You’d like to stay in shape, lose weight, look great at the beach. But you don’t want to spend a lot of money. You’ve noticed that Planet Fitness offers low-cost memberships. They’re almost too low. There must be some hidden fees, right?
The truth is, there are sometimes additional fees, on top of the $10 or $20 Planet Fitness charges for its monthly memberships, but they’re spelled out for you in plain terms. There could be a registration fee, an annual maintenance fee, and a cancellation fee. These vary by location.
Still, Planet Fitness is one of the lowest cost fitness options around. There are also special perks – like the option to bring a friend to every visit – that you won’t find at every gym.
Yet, they don’t need to take advantage of members with hidden fees. As a low cost gym, their facilities are usually equipped with equipment that is modern enough, but basic. There are few amenities. Like other gyms, they also depend on a lot of passive subscriptions, where members who rarely show up to work out continue to pay monthly fees for months or years.
The Planet Fitness Billing Agreement
At most Planet Fitness locations, new members pay a registration or start-up fee, ranging from just $1.00 to up to $29.00. For Black Card members, start-up fees are often waived or significantly reduced. For other membership tiers, start-up fees are often discounted around holidays such as New Year’s Eve.
Then there’s the monthly membership fee – the number that’s usually put front and center in the Planet Fitness marketing pitch. The most common membership plans range from $10.00 to $21.99 per month. The higher price plan will get you a Black Card membership, which includes a few perks such as guest privileges and discounts on cooler beverages (for when you forget to bring your water bottle). Some locations require a commitment of at least 12 months.
Finally, there’s the annual membership fee, which is billed at the same time every year. Some locations bill all members the annual fee at the same time each year. Others bill members individually on or around the date they opened their account.
To see which fees apply at which locations, visit the Planet Fitness website and search for your local gym.
There Are Cancellation Fees (Sometimes)
At some locations, you’ll need to commit to a fixed-term membership – usually 12 months – to join the club or receive discounted rates. If you cancel prior to that, you’ll incur a cancellation fee. This is an extra incentive to keep you coming back, at least for that initial run of 12 months or so.
How Planet Fitness Bills You
To start your membership, you’ll need to fill out a few forms (or complete them via an iPad app) and pay a start-up fee, where applicable. You can pay the start-up fee with a credit card. For all other transactions, Planet Fitness requires a valid checking account number. This might seem less than ideal, especially if you’re not in great financial shape and you’re worried about overdraft fees. But from the gym’s point of view, it’s easier than trying to ensure that the credit card on file is always up to date.
How Planet Fitness Makes Money
At this point, maybe you’re still not convinced that Planet Fitness can make money without charging some sort of hidden fees. Rest assured, everything is working how it’s supposed to work. Like Spirit Airlines or Howard Johnson, Planet Fitness is a low-cost option in its industry. Its business model is built around affordability, and it doesn’t need to scam you to make money.
Like other gyms, Planet Fitness bets that most of its members won’t visit often. If they did, gyms would need to be a lot bigger, and the wear and tear would result in a lot of extra costs. Some estimates put the average number of members at each Planet Fitness location at 6,000. Yet, on most days, only a few hundred at most show up during peak hours. Membership costs are so low that people don’t prioritize canceling, even if they rarely make it to the gym.
To keep costs low, Planet Fitness facilities are pretty basic, with tons of treadmills and ellipticals, standard weight machines, and a few free weights. While they have tanning booths, and those (perhaps not-so-hygienic) massage tables, they don’t typically offer pools, racquetball courts, or other amenities that you’d find at a higher-end health club. What’s more, most locations occupy less-than-prime real estate, even if they’re located in big cities.
Of Course, Not Everyone Is HappyAs with any organization comprised of 10 million members, not everyone is happy. Take a glance at the Consumer Affairs site, and you’ll see that a few hundred have lodged complaints, many of them pertaining to cancellation attempts that weren’t honored. Yet, a few hundred complaints doesn’t seem so bad when you consider that millions of others have been pretty satisfied with the gym’s services. What’s more, the quality of some of these reviews leaves one wondering just who was at fault.
These days, you can’t buy a whole lot for $10 or $20. That’s why it might come as a surprise to learn that Planet Fitness still charges fees that low for its most popular monthly membership plans. If you’re like many people, you’ll immediately jump to the conclusion that something must be amiss – where are the hidden fees? But there’s no reason to worry. There may be a few additional fees associated with a membership plan – these are determined by location – but they’re spelled out for you in plain terms. Read the paperwork carefully, and you’ll have no trouble figuring out how and when you’ll be billed.