About 24 Hour Fitness

Published on: Jan 24, 2017

24 Hour Fitness is a California-based gym chain with the largest membership in the world, with more than 400 clubs in the U.S. and abroad.

What sets the gym apart from the competition is its vast network of clubs along with elaborate childcare facilities.

The company was founded in 1983 by Mark Mastrov and Leonard Schlemm and was originally called 24 Hour Nautilus, “Nautilus” being the brand name of a company who manufactured weight machines.

Through the years, the company has acquired smaller chains and started international chains, leading to them having the largest membership in the world.

They’ve also increased their visibility by sponsoring two U.S. Olympic teams and helping renovate several Olympic training facilities across the United States.

While it’s easy to trust a company with a huge membership base – they must be reliable if they have so many customers, right? – we think it’s important to dig a little deeper into what the gym offers, what people are saying about it and if/when it’s showed up in the news for questionable practices.

As you probably guessed, we’re going to tackle each one of those topics in the next few minutes.

What Does 24 Hour Fitness Offer?

Gyms make a living on pitching you what they offer.

Planet Fitness offers cheap monthly dues ($10) and big gyms that tend to be crowd-free.

LA Fitness offers a variety of amenities at a modest monthly rate.

Other gyms offer small, boutique style locations where you see the owner every day and members are a tight knit group.

Whatever the pitch, everything a gym offers can pretty much be reduced to fees, amenities, training/ classes, and philosophy.

Fees at 24 Hour Fitness

Talking about fees at a gym is a tricky thing because what you pay each month for your membership changes depending on where you are located.

If you live in New York City, there’s a good chance your monthly dues will be higher than someone who lives in Tampa, Florida – cost of living is significantly higher in the Big Apple.

That being said, 24 Hour Fitness’ membership tiers are based on the clubs in your area: Active, Sport, Super Sport or Ultra Sport. Ultra Sport clubs are usually in high-traffic areas, while dues and location value decrease as you move down from Ultra.

Therefore, when you click through to the sign-up page on the 24 Hour Fitness website you’ll see different pricing depending on which type of club is available in your area.

For example, a club in San Diego has Sport and Super Sport memberships ranging in dues from $29.99 to $44.99. You can sign up for a month-to-month membership or a one-year contract.

Not only does signing up for a 12-month contract reduce monthly fees, but you may also be able to get your annual fee waived ($49) if you sign up during a promotion period.

If you choose the Super Sport membership, you’ll get access to clubs at the Active, Sport and Super Sport levels.

For comparison’s sake, we also searched dues for 24 Hour Fitness’ Fifth Avenue location in New York City.

Prices were $79.99 and $84.99, with the cheaper level available if you get a 12-month contract. Membership to this Ultra Sport location gives you access to all of 24 Hour Fitness’ gyms.

In both the California and New York zip codes, there was no initiation fee.

You also have the option of paying for a year membership in one lump payment. We chose this option for our NYC location and found that it saved the consumer about $12 over the course of the year.

Also, you’ll have to pay first and last month’s dues when you sign up.

Quick tip: If you want to save money, you can buy a 2-year, all-club Sport membership voucher at Costco for $399.99, which averages out to $16.66 a month. It’s a great deal, but make sure there’s a Sport- or Active-level club in your area – the voucher won’t work for any other level of the club.

24 Hour Fitness Amenities

As we’ve mentioned in our previous reviews of gyms, amenities change from location to location. All 24 Hour Fitness locations, however, have cardio machines, weight machines, group cycling, exercise classes and free weights.

The 5th Avenue Ultra Sport club we researched also had a steam room, TRX suspension training, and towel service.

Meanwhile, the San Diego location we checked out has everything the NYC location had plus a lounge, outdoor lap pool, sun deck, and sauna.

As for specific equipment included in 24 Hour Fitness clubs, we talked with 24 Hour’s Senior Director of Fitness Jason Mathes to get details.

