6 Ways to Haggle a Cheaper Gym Membership

Never get stuck paying those extra enrollment fees again

Giselle Castro-Sloboda Fitness and Nutrition Writer
I'm a Fitness & Nutrition writer for CNET who enjoys reviewing the latest fitness gadgets, testing out activewear and sneakers, as well as debunking wellness myths. On my spare time I enjoy cooking new recipes, going for a scenic run, hitting the weight room, or binge-watching many TV shows at once. I am a former personal trainer and still enjoy learning and brushing up on my training knowledge from time to time. I've had my wellness and lifestyle content published in various online publications such as: Women's Health, Shape, Healthline, Popsugar and more.
Expertise Fitness and Wellness
Giselle Castro-Sloboda
5 min read
couple in the gym

Getting the best gym membership deal is all about doing a little research and knowing what to ask when signing up.

Getty Images/ Hispanolistic

When gyms closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, most people had to adjust to at-home workouts. Once businesses started opening back up, some people were ready to return to the gym. The gym can be a great motivator for those who prefer to exercise out of the confines of their home. I re-joined once I felt I needed a change of scenery, but still maintained a hybrid workout routine. However, if you're looking to cut costs wherever you can, joining a gym is another added expense. Gym membership prices vary depending on what services and amenities are offered. Which means if you're on a budget, you want to get the best deal possible without short changing yourself.

The good news is that there are easy ways to get the most out of your membership without breaking the bank. All it takes is a little research and knowing what to ask when signing up. With the help of experts, we've come up with some tips that will help you get the best deal possible when signing up at your local gym. 

Ask for end-of-the-month deals or discounts

Waiting to sign up until the end of the month can guarantee you a better deal. Some gyms have a signup fee plus monthly dues, but depending on the deal, they may waive some fees. For example, if you sign up at the end of December going into January, gyms are competing against each other to recruit as many new gym members as possible, so you may end up getting the best deal possible.

Many gyms will also offer a free trial for a month or a week before you commit, which is a good way to feel out if the gym is a right fit for you.

Also, don't be shy to ask if there are specific discounts if you're a student, member of the military, first responder, a teacher or senior citizen. Many gyms often offer discounts for these groups of people.

Reference outdated sales

Gyms typically have sales and deals throughout the year, and even if you miss them, there is a way around convincing the establishment to give you an expired deal. For example, say you saw a family membership for $300 off a year, but the deal passed. "Ask to pay that price because if the gym did it once, they will do it again," says Casey Lee, a personal trainer in northern Vermont with 12 years of health club experience. "Not getting the answer you want? Call them back three days before the end of the month and make the same offer." Membership sales typically have monthly financial goals they need to meet, so they're likely to be more open to offering you an expired deal.

"If they need cash, they have a deadline at the end of the month to reach it or if they have hit their goals, they may receive a bonus on cash overages," she explains. As a result, those financial goals provide more urgency on their end to get cash in by the end of the month -- upping your chance of getting a good deal. So make sure you have cash on hand if you want to nab that sale. 

Pay cash or in advance

Cash is king when joining a gym -- especially a smaller gym. With a smaller gym, you could ask for a better rate by offering to pay in cash or pay for a year upfront rather than monthly. "One way to try and get a better price on a gym membership is to ask if there is a discount if you pay in full for 3 months, 6 months or even a year," advises personal trainer, Kate Meier. 

"Many gym owners will take a slight cut in revenue in favor of having it guaranteed up front rather than month to month." This may be appealing to the gym owner for their tax or cash flow purposes. 

Look at other options and compare prices

If you've ever asked a retailer to match or beat the price for an item sold by a competing store, this is called price matching. This is a policy followed by some retailers, and can apply to some gyms. When deciding on which gym you'd like to join Lee advises to take one gym's service quote and bring it to the gym you want to actually go to.

"Ask them to match the price and say you will sign up and pay today, because urgency wins and the quote from the competing gym shows urgency and due diligence on your part," she says. Therefore, do some research and collect a few quotes from other gyms before negotiating at the gym of your choice. 

Ask about off-peak hours

James Crawford, co-founder of shopping vouchers website DealDrop, says, "In many gyms, you can save money on registration if you commit to going to the club when no one else can, which implies going earlier in the day before 4 p.m. on a workday and later in the day on weekends." This is a strategy I used when I joined a gym while unemployed and it can also work to your advantage if you work from home. I knew my gym had different rates for peak and off-peak hours, to save money, I joined and only went during off-peak times. By doing so I saved about $20 compared to the gym's peak pricing.  

In my case, off-peak hours were between 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., but this may vary by gym. Crawford adds that gyms don't always advertise that they have off-peak and peak hours so you'll need to ask. If you get lucky, he says you can save approximately about 30% to 40% by signing up for this membership.

If you can commit to going to the gym during off-peak hours, it will be less crowded and you'll have access to the same equipment with more space.  

Look for family, friend or corporate referrals

Usually, if you can get other people to join a gym with you, the establishment will give you a better deal. Meier says, "You can try negotiating a reduced corporate rate for the company you work for if you are able to guarantee the gym a minimum number of memberships." Even if it isn't co-workers from your office, referring others to the gym can get you some perks. In some cases, family or friend gym memberships might be discounted if purchased together. 

This is something I took advantage of at my current gym which offers members a free month for every new member they recruit. I was able to get a couple of family members to sign up, and I got two months free. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that your health insurance may help cover a part of your gym membership. Contact your health insurance to see if they offer any deals with specific gyms or if they'll reimburse you for part of your membership. In my experience, I've had health insurances that either cover part of your monthly membership fee or have a partnership with certain gyms at a discounted rate. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.