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Five sneaky fitness club tricks

More than 50 million Americans pay an average of about $40 a month to belong to a fitness club, according to the industry.

A fitness club is a great place to get in shape, build muscle and get an endorphin rush. But you shouldn’t have to empty your wallet to work out. Like most businesses, gyms have tricks of the trade — techniques designed to fatten their bottom line while slimming your savings. Here are five, along with work-arounds:

1. Initiation fees. This is an expense you should always attempt to negotiate away. You’re already agreeing to pay each month, and the gym doesn’t incur additional expense by you signing up, so there’s no reason to pay this fee. The fitness business is highly competitive. Find a gym that doesn’t charge an up-front fee, then either join it or use that club as leverage to get the fee waived at a club you do want to join.



2. Personal trainers. Think car salespeople are high pressure? Wait until you’re approached by a personal trainer. While it can be a valuable service, it doesn’t come cheap: Typical sessions run $30 or more. If you sign up, training cost will soon eclipse the monthly gym fee.

3. Auto-pay. Many gyms offer discounts for enrolling in auto-pay, which allows them to tap your checking account for their monthly fee. While this service is convenient, there have been many cases of gyms continuing to extract money after a contract was canceled. The only sure way to avoid this potential problem is to avoid auto-pay, but if that’s impossible, understand what’s required to turn it off.




4. Contracts that automatically renew. One of the sources of the membership that won’t die is a contract that automatically renews. To avoid this trap, either strike the auto-renew clause from the contract when you sign up, or set a reminder so you’ll know when the cancellation window is approaching.

5. Limited-time offers. These so-called promotions increase the pressure to sign up. Ignore the hard sell, take your time and understand what you’re getting into. And don’t be in a hurry to start paying. Most gyms offer free or low-cost trial memberships that last a week or two. Use this period to evaluate the gym, as well as your ability to stick with it.

— Courtesy Money Talks News


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