“We offer equipment to our members that are typical industry standards, like treadmills, ellipticals, step mills, and stationary cardio bikes,” Jason told us. “We also enhance our offerings with specialty equipment like lateral trainers, as well as the Octane Zero Runner, Cybex SPARC Trainer, Woodway Curve Treadmill, etc.”

Most 24 Hour Fitness locations also have Kid’s Club childcare. When we called the San Diego location we researched, we were informed that childcare for up to 2 hours a day was $17.99 a month and additional children were another $12 a month.

Single-visit childcare services were available for $5. The prices could change depending on which club you use, so make sure you double-check at your location.

24 Hour Fitness Classes & Training

24 Hour Fitness’ training and classes can be split into two categories: free and paid.

Free Classes

24 Hour’s free classes are called GX 24 classes, and they include the standard lineup of fitness- and dance-focused programs: Zumba, Pilates, BodyPump, kickboxing, yoga, regeneration, spin and more.

Paid Classes & Training

24 Hour’s paid programs include their TC24 group training classes and their in-house personal training programs. That both of these options are paid options are pretty normal within the gym world.

We contacted the San Diego 24 Hour Fitness and were told that TC 24 classes were $199 per month and that, for the most part, that pricing was consistent across all clubs.

We were also told that your monthly TC 24 dues get you unlimited classes (the program has multiple types of workouts).

When we asked the San Diego location about personal training prices, they told us we’d have to come in to the club and speak with a trainer.

Since we couldn’t dig up a solid price on these sessions, we did some research and found that National Board of Fitness Educators President Dr. Sal Arria says the average price of a trainer is $60-$70 per hour, with some charging as low as $25 per hour.

Use these pricing figures as a guide, but also use your intuition.

If the trainer you speak with doesn’t seem to care about you as an individual or hasn’t worked with people at your fitness and age level, don’t be afraid to speak with a different trainer at the club.

24 Hour Fitness Philosophy

According to their website, 24 Hour Fitness’ philosophy centers on their “passion for empowering members to live fit and healthy lives.”

When we asked Jason about what the gyms’ biggest strength was, his response gave more clarity to the company’s mission: “At 24 Hour Fitness we believe the time you spend in the club should help make the life you lead outside of the club the best it can be.”

Exactly how that philosophy fits into your everyday gym experience is tough to pin down because every gym is different.

Our suggestion: Visit your local 24 Hour Fitness and get a tour of the facility so you can see if their services match what they say about their philosophy.

24 Hour Fitness Reviews

We read through dozens of reviews on Costco and Consumer Affair’s websites to get a clear sense of where consumers feel short-changed or frustrated by 24 Hour Fitness.

We’re going to share our observations with you, but we want to remind you of the golden rule of gym memberships: Make a copy of your membership contract, read it line by line and ask your questions before you sign and make it official.

A common complaint of consumers, no matter which gym they joined, is hidden fees or charges they didn’t expect.

In some cases, these charges are mistakes (monthly dues that were charged after a membership was canceled), but in many cases, customers failed to read the fine print of their contract.

24 Hour Fitness Complaints on Consumer Affairs

Most of the complaints we read pertained to annual fees, lifetime memberships, and bait-and-switch tactics.

Annual Fee Complaints

Many of the complaints we read addressed 24 Hour Fitness’ “yearly maintenance fee” which is, basically, an annual fee.

Consumers said when they signed up they were told all they had to pay was first and last month’s dues, then monthly dues after that.

While we can’t speak to what was said and not said in individual conversations between the gym and consumers, we can say that annual fees are listed on their website and we’re fairly certain they’ll be written in your contract.

Lifetime Memberships Complaints

Another common complaint that also surfaced on Reddit had to do with lifetime memberships that 24 Hour Fitness no longer has.

For many years, the company offered members the chance to pay an up-front fee (we saw $600 in a couple of places) in exchange for yearly payments of between $30 and $50 for the rest of the member’s life.

The plans were popular because they saved consumers a lot of money in the long run (you could earn your money back in three or four years), and it gave 24 Hour a nice chunk of cash considering most of the lifetime sign-ups would not, statistically speaking, use their membership on a regular basis as time went on.

