Is Your Gym Membership Holding You Hostage? Here’s How To Bust Out

Sports and gym activities

Valerii Apetroaiei/istockphoto

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Happy couple registering at the gym while employee explains benefits showing them a catalogue

Quit the Gym

Canceling a gym membership can feel like trying to bench press a boulder — it's a heavy lift. 

First, you have to locate the membership contract you signed and break out a magnifying glass because the fine print is so small. Then you have to navigate through an obstacle course of phone calls, emails, and in-person visits just to cancel a membership that was easier to sign up for than a Netflix account. (Though we've got a bone to pick with you too, Netflix). And all of this happens before they send out fitness models to shame you for being a quitter, reminiscent of when Chandler and Ross tried to quit the gym in "Friends."  

But there's no need to lose hope. Follow these tips to learn how you can cancel your gym membership more efficiently next time.

Related: Frugal Fitness: How to Snag a Cheap Gym Membership

Shot of a young man filling out paperwork while assisting a client in a gym

Why Do Gyms Make It So Difficult to Cancel a Membership?

Before we delve into the best tips for canceling a gym membership with minimal hassle, let's look into why gyms make it so difficult to cancel in the first place. 

Gyms often make it challenging to cancel memberships for financial reasons. From a business standpoint, the longer a member stays with the gym, the more revenue the gym can generate. By making the cancellation process extra tedious, gyms hope to deter members from leaving. Roughly 67% of people have active memberships that they don't use, suggesting the tactic might indeed be quite effective. 

In addition, some gyms use sales tactics to lure members in with promises of low prices or special deals, but impose hidden fees or bury the details of the contract in fine print, making it even harder to cancel. That's why it's essential to read the fine print of a gym membership contract before signing up to avoid surprises and frustration when trying to cancel later on. 

Related: 15 Ways to Make the Most of a Gym Membership

People at the gym talking to the receptionist

Check the Fine Print

Before signing up for a gym membership, read the contract carefully to make sure you understand the cancellation policy and what you need to do if you want to get out of it. Some gyms require written notice or have specific cancellation windows, so make sure you know what's required in advance to avoid wasting time and energy. 

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Dumbbell, water bottle, towel on the bench in the gym.

Sign Up for a Monthly Membership

If possible, avoiding a contract in the first place can be a helpful way to avoid a cumbersome cancellation process. This will allow you to have more flexibility and control over your commitment, and you can easily adjust or cancel your membership without worrying about long-term obligations or cancellation fees.

Woman complaining on the phone

Be Firm

Unfortunately, some gyms make it deliberately difficult to cancel, so you might have to be persistent in your efforts. If calling and emailing is not yielding any results, or they keep giving you the runaround, try visiting the gym in person to make sure your request is heard and documented. 

Young hispanic man talking on the smartphone using laptop at new home.

Tell Them You Moved

If you'd prefer to avoid an awkward in-person scenario, you may be able to cancel your membership over the phone by telling the gym that you moved, says one Redditor. Start by calling the gym's customer service number and informing them that you've relocated to another city or state, preferably outside the gym's service area. 

Close-up photo of woman`s hands doing financial planning and checking receipts at home

Keep Receipts of Everything

If the gym requires written notice to submit your cancellation request, use certified mail to send it so you have proof of receipt. (Keep screenshots or receipts of all other forms of communication, too.) This can help protect you in case the gym claims they didn't receive your cancellation request, or tries to delay your request in any way. 

Sports and gym activities
Valerii Apetroaiei/istockphoto

Avoid Canceling During Peak Times

If possible, try to avoid canceling during peak periods, such as at the beginning of the year when resolutions are ripe, or the months leading up to beach bod season (hot girl summer does not play around). During these times, gyms can be more crowded and staff may be overwhelmed, making it harder to get your cancellation processed.

Person Looking At Hidden Fees In Contract

Beware of Hidden Fees

Some gyms charge cancellation fees or require a certain amount of notice before canceling a membership. This may be in the form of a flat fee, or a prorate of your membership based on how much time is left before your contract ends. Make sure you know what these fees are in advance so you're not hit with an unexpected bill.

Woman hand holding credit cards and using smartphone for shopping online with payment on internet banking.

Change Your Payment Information

If the gym is still giving you a hard time after exhausting all other options, you may want to consider contacting your bank to stop all payments going to them. "Just call your credit card company and let them fight it out. I’ve never lost a dispute to a gym membership this way," says one Redditor.