So You Canceled Your Gym Membership But It Keeps Charging Your Card

What to Do When the Gym Won’t Stop Charging Your Card

A gym member finishes up a workout.
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We’ve all been there—whether you were a pre-COVID-19 gym rat or once made an optimistic New Year’s resolution, the time has come to cut the cord with your gym. So, you took the necessary steps, sent in all the required paperwork, and now you’ve found out that they’re still charging you.

In these unprecedented times, it can seem overwhelming trying to figure out and understand your rights when it comes to memberships, especially when local guidance is often unclear about when and how gyms can operate. 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. 

Check to Make Sure You Actually Canceled Your Membership

When it became clear that COVID-19 was a serious illness, gyms around the country were forced to cease operations and close. Policies for membership fees varied by gym; some, like Orange Theory, froze memberships—and their dues—entirely. Now that gyms are reopening, you might believe the gym canceled your membership after COVID closures or that you can cancel without penalty because you started your membership days before the closures.

Laws regarding gym membership cancellation differ according to 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 (relocation at least 25 miles away from the gym, for example). 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.

But let’s say that you’re simply sick of the gym and want to cancel immediately. Regardless of which gym you frequent, it is almost always better to go visit in-person to cancel. While the face-to-face contact can be uncomfortable, it could humanize you to the manager (or whoever is responsible for cancellations) and 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’d canceled. Head in to talk to someone, or reach out (via e-mail if possible) to the gym. 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, gyms such as LA Fitness will continue charging you until its 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 I 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 fifty dollars. The Electronic Fund Transfer Act covers debit cards and your liability differs according to 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, and 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—certified is recommended—to the gym operator. Finally, 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 upfront. Be clear on what the contract’s cancellation rules are, though, as paying with cash or check affords none of the protections you get with a credit or debit card.

Lastly, although it isn’t a perfect option, is the decision to buy “class packages” or day passes rather than a full membership. This is only really a good idea if you don’t go that often, as these passes tend to be more expensive. But, it will keep you out of a contract and offer protection against automatic billing. 

Key Takeaways

  • 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 complaints with the BBB to be sure your case is heard. 

Article Sources

  1. New York Department of State. "Licensing of Health Club Services." Page 5. Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

  2. Federal Trade Commission. "Disputing Credit Charges." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.