money on a health club contract
The ads promise great results
at low prices, but picking a health club isn't that easy. In fact, if you don't
take into account the hidden costs involved in signing up for a gym membership,
it'll be more than your biceps that will feel the burn.
you join a club for 12 or 24 months -- unless you pay for the membership in full
-- payments are drafted from your checking account or credit card account each
month. Where the problem lies is with the automatic renewal feature of your membership:
Typically you must provide written notice 30 days before the end of the contract
-- although some clubs offer you the chance to cancel within three days. Otherwise,
the membership rolls over to a month-to-month plan.
membership agreements clearly explain the rollover policy, it is typically in
a point-size so small you need a magnifying glass to read it -- and club members
either don't fully read it or understand the agreement. And that's when they feel
Can health clubs automatically renew your membership
and continue to deduct money from your account? Yes. Policy Analyst, Phil Telfer,
of the North Carolina Attorney General's office points out that health clubs fall
under the pre-paid entertainment laws.
No contract can last
more than three years, but what these clubs are doing does not violate the statute.
As long as the club gives members the right of cancellation and consumers can
cancel at any time, no violation occurs.
Another feature that
sometimes gets club members into trouble is when they purchase prepaid lifetime
memberships. Some gyms have lifetime memberships -- which they will always promote.
Unfortunately, these types of memberships are usually for the life of the club,
not yours! If the club closes, you're out of luck. In Florida, for example, the
law requires most health clubs to register with the Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services and to post a bond for a limited time. This way, if the
health club goes out of business, those members who pre-paid will get their money
Before you spend money joining a health club, what things
should you keep in mind?
of all, don't rush into anything. Any special deals the club is touting "only
for today," such as waiving an initiation fee, rarely end in that industry. The
longer you resist signing a membership agreement, the more chance you'll have
of a reduction in membership costs. If the health club administrator sees you're
shopping around or may not join at all, there's a good chance they'll come through.
Never sign a membership contract
that has finance charges attached to it, because this can be extremely costly
over the life of your membership, especially with average annual percentage rates
hovering around 18 percent.
you think you may be moving in the near future, find out if you can cancel your
membership and any renewal features you have or transfer it to another gym --
all without a penalty. Bally's Fitness Centers will allow you to cancel your membership
and forgo the automatic renewal as long as you can prove to them that there is
not another Bally's Fitness Center within a 10-mile radius in your new city.
What possibilities exist to transfer
your membership? Let's say you get a new job and your workout schedule changes.
You need morning aerobics classes, only your gym doesn't offer them. Try to get
another member to buy your membership if possible so you don't have to keep participating
in any automatic renewal program.
you're still not sold on the club, consider a short-term membership. Even if this
ends up being more expensive, a pay-as-you-go trial membership allows you to see
if you like what they have to offer.