Buying a gym membership? Here's how to get the best deal


Half of people who made New Year's resolutions for 2020 say they want to exercise more, be more active, and/or lose weight, according to data from Statista. If you're among them, you may be considering signing up for a gym membership.

Better warm up with some research first. Although the New Year is a good time to buy because many gyms are offering discounted memberships, you'll need to watch out for a few common mistakes people make when getting a membership, cautions Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.

So before you sign a contract, consider these five "don'ts" to make sure you get the best deal you can:

1. Don't buy a membership early in the month

Gyms require their sales representatives to meet membership sales quotas, Ramhold says. So you might be able to get a deeper discount on your membership at the end of January. "Reps might be more willing to throw in even more bonuses in order to meet their quotas before February," she says.

This rule doesn't just apply to January, but the other months of the year, too.

2. Don't sign up for auto-pay

Americans spend a collective $1.8 billion on unused gym memberships, according to Finder. So fitness trainer Nicole Hulley, who has worked at Equinox for eight years, recommends paying manually for the first few months. This will help you evaluate the benefits of the membership. "Stop and think: How many times have I used it? Does this warrant the price I'm paying?" she says.

Gold's Gym, Planet Fitness, 24-hour Fitness, and Blink Fitness, among others, allow you to choose to pay month-to-month rather than invest in a plan that requires a longer commitment.

Stop and think: How many times have I used it? Does this warrant the price I'm paying?
Nicole Hulley
Fitness trainer

After a few months, you can reflect and, if necessary, decide to stop paying for a membership or switch to a cheaper one elsewhere.

"If you're not planning on taking all those group fitness classes or swimming in the pool, those things are really what drives up the membership price," Hulley told Grow in 2019. "You could easily go to a small, local gym for $45 a month, as opposed to all the fluff other gyms offer, which you end up paying for whether you use it or not."

3. Don't sign up without asking about fees and 'freezing'

Gyms often offer discounted rates for the first few months of a contract that extends for a full year or longer. But consumer saving expert Andrea Woroch says they may not mention the cancellation fee, which charges you for early termination. Don't sign a contract that charges you for leaving.

You should also confirm that you can freeze your account whenever necessary. That means if you sign a one-year contract in January but sprain your ankle in February and can't exercise for a while, you are allowed to take a break from payment while you aren't using the space.

"When you look at a contract for the gym, it will be under the cancellation terms and conditions," Claire Rosenzweig of the Better Business Bureau told Grow last year.

4. Don't take the first offered price

"You have the upper hand, because gyms need your business," says Woroch. "So when you're signing up, find out what type of deals you can get." This may include more money off, but you can also ask for things like additional guest passes or a personal training session.

5. Don't forget to look at your insurance and employment benefits

Some health insurance companies offer discounts on gym memberships or incentive programs. UnitedHealthcare offers up to $240 a year for working out at contracted fitness centers 12 times a month. Cigna's Healthy Habits Incentive program will reimburse you up to $400 a year for participating in certain fitness programs. Some companies offer health benefit packages, which often include gym memberships. Microsoft will reimburse you up to $800 a year for "wellness-related expenses."

One more thing: Don't forget to consider perks like on-site child care, fun group classes, personal training, a pool, or a sauna, if that's important to you. Your gym can become something like a second home if you fill it with enough temptations, and your down payment will be a lot less pricey.

So if you're considering starting the new year by taking advantage of a gym membership offer, remember to honestly evaluate your own fitness needs and read the fine print to make sure you're getting a good deal.

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