Sometimes, it's time to cut the cord with your gym. Maybe you took the necessary steps and sent in all the required paperwork, but you just found out it's still charging you.
While it’s frustrating, there are steps you can take to counteract charge errors, whether that means coordinating with the gym or contacting your credit card issuer.
Laws About Gym Membership Cancellation
Laws regarding gym membership cancellation differ by state. In California, you have five days after signing your contract to cancel without repercussion. In New York, the cancellation window is three business days, and certain circumstances allow you to cancel at any time—like moving at least 25 miles away from the gym.
These laws also govern cancellation fees and prorated refunds. Otherwise, it’s important to note that in most cases, your membership contracts are legally binding.
Cancel Your Gym Membership in Person if Possible
If you want to cancel your gym membership immediately, it is almost always best to go visit in person. While the face-to-face contact can be awkward, it could humanize you to the manager—or whoever is responsible for cancellations—and they could possibly lend a sympathetic ear to your cause.
If you aren’t able to visit in person, most gyms use a specific cancellation form that you must mail to a designated address. Even if it isn’t required, you should send it via certified mail and make sure to require a signature upon delivery.
Always keep a copy of your documents for your records. You’ll need these to create a paper trail.
The same goes even if you already thought you canceled. Head in to talk to someone, or reach out to the gym via e-mail if possible. Get names, and keep records. Some gyms just require advance notice, while others will charge you a cancellation fee.
If you’re still within the terms of your initial contract, some gyms will continue charging you until the contract's expiration—unless you have a covered reason as mentioned above.
How To Dispute the Charges on Your Credit Card
If coordination with your gym fails, you also have the option to dispute the charge on your credit card. Many card issuers, such as American Express, Discover, and Chase, offer the option to do this online, though you can also mail in a letter to the issuer’s dispute-resolution address.
Be aware that you can only dispute charge errors within 60 days of the bill that shows the charge, so check your card statements regularly. The issuer then has 30 days to respond to you in writing after receiving your request and must resolve your complaint entirely within two billing cycles.
This is also where you’ll submit the proof that you’ve kept—copies of your cancellation form, certified mail records, and the contract terms that allow you to cancel.
What if You Pay by Debit Card?
Many gyms accept payment via debit card, which can seem like an appealing idea if you’re not keen on credit cards. Unfortunately, debit cards are subject to different standards than credit cards in the case of unauthorized charges. The Fair Credit and Billing Act offers significantly more protections to those who pay with a credit card by limiting liability for charges to $50.
The Electronic Fund Transfer Act covers debit cards, and your liability differs depending on when you report the charges. In this case, reporting as quickly as possible will limit the amount for which you may be held liable.
The good news here is that your bank will still investigate a dispute for you. The bad news is that, by paying with a debit card, those funds have already been withdrawn from your account. You may have to wait for the bank to complete an investigation to get your money back.
Other Protections and Solutions
If, despite all your efforts, the gym continues to charge you, there are other actions you can take. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is an excellent resource if you need to make a complaint. This site is full of dissatisfied gym customers who have done just that. Businesses often respond to complaints you file, even though the BBB doesn’t require them to.
You can also send a formal complaint by letter to the gym operator. As a consumer, you have access to the state attorney general’s office, where you can file an official complaint against your gym.
If you plan on rejoining a gym but are worried about erroneous billing, there are a few different steps you can take to protect yourself. If you’re paying online, many card issuers allow you to use virtual card numbers, which create a unique card number separate from your existing card.
You may also want to consider using cash or a check to pay upfront for a membership. Only a few gyms allow this, but it is possible in some cases to pay for a month or year at a time. Be clear on what the contract’s cancellation rules are, though; paying with cash or a check affords none of the protections you get with a credit or debit card.
Lastly, you could consider buying class packages or day passes rather than a full membership. This may be the best option for someone who goes to the gym more infrequently. However, it will keep you out of a contract and offer protection against automatic billing.
- Go to your gym in person to coordinate the cancellation.
- Double-check that you’ve completed the cancellation procedures correctly.
- Use your credit (or debit) card protection to dispute the charges.
- File a complaint with the BBB to be sure your case is heard.