve updated this piece in advance of REI's Member Moment Sale, which launches March 17. Check out our Deals page for all the best discounts available on Wirecutter's expert-approved outdoor gear.

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker going off the grid for a few days or an outdoors enthusiast prepping for the occasional hike, you can likely find whatever it is you’re looking for at REI. If the cashiers consider you a regular, you’re already in the know—and you’ve probably considered investing in an REI Co-op membership, which gives frequent shoppers a chance to earn back a percentage of what they spend at the end of the year.

What is the cost of an REI membership?

REI increased the cost of its membership in 2022, but it continues to be a modest price of admission at just $30—for life. As long as you spend at least $10 a year on qualifying purchases (which is easy to do if you’re buying essentials like insulated vests, fitness gear, and packing cubes), you’ll earn 10 percent back in annual dividends called Member Rewards (issued yearly in March). You can choose to redeem your dividends at an REI store,, REI Outlet, for an REI adventure trip, or via the REI app. And the perks extend beyond getting cash back—members also get access to special discounts, in-store and virtual events, and, as of March 2, 2022, free shipping on most purchases.

At face value, signing up may seem like a no-brainer—but whether the Co-op membership makes sense for you depends on how you shop and what you shop for.

What are your shopping habits?

If you’re an REI regular who normally pays full price, you’ll squeeze the most out of the membership benefits. Bargain hunters won’t get money back at the end of the year, though, since you can’t earn dividends on sale or clearance items. REI Outlet purchases don’t qualify for dividends either, though you can spend your dividends there.

Will you use the exclusives?

An REI membership comes with a handful of exclusive perks that only Co-op members can take advantage of, many of which have been introduced within the past few years. For instance, members now have the opportunity to save up to 33% off gear rentals and 20% on REI’s bike shop and snow shop services, plus free flat tire repair and machine wax. These savings make a membership especially attractive to bikers, skiers, and snowboarders alike.

Members also receive special pricing on Co-op Experiences, though dividends can’t be applied to trips or to classes at the REI Outdoor School. If you plan to take advantage of the discounts on REI Adventures, signing up would be advantageous even if you only shop the sale section (thus forgoing dividends). But in lieu of collecting dividends, you’ll save on the total price of your trip—and then some. For instance, members can get a discount of up to 44 percent off their lift tickets at select ski resorts; at some resorts, that would represent more than $300 in savings.

Previously, REI stores hosted an annual Garage Sale—available only to members—featuring returned items at bargain prices, but the company has recently renamed the initiative Re/Supply. The program, available only to REI Co-op members who want to trade in used gear, is similar to Garage Sale but instead of yearly sales, members have the ability to buy and sell used items all year-round. In-store trade-ins are available at most of its 180-plus brick and mortar locations, and members around the country can send in their used gear in exchange for an REI gift card.

Members also get exclusive access to the Member Collection, which includes early access to new gear, limited edition gear, special offers, and one-of-a-kind brand collabs.

Are you planning to make just one big purchase?

There are a few instances in which signing up for the REI Co-op membership can be beneficial even if you never again set foot in a physical location (or shop REI online) after your first purchase. If you’re in the market for pricier gear—like a running watch or a canopy tent for the whole family—becoming a member is definitely worth it. Take the Garmin Forerunner 255 running watch, for example: If you buy the watch at its full list price of $350, you’ll earn 10 percent ($35) back in dividends at the end of the year. Sure, you’ll net only $35—but that’s $35 more than you had before, $5 more than the cost of membership, and no one can argue against free money.

How often do you shop online?

Up until March 2022, REI’s spending threshold for free shipping was at least $50, which made shopping online less economical for folks who weren’t able to shop at brick-and-mortar stores. But members can now score free shipping for most items, which makes a membership even more enticing for those making small purchases online. Some larger, bulkier items may still be subject to separate handling costs—so you may want to opt for in-store pickup to avoid any pesky additional fees.

Are you a brand loyalist?

You may second-guess getting an REI membership even if you’re constantly shopping for outdoor gear. Just because you’re an outdoors enthusiast doesn’t mean you have to buy from REI—competitors like Amazon, Backcountry, and Moosejaw often match REI’s sale pricing, even that of its member-only sales. With that in mind, having exclusive access to REI discounts thanks to your membership doesn’t mean much, especially if your order is ineligible for dividends and already qualifies for free shipping.

However, brand loyalty is a very real thing, and for many shoppers, REI is an upstanding retailer that donates a percentage of its earnings to various nonprofits and gives members a say in its board elections. In 2021, the company announced it would donate $5 for every lifetime membership purchase to the REI Cooperative Action Fund, a public charity that donates to nonprofits promoting justice, equality, and belonging in the outdoors. So if you find yourself choosing REI over and over again—even though other retailers might offer better sales—an REI Co-op membership probably makes sense for you. This is especially true if you have a particular penchant for REI-branded gear—Wirecutter certainly has a few favorites.