How to cancel your gym membership and stop being charged


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Joining a gym is easy. It's when you want to bail out that you could really work up a sweat.

We all start out with the best of intentions, but as winter closes in, it's easy to fall off the fitness bandwagon.

That's not unusual.

how to break up with your gym membership direct debit

Finder research shows 50% of gym members show up to exercise less than once a week. One in five head to the gym less than once a month.

If you're thinking of calling time on gym membership, here's what to expect.

Put your notice to cancel in writing

Your gym membership agreement - the one you probably didn't read when you signed on the dotted line, sets out the specific conditions for cancelling early.

Some gyms demand notice in writing, often with a specific form to fill in.

Even where that's not the case, it makes sense to put a cancellation request in writing. It creates a paper trail that can be useful if problems arise.

You may need to pay up to move on

Once you've handed in notice, you may be slugged with cancellation fees. These must be listed in your membership agreement, and the cost varies between fitness providers.

With Anytime Fitness for instance, you can be up for 50% of the fees remaining on the term you committed to. So, if you signed up for 12 months, and want to bail after eight months, you can be asked to pay two months' worth of fees.

At Fernwood Fitness, cancellation fees depend on your membership term, but can go as high as $300 for an 18-month membership.

If you're a Fitness First member, the cancellation fee can cost $295 where there's 12 months or more membership remaining, or $245 if there is 6-12 months left to run.

What if your initial membership term has ended?

Gym contracts tend to work a bit like a rental lease. You may only sign up for 12 months, but the monthly fee can keep coming out of your account unless you end your membership.

To cancel, 30 days' notice is normally required (14 days in Queensland and South Australia).

What if an injury means you can't work out?

Personal injury can be a way to end gym membership without cancellation fees.

However, your gym's idea of 'injury' may go well beyond Mondayitis or a strained hamstring.

Fernwood Fitness for example, requires a doctor to complete a permanent capacity declaration as well as providing a medical certificate stating you can't use the services because of "permanent sickness or physical incapacity".

Again, your membership agreement will spell out the details.

What if I move?

Some providers such as Anytime Fitness let you cancel without a termination fee if you move a set distance away from any of their gyms.

You'll need to provide proof of your new address.

What if the gym keeps deducting fees?

It's the gym's responsibility to cancel any direct payments, and under the Fitness Industry Code of Conduct, providers are required to respond quickly to cancellation requests.

If your gym is a chain dragger, give them a call. Failing that, contact industry body AUSactive (formerly Fitness Australia).

Fair Trading NSW also advises talking to your financial institution.

Just stopping the payments without notifying the gym can leave you liable for damages through breach of contract.

Buyer beware!

Gyms have faced tough trading conditions since 2020. COVID closures have been followed by rising living costs, prompting many Australians to cut household expenses.

This has contributed to a wave of gym closures - among them Infinite Cycle and F45, though some franchisees continue to trade.

It's a cue to think carefully before signing up for a lengthy term even if it means scoring a discount.

If you're happy to commit, read the membership agreement before joining.

The paperwork may seem like a mere formality but it's a legally binding contract, and by signing, you agree to the terms and conditions.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.
Elliott Pea
October 6, 2023 11.35am

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