Before you sign on the dotted line of that gym contract, there are a number of factors to take into consideration

Working out on elliptical at gym
Image: NCCC
June 26, 2017

Are better health and personal fitness part on your to-do list this year? Is purchasing a new gym membership part of that plan?

Many consumers across the country join a gym or health club to lose weight, get in shape, or just to feel better. Unfortunately, many of them end up unhappy with both the physical and financial results of that decision.

Regardless of your reason for wanting to join a gym or health club, there are a number of factors that you should take into consideration BEFORE you make the decision to sign a contract.

Remember—once you sign on the dotted line, you can't change your mind unless the contract specifically gives you the option to back out. Otherwise, you're stuck with the terms of the deal.

Before committing to a gym membership, consider these tips:

  1. Compare several health clubs. Keep in mind that some clubs with low monthly fees require long membership periods. Be sure to shop around for the best value, which may not always be the least expensive club. Have a clear idea of what you can afford to pay and stick to your budget. Don't be afraid to bargain.
  2. Take a tour and check out the staff. Take a tour of each club during the hours when you're most likely to exercise. Make sure the equipment you want to use will be available when you'll want.
  3. Try the club. Ask if the health club offers free visits so that you can see if the facility is a good fit for you. Working out at the club will also give you an opportunity to ask current members about the facility. Beware of signing up with a club that hasn't opened yet.
  4. Read your contract carefully. Before you sign the contract, make certain you understand the cancellation policy, the services included, and the total cost of the membership. Get all promises in writing, and make sure the health club gives you an exact copy of the contract immediately after you sign it. Consider a short-term contract rather than signing a two- or three-year contract and getting stuck with a membership that you don't use. Under North Carolina law, the contract cannot be longer than three years.
  5. Remember your right to cancel. If the club requires you to pay money more than 31 days in advance, the contract by law must let you know about your three-day right to cancel. Be sure to read the part that spells out how you must notify the club if you decide to cancel.
  6. Watch out for automatic renewals. Ask if your contract expires after a certain period of time or if it allows the club to renew it unless you specifically ask them not to. If you unknowingly agree to an automatic renewal, you could be stuck with the gym membership for a lot longer than you had planned.

If you have a complaint about a gym or health club, or your club shuts down unexpectedly, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.