Should We Get A Gym Membership?

by Sherrian Crumbley on February 16, 2012

in Personal Finance

Cancel A Gym Membership

My husband and I have been eating better and exercising for the last few months, and while we have seen progress, we are limited in our work out options at home.  We live in a second floor condo, and so we have to be considerate to our neighbors downstairs with the hours we choose to exercise, and also what type of exercise we perform so we are not stomping on the floor or making too much noise with the pulleys on our home gym.

{Khaleef here: So far I’ve been sticking with my marine workout, and the 100 push ups challenge!]

For these reasons, we have discussed joining a gym on a few occasions.  The topic came up again recently in a discussion with a friend, and while there are positives to joining a gym, I have some serious concerns.  Well, I have one very serious concern.

Impossible To Cancel A Gym Membership?

Gyms are notorious for trapping people in their contracts!  There are countless tales of the nightmares consumers have gone through to cancel a gym membership: the months of money stolen from them while getting the runaround regarding lost cancellation letters, the unreturned emails and phone calls, and ultimately the frustration of being unfairly sent to collections.

I went online and read reviews of the gyms in our area, and unfortunately they have less than 3 out of 5 stars, and the main complaint is what I was concerned about – gym membership cancellation policies.  The commenters have dealt with ‘lost’ cancellation letters, unreturned phone calls, lost emails.  They have been bounced between the local business and the corporate office, and finally, the collection agency that receives their account.

In our conversation, I had the bright idea of using a prepaid credit card to cover the cost of the membership for the contract term.  My thinking was that it would prevent us from being charged after the contract period has ended.

Unfortunately, in reading a little more about the problems people experience, it seems my idea may not work because they are within their right to continue to charge a member after the contract period has ended if that member has not terminated their contract ‘correctly’.

Many who have canceled credit cards and closed bank accounts in retaliation of this practice have been sent to collections, and many end up paying the collection fee out of sheer frustration at dealing with the situation.

How To Cancel A Gym Membership

If you have entered into a gym membership contract, please be prepared to cover yourself once the contract is nearing its end!

  1. Send your contract termination letter to the correct address stated in your contract by certified mail.  Do not send it by regular mail, email, or verbally cancel – as all these methods can be lost, forgotten, or denied
  2. Send a second termination letter to the financial institution handling the charges for the gym membership
  3. Check your local laws because you may have grounds to terminate/void your contract which supersedes what the gym contract states (for example: The gym may say you cannot cancel your membership if you are moving, while the law states the contract is void if your new residence is not within a reasonable distance from the gym)

As for myself, I think the best way to avoid this well-documented and reprehensible hassle is to not enter into it in the first place!

I had a gym membership once in my life and it was a very good experience.  The difference was that it was a small family-owned business, and while the expense was a bit more than the “$20/month” deal one of our local gyms are toting, at least I did not have to be concerned about a contract designed to eventually trap or steal from us.

A final tip: If this feels like too much of a hassle, you can also cancel online by using cancelwizard.com’s gym cancellation service.

image credit: photostock

What About You?

What has your experience been like dealing with a gym contract?

Have you ever suffered trying to terminate a gym contract?

Have you found any ways to successfully combat the horrors others have experienced in navigating a gym contract and/or terminating one?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Don

I use to be a gym rat, but then one year I bought a year membership and only went a few times. After that I bought a bench and weights and worked out at home for a while… Not I type a computer keyboard for a workout (lol) :(

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2 Eric

I have a gym in my building and I never go. I really need to get off my butt and walk down the hall. I have wondered if I paid for a membership, would I be more likely to use it?

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3 Niki

We have had gym memberships in the past, but now we just work out at home. It did cost money to build a home gym but we did it over the course of a decade and I am sure it has saved us money. We have a treadmill, a weight bench and few other things. It’s nice to have the convenience of it being at home too.

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4 Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

We have been lucky to never have to deal with a contract issue. We cancelled our membership last year and have started working out at home. I much prefer it. We are more consistent with our workouts because it is much more convenient. Thanks for giving such a great breakdown of the cancellation process though. Very useful.

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5 Geoff

Hi Sherrian and Khaleef, I’m a strong proponent of gym memberships. Actually leaving the house to work out and be in the prescience of others causes me to work hard and stick to a routine. Plus I can’t play basketball in my house :).

As for cancelling, I’d say that if you put it on a credit card, just be sure to physically deliver the cancellation letter and if you are still charged, call your credit card company and dispute the charges. That should take care of it without much effort right there as they handle the dispute for you and typically refund charges immediately.

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6 Squirrelers

I had one deal I got into that had a specified time period that I was locked into. Once that was over, I was able to get out of it without any problems. But again, the timeframe itself was something I just had to deal with.

The last time I quit a club was no problem. I knew someone who belonged there, and got a good recommendation from that person before even getting involved in the first place. I think that’s helpful.

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7 Thad P@thadthoughts.com

Thankfully we live far enough out of town that joining a gym isn’t really an option. Your idea of using a certified letter is excellent.

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8 JP@Novel Investor

I’ve heard about the problems with some of the bigger name gyms, though never joined one that I had to sign a contract for. Before doing anything check out a local community college for memberships. Many offer a good enough alternative, its cheaper, and less crowded.

If you do decide to sign a contract membership anywhere, ask to try it out for a day or two before signing up. Most will allow it and you can find out it the cost is actually worth it.

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9 Mo' Money Mo' Houses

I just wrote a post about this myself. Last year I was stuck with a year contract at a gym that was beyond awful and the only way I could terminate the contract was to live 30km away from any of their locations, and they had a million locations. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to get out of it so I just paid the monthly fee and waited for the year to go up then cancelled. But I do have a law student friend who said if you get a doctor’s note saying your healthy prevents you from actually using the gym then that might be able to get you out of your contract. Might be worth a try.

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10 Young Professional Finances

I just got a gym membership to LA Fitness even though I had read about all of these horror stories. I just made sure I read the contract in its entirety and made sure I could cancel if I wanted to at the end of the contract by just telling them or canceling online. After I felt comfortable about that, I was okay signing up for a membership.

If you really don’t want to do that and you live close to a 24 hour fitness, you can buy a 2 year membership at Costco for a really good price. Then you don’t have to worry about canceling since you don’t give your payment information to the gym at all.

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