Home > Personal Finance > 12 Questions to Ask Before You Join a Gym

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Summer bodies are made in winter, as the old industry adage goes, but nothing says “time to get in shape” like swimsuit and tank top season. If the warm weather’s got you considering a new fitness facility, here are 12 questions to ask before signing up for a gym membership.

1. What’s It Cost?

OK, this one is obvious, but, as I’ve written before, gym memberships are cheaper than ever. It’s easy to see a low monthly rate and sign-up without fully understanding the costs. If you end up biting off more than you can chew and don’t make your monthly payments and your account goes into collections, it could end up hurting your credit. (You can check up on your credit with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.) Speaking of which …

2. Is There a Maintenance Fee?

Since the average cost of a gym membership has plummeted over the years, the need to supplement that lost revenue has risen. It’s common for gyms to charge an annual “maintenance fee” to members. And since gym memberships are annual contracts — at least through the first year — that initial $30 to $100 fee is unavoidable.

3. Do I Have to Sign a Contract?

Gym membership contracts — like many contractual obligations consumers are subjected to — are non-reciprocal. Only one side benefits, and that side isn’t yours. Some gyms offer a non-contractual, monthly payment option, but the monthly rate is usually comically large to persuade you to choose the contractual option. Be sure to ask what all your options are.

4. What’s the Cancellation Policy?

If you signed an annual contract, you might be locked into a year’s worth of monthly payments or at least face a buyout fee. If your contract is up and you decide to move on, you may have to wait a month or so, as gym contracts generally require notice before cancellation. Also, cancellation processes can be made intentionally cumbersome, with the hope that you’ll decide it’s easier to keep the membership than deal with the process of canceling. Make sure you understand what you’re facing if you decide to tap out.

5. What’s My Motivation?

Have you ever purchased a piece of exercise equipment you now use exclusively as a clothing rack? A gym membership can be just like that, but without the benefit of having a place to stow your skivvies. It’s common for people to believe joining a gym will move them to action, but a membership alone isn’t going to get you off the couch. Motivation first, gym membership second.

6. Am I Healthy Enough for Exercise?

The squat rack is the last place you want to be when you discover you have a heart condition. Unless they have the initials M.D. or D.O. after their name, no one in a gym is qualified to assess your gym-readiness. Consult a physician at regular intervals to avoid the horror of a medical emergency and the related hospital bills.

7. Is the Gym Insured?

At peak hours, a gym can be like a large room of people simultaneously experiencing every life stage of development while surrounded by heavy objects and moving parts. In other words, it can be dangerous. Before joining a gym, make sure the facility is insured.

8. Do I Have Adequate Health Insurance?

These days, most gyms make you sign a liability waiver, meaning, unless the gym’s negligence is indisputable, you’ll likely have to cover your own medical bills. If your insurance is thin (or non-existent), treadmill at your own risk.

9. What’s the Commute Like?

Only you can determine what is or is not a reasonable distance to travel to a gym, but it’s best to avoid any gym that’ll have you stuck in gridlock. Trust me, there is no greater deterrent to fitness than 5 p.m. on the Garden State Parkway.

10. Does This Gym Have a Good or Bad Reputation?

It’s easy to get stuck on the low cost of a gym membership and sign yourself up for a year at the nearest treadmill factory. But one off-putting experience can have you avoiding the club and wasting your hard-earned dollars. It’s best to get a reference from someone who shares your goals or at least look up reviews online.

11. How Experienced Are the Trainers?

Gyms supplement their revenue by offering high-cost personal training sessions, using certified personal trainers to whom they pay a small percentage of the hourly rate. But the barrier to entry for becoming certified is pretty low: You have to take one written test, which can be failed and retaken into perpetuity. (Full Disclosure: I know this, because I am one.)

As such, don’t assume a trainer is the right person for the job, simply because your facility suggests them. As with gym memberships, choose your trainer based on reputation.

12. How Much Does the Gym Charge for Water?

As with supermarkets, gyms have coolers and counters loaded with impulse items. You can fall into the habit of relying on the gym for your fluids when it is more cost efficient to bring your own. Note the price — and prepare to pack a water bottle.

Image: nd3000

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team