How to Shop for a Gym

Ten questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line.

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| January 1st, 2014

9. Which of the three payment methods works best for me?
There are generally three payment options, the first two involving EFT (electronic fund transfer), which gyms favor because they’re guaranteed money each month.

1- High initiation fee up front with lower monthly payments (high/low)

2- Lower initiation fee with higher monthly payments (low/high)

Some gyms are now also offering month-to-month memberships, but they are in the minority. The last option is…

3- Pay in full up front: “This is usually the cheapest option because you get a savings for it, and they don’t have access to you for EFT,” Jacqueline says.

All in all, the salesperson has a dollar amount that he or she won’t go below so you don’t have a ton of negotiation power. Your best bet is to read every word of the contract carefully. “Make sure the fees listed on the contract are the same as the price that was quoted to you. Also check for any administration fees for signing up or renewing your membership,” Carly says.

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10. Do you need a contract that can be cancelled or frozen?
Even if the gym says your contract can be cancelled within a cancellation period, certain fees may be non-refundable, Carly warns.

See how long the contract is for. For instance, in Massachusetts the maximum contract length allowed is two years, she says. Lastly, consider your life in the next year. “If you change jobs or just can’t make it there anymore you may still be locked into the contract for months to come,” Carly says.

If you want to have the option of “freezing” your membership until you’re able to fit the gym in at a later point, then read the fine print! Jacqueline recently froze her gym membership for a year, but is still getting charged $15 a month because she didn’t read the contract correctly. Even the pros get burned on occasion!

Your last defense against falling for the wrong fit: Take a friend along with you when you visit the gym for the first time. “Share your list with her and ask that she help to keep you on track,” Carly advises. That way, you won't get fooled by a convincing "last chance!" offer, or anything else the salesperson throws your way.

Now you can take a deep breath, and happy shopping!

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