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Exercise Your Options When Quitting Gym Membership
by Contributing Writer

Problems with gym memberships cause huge amounts of heartburn, too, and heated discussions on the Web. Here's some advice:

Cozy up to your contract
"Number one, you want to read over your contract. You want to know what you signed," says Brooke Correia, a spokesperson for the Boston-based International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a nonprofit, international industry trade association. The cancellation process should be laid out there. The contract should also say if there's an "exit fee" for breaking the contract.

Know your state's laws, Part I
In most states, there's a "cooling-off period" in which you can back out of a gym membership, Correia says. "In most states, it's three days," she says. And in some states, such as California, as the cost of a membership rises, the more time you have to reconsider. So a membership that's more than $2,501 can be canceled within 45 days.

Know the laws, Part II
Consumer-protection laws often allow you to be removed from your contract if you move too far from an affiliated club (in Washington state it's 25 miles), or the gym moves a certain distance away (10 miles), or you're incapacitated for a prolonged period.

Cancel in writing
Even if the gym says you can do it in person, put it in writing. And do it with 30 days notice, if possible. Keep a copy of the letter.

Pay more, lessen the headache
Consider paying a little more for a month-to-month membership. "Most clubs offer them now, and it really gives you a lot of freedom to decide on your own time, 'Well, this isn't the right place for me,'" Correia says.

Be responsible
Stories abound on the Web of clients having such frustrating gym-cancellation experiences that they simply close their bank accounts or cancel their credit cards to deprive the gym of money. That only invites trouble down the line: debt collectors and a besmirched credit rating. At some point, recognize that you signed a contract. Deal with the problem.

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