Your mailbox and email are probably stuffed full of gym flyers and ads promising the best deal on memberships to get you in shape for the New Year. While this time is probably the best time of year to get a screaming deal on a gym membership, you still want to be vigilent about making sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for so you aren’t hit with huge fees in a contract you can’t get out of later in the year.
You have more control over your membership and what you pay than you think, you just have to know what to ask for and what options are available to you. Bigger box gyms are usually locked into their membership rates, but have a lot of different membership options to choose from. Many gyms will have memberships with limited hours of access to the gym- like mid-day hours where it is less busy- for discounted prices. While this may mean you can only enter the facility during certain business hours, if it fits with your schedule, it’s worth discount. Don’t believe that the contract the membership sales person shows you is the best option for your situation. Ask for the cheapest most basic membership they offer, and work from there. Don’t forget to ask about senior options, military discounts, and student discounts if they apply to you.
Be sure to also ask about any specials they may be running as well. It’s New Years, which means most gyms will have some sort of special offer running. Whether it is zero enrollment fee, which can save you upwards of $100, or a few free months with a year contract, see what they can do for you.
The way you pay may also effect how much you pay. If you pay for a year up front, you will generally get a discount overall, somewhere around 10%, plus you may also get a few extra free months. The issue with this, and a perfect example of why you should read the fine print of your contract, is most memberships autorenew, which means when your membership runs out, they will automatically sign you back up for the same membership and charge you. This isn’t a shady practice by any means. Most gyms will call you and let you know your membership is about to expire, and if you pay month to month it saves you the hassle of new paperwork every month, but where you run into trouble is if you sign up for a year upfront. A year is a long time and a lot can change, whether it be your phone number or address, so they may not be able to contact you to let you know your membership is expiring. It’s not fun to find out that you owe hundreds of dollars for a year long membership you might not want anymore.
Aside from autorenewal, ask about termination rules. A lot of gyms, especially those with month to month contracts, require 30 days written notice, which means you will be billed one more time before your membership terminates.
To truly get the best deal, you want to make sure the gym is a good fit for you. You should be able to try out the facility free of charge before signing up. Make sure all the equipment is in working order, the facility is clean, and ask if there are any peak times where it gets packed to the point of being uncomfortable or unusable. Ask about extras that add more value to your membership, like group classes, convenient hours, free personal training sessions, and rebates for referrals.
The gym you choose is going to be where you spend a lot of time, working on achieving your goals and improving your quality of life, it shouldn’t be a source of financial stress or an uncomfortablre atmosphere you dread. Not all gyms are created equal, so take your time, shop around and make an informed decision on the place for you.
December 31st, 2011