How To Choose A Gym Membership

By Matthew Vann

A common New Year’s resolution for many is to get fit. So that means signing up for what can often be an expensive membership plan at your local gym. 

But the Better Business Bureau advises consumers to carefully consider the terms of the contract offered before joining.

Consumers who filed complaints with the BBB dispute the terms of their gym contract and say that their fitness center made promises that never materialized. 

Complaints also claim that gym staffers made verbal agreements at the time the contracts were drafted that they refused to honor.

But not all gym memberships are created equal.  Here are a few tips you should keep in mind before buying a gym membership:

  • Make sure that your finances are in order before signing up for a gym membership often

 Gyms often ask new members to pay first-time fees upfront in as well as monthly membership fees.  Additional fitness center services like access to the sauna or tennis court may not be in the base charge.

  • Don’t give into pressure from gym sales representatives

Feel free to walk away from clubs that pressure you into signing a membership contract on the spot. The BBB recommends taking a sample contract and reviewing at home before joining.

  • Ask for recommendations

Ask family and friends for their gym recommendations. Then pick the ones that best match your budget and fitness goals.

  • Make sure the club is bonded

New York State Law requires health clubs to have a bond or some form of financial security to protect members in case of closure. A gym representative should be able to show proof of their compliance.

Wherever you live:

  • Understand your cancellation rights

Find out what the cancellation terms are and if there are large fees to terminate your contract.

Consumers have the right to cancel their contract within three business days after they receive a copy of the written contract, according to New York State Law.

Laws vary from state to state, but consumer protection laws often take into account problems with gym memberships.  So if you are having trouble with a gym, it’s a good idea to check with your local consumer affairs department about the regulations for your area.


**This story was first reported by Matthew in 2013. But we think it offers important tips and it’s worth highlighting again.

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.

One thought on “How To Choose A Gym Membership”

  1. I think it’s worth checking out your local YMCA, too. I joined a nationwide chain when I first moved to Boston because it was cheap, but the equipment was consistently broken, the place was always crowded, and the staff were indifferent at best. The Y costs a little more, but it’s so much more pleasant and I actually enjoy going to the gym now.

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