Here’s How Much That ‘$10 a Month’ Gym Membership Really Costs

We’ve all seen the pervasive ads for Planet Fitness claiming a no-strings-attached gym membership for just $10 a month. Sounds great, right?

Well, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And the $10 a month gym membership definitely falls into that category.

Right off the bat is a $59 “startup fee”

Before you ever get to the monthly fee, be prepared to fork over a whopping $59 for the “startup fee.” While this is a one-time fee when you start your contract, even one $59 fee is too many.

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That’s effectively an extra $5 a month assuming you keep the membership for a year. Worse, the fee isn’t refundable if you don’t stick around.

I will say that Planet Fitness seems to have fairly regular deals for a lower startup fee. You can also find referral codes that drop the fee to $1. But if you don’t go through these extra hoops, it’ll cost you.

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An annual fee makes your effective cost $14 a month

Assuming you manage to get around the startup fee, you’re still not paying $10 a month for your membership. That’s because Planet Fitness also charges an annual fee — and it’s an eye-popping $49 a year.

If you divide that out over the year, that’s an extra $4.08 each month. This puts your total monthly cost at $14.08.

In other words, even without paying a startup fee, the annual fee means you’re effectively paying 40% more than the $10 advertised rate.

Whether you think that $14 a month is a fair price for a basic gym membership, it definitely feels a little scammy that they advertise a rate so much lower than the real cost.

Oh, and this is just for the “Classic” membership. This only gives you access to one Planet Fitness location, with no guest access or the extra perks. If you want to visit multiple locations, use the massage chairs or tanning beds, or bring guests, you’ll need to upgrade to the $24.99 a month Black Card. (And yes, that still has the same $49 annual fee.)

How to keep gym costs down

The most obvious way to get a good deal on a gym membership is to luck out and sign up during a sale. Most big chains have them fairly regularly, and even smaller gyms may offer the occasional discount when membership is sluggish.

If you don’t want to wait on a deal, you can try these tips to workout for less.

Go as a guest

If you know someone who already has a Planet Fitness Black Card membership, tag along as their guest. You won’t be able to use the Black Card exclusive perks, but you’ll have full access to the rest of the gym.

Use referral codes to sign up

Some gyms may offer deals to folks who are referred by current members. You can find these referral links/codes online fairly easily for big-brand gyms. You can also ask any friends or family members who are already members if they can send a referral your way. Most of the time, the referrer will also get some kind of bonus, like a free month of membership.

Use a rewards credit card

I have rewards credit cards for pretty much everything, including my gym membership. Picking the right card can get you up to 5% cash back on your membership fees. Even a flat-rate cash back rewards card could give you 2% back on the monthly gym fees.

Build a basic home gym

If all else fails, you can skip the gym membership altogether and DIY your own workout space at home. You can fit a surprisingly good home gym into a surprisingly small space — and small budget. A jump rope, set of resistance bands, and a few free weights are enough to get you started and won’t wreck your personal finances.

Not a bad cost, but bad advertising

Sure, $14 a month for a gym membership doesn’t sound too bad. It would just be nice if companies didn’t disguise their real costs behind hidden fees and fine print.

Planet Fitness may be a “Judgement Free Zone,” but I’m definitely judging their advertising choices.

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