Thrifty Tony

Why Is REI so Expensive? (and how to score the best prices with membership)

Why is REI so expensive

REI is notorious for being expensive, but at the same time, this outdoor store is famous for selling quality goods.

Let’s take a look at why some things REI might seem expensive at first, but also show you how to combine multiple discounts to get the very best prices like how I got a $130 pair of running shoes for effectively just $45. More on that below.

REI Return Policy

On their website, REI claims to prioritize quality gear that can be used again and again, so based on that alone, the gear in REI stores is going to be of high quality, and REI backs this with an unheard of 1 year, no questions asked return policy.

That’s right… if you decide that you don’t like socks that you bought 11 months ago, you can return it back to REI for a full refund.

I personally think that when a company stands by its products for an entire year, it’s definitely worth paying a bit of a premium, but not too much.

Most of the time, the gear at REI usually sells for the same price as the manufacturer. This can be expensive.

Take for example a Smartwool hoodie which sells for $100 on and at

REI return policy vs manufacturer
REI has a 1 year return policy, even if you wore the item, whereas the manufacturer only takes unworn returns for 45 days.

The only difference is that you have a full year to return the hoodie if you bought it from REI but only 45 days to return it if you bought it directly from Smartwool, and actually Smartwool will only take it back if it has NOT been worn, whereas REI will take it back even if you wore the hoodie dozens of times.

REI Membership

In addition to the generous return policy, notice how it says “REI Members get back an estimated $10 on this item as part of their member dividend“.

REI member dividend example.

If you’re not familiar this concept, for a one-time $20 fee, you can become an REI co-op member which entitles you to a 10% annual dividend.

You can think of your dividend as a 10% discount on full priced items that REI credits to your account at the end of the year.

So for the hoodie example, it will cost you $100 out of your pocket today, but you’re effectively only paying $90 because you’ll get $10 back as part of your dividend.

As you can see, an REI membership is worth it and can pay for itself in no time.

How to Combine Multiple Discounts at REI

Now I realize this might not be the best example, because who actually pays $100 for a hoodie? So I want to walk you through how I layered multiple discounts and rewards which ultimately got me a pair of shoes for nearly 70% off.

Running shoes at REI
My $130 running shoes from REI were just $45 after applying multiple discounts.

REI is just like any store and has sales, so right off the bat, my pair of shoes were marked down 25% off and selling for $96 online.

Another benefit of being an REI co-op member is the numerous coupons they send out to their members for anywhere from 20 to 25% off.

REI outlet and full-price coupons
REI sends coupons to its members throughout the year for up to 25% off.

So I took one of these 20% off coupons and applied it to my purchase which knocked off another $20 and brought the total down to $77.

Unfortunately there are taxes where I live here in Arizona, so that added $6, but if you’re lucky enough to order online and ship to a state that’s not listed here, you will probably not be charged tax on your REI purchase.

Next up, I was able to take off an additional $23 thanks to my membership dividend from the previous year, so the total amount that was charged to my credit card that day was $61.01.

Now I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I paid for my shoes with my REI Mastercard which earned me an additional 5% cash back which equates to another $3 off.

And finally, I was happy to stumble upon a promotion on the Google Pay app which gave me an additional 20% off and this equated to an additional $12 off the cost of my shoes.

REI cashback on Google Pay app
REI cashback worth 20% with Google Pay.

So when you factor in all the discounts, my $130 shoes ended up only costing my $45.

Discount %Discount $Total
Original Price$130.00
REI Outlet Sale25.59%$33.27$96.73
Member Sale20.00%$19.35$77.38
REI Rewards$23.10$61.01
Google Pay Promo20.00%$12.20$48.81
REI Mastercard5.00%$3.05$45.76
REI Dividend10.00%N/AN/A

Now I won’t earn a dividend on this purchase because it was not a full priced item to begin with, but in order to layer discounts like this, I recommend that you:

  1. Sign up to become an REI member so you can have access to the membership coupons
  2. Apply for the REI Mastercard which gives you 5% back at REI, 1% everywhere else, and has no annual fee.

As an added bonus, you’ll get a free $100 REI gift card when you provide my REI membership number which is 13336005 on your application.

The REI credit card also has 100% free cell phone protection insurance as long as you pay your cell phone bill with it and I have a full blog post about that here so check that out next to learn more.

Thrifty Tony

Thrifty Tony

Tony approaches most things in life with a budget-conscious mindset while at the same time maximizing investments which results in an ideal balance between spending and saving. And of course he enjoys free things and bonuses every now and then.