Why Do Gyms Have Joining Fees?

So, you decided to join a gym. You did your research, made sure you could afford the monthly payments and...

So, you decided to join a gym. You did your research, made sure you could afford the monthly payments and told yourself that 100% you’d get your money’s worth out of it. But as you’re ready to hand over your first month’s payment, you see there’s a joining fee.


And especially if it wasn’t made clear earlier in the process. But what is it? And why do gyms charge you for signing up? 


What is a joining fee? 

Joining fees are one-off payments new members make when they sign up for a gym. It’s usually paid when the contract is signed, or it’ll be collected with your first month’s fees. It’s a fairly common practice, and the price will vary from gym to gym. They can be as little as £10 or as much as £50. Some gyms don't charge a fee, so it’s worth exploring other options in your area before signing up for one that does. 

You may also hear it called an initiation, sign-up or enrolment fee, but it shouldn’t be confused with an annual fee. This is another payment charged at the beginning of each membership cycle but is less common in the UK. 

 Man opens wallet to show cards and cash inside

Why do gyms have joining fees? 

New members need more attention than existing ones. Gyms usually apply a joining fee because there’s paperwork and possibly financial vetting that needs to be done to onboard new people. Easy Gym says it charges a sign-up fee because it needs to verify payment (remember, they’ll be looking into whether you can pay or not). 

New members will also need an induction to orientate themselves with the facilities, understand how to use the equipment, and follow any safety or best practice guidance. A member of staff or PT will need to be available for this. Gyms may also have to provide key fobs, access codes and cards for the building.

You’re less likely to encounter a joining fee if you pay for an annual membership up-front and in full. This is because the gym will collect 12 months of fees in one go, regardless of whether you ever turn up again after your induction.  Whereas on a monthly contract, the gym could onboard a person who then cancels shortly afterwards.

Some gyms don’t charge sign-up fees. This may be a permanent offer designed to attract new members or could be part of a promotion active at specific times of the year.


Do I have to pay a gym sign-up fee? 

It depends.

Joining fees are usually negotiable because gyms would rather have a consistent monthly income than lose a potential member over a one-off payment. Unfortunately, if a gym refuses to wipe the enrolment fee, you won’t be able to use the facilities until you’ve paid it. 

  • You have nothing to lose by asking them to waive the fee. It’s a relatively common thing for them to do anyway as a gesture of goodwill, especially if they know you’re serious about maintaining a membership. If they’re unwilling to wipe the whole amount, see if they’ll reduce it. At certain times of the year, gyms may also drop sign-up fees to attract new members. Some gyms do this during busy periods when competition is high, like in the New Year, for example., Other gyms will do it during quieter periods, like in the summer. 

  • Scrolling back through social media feeds can help you identify when a gym is more likely to do this. If they’ve had an Easter special for the last ten years, they’ll likely have another this year. You can also search Google for discounted memberships or events where the gym has waived the fee for a better idea of how many times (and when) in the year they do this. 

  • If you know someone who works out at the gym, ask if there’s a referral system. There may be a discount on membership for both parties. If you don’t know anyone, call out on social media or ask around because a financial incentive will usually be enough for someone to refer you.

  • If you can pay upfront for membership, it’s usually cheaper, and there’s often no enrolment fee.

  • Using the gym on a pay-as-you-gym basis is another option. You can pay for daily, weekly or monthly passes to avoid the sign-up costs. PureGym and other gyms do this, or you can try websites like Hussle. While this may work out more expensive in the long run, it’s a great way to try out a gym before you commit. It could give you greater confidence about the facilities and your motivation, so a sign-up fee won’t seem so risky later. It also means that if you’re holding out for an upcoming promotion,  you can start working out now.

  • You can always look for other gyms in the area. They may be more open to negotiation, especially if you’ve already walked away from another facility. 

Ultimately, joining fees are a relatively common practice used by gyms to generate additional income from new members. If you’re dead-set on a specific gym and they won’t waive them, you may have to take the hit. Always try to negotiate first, however. 

But remember, it's a great investment if you end up using the gym regularly, achieving your fitness goals, building up your physical and mental health, and having fun, even with the sign-up fees. Don’t put off your ideal gym for the sake of a few pounds, especially if you genuinely believe it will make a positive and lasting impact on your life. 

And if you’re looking to build out a home gym instead, then you can now pre-order the electricity-generating RE:GEN indoor cycling bike. And watch for our next installation, which could be coming to a gym near you. 





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