However, rumblings rose the first part of this decade when 24 Hour started informing its lifetime customers that their “locked” yearly fee would start to go up, in some cases, as much as twice the initial amount.

Consumers were mad about this, and rightly so: When a gym tells you that you’re getting a lifetime rate, you don’t expect your rate to go up.

24 Hour Fitness Bait-and-Switch Complaints

In other instances, a member complained about bait-and-switch tactics used while he was signing up for a month-to-month membership.

The member claims he was rushed through the sign-up and then asked to sign an electronic signature pad with fine print under the line where he signed. That fine print, it turned, said he was signing for a year-long contract.

When the member realized what happened, he returned to the gym only to be told his contract was a year-long membership and he’d have to buy it out in order to cancel.

An important question to ask here is why these kinds of things happen.

The answer is that gyms want to make membership sales just like any other sales-oriented business.

The company makes more money when you sign up for yearly as opposed to monthly memberships, and they aren’t always forthcoming with the fine print.

These various complaints came to the forefront when 24 Hour Fitness members filed a federal lawsuit against the gym for its arbitrary rate hike on lifetime memberships, which we’ll talk about in the next section.

24-Hour Fitness in the News

The lawsuit against 24 Hour Fitness was filed with the California Northern District Court and Judge Edward Chen on April 1, 2016.

At the time of publishing, the lawsuit was still in its early stages and the two parties had yet to engage in a formal trial. We were able to obtain a copy of the initial complaint filed with the California court.

An excerpt from that complaint details the point of contention:

“Plaintiffs Kevin O’Shea, Mark Vitcov, and Rod Morris bring this Class Action complaint and Demand for Jury Trial against Defendant 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. for fraudulently inducing consumers into purchasing supposed ‘lifetime memberships’ to its gyms.”

The complaint goes on to say that an ownership change spurred the increases in the “lifetime” membership.

“Unfortunately, now under new ownership, 24 Hour Fitness decided to stop honoring the supposed Lifetime Fee Guarantees it had been promising to its members,” the court document reads, “and began alerting its lifetime members—some of whom had paid the same Annual Renewal Fee for more than two decades – that their annual Renewal Fees would increase in 2016 (in most cases, to either double or triple their previous rates).”

According to gym-industry website Club Industry, the lawsuit also alleges that 24 Hour Fitness continued to push their "lifetime" membership rates despite changing in 2006 the wording of their membership agreements to allow for rate increases.

Aside from the lawsuit, the biggest news of 2016 for 24 Hour Fitness was its sale of its 19 Midwest clubs. Company representatives said they wanted to focus their efforts on more population-dense areas.

Our Final Thoughts About 24 Hour Fitness

The gym industry has a good side and a bad side. As a result, every gym chain, whether local, national or international, has its good and bad sides, too.

In our previous reviews of Planet Fitness and LA Fitness, you can see this principle at work. The good/ bad mix also showed up in our research of 24 Hour Fitness.

The club’s membership rates are reasonable but fluctuate depending on where you live.

For example, the 5th Avenue 24 Hour Fitness in NYC was nearly twice as much as the San Diego location we researched even though it had significantly fewer big-ticket amenities.

However, compared to other gyms in big cities and small communities, 24 Hour Fitness’ prices are pretty reasonable, especially considering that, unlike LA Fitness, many of their gyms are open 24 hours a day.

As for the complaints we listed earlier, our advice is to read your contract line by line and make a copy of it for your own records.

Also, if you’re going to cancel a year-long membership, be prepared to pay the sum of the dues you would have paid to finish the contract. Six months left at $40 a month? You’ll pay $240 to quit.

Remember, though, the complaints we’ve talked about are general and not specific to the gym in your area.

If you want to get a good read on what’s happening at your local 24 Hour Fitness, check out the location’s Yelp page and read its Google reviews.

In all, we think 24 Hour Fitness runs like just about any other nationwide gym in the industry. They’re looking to capitalize on people who want to join a gym and their gyms have a particular style and set of amenities.

If you’re interested in joining a 24 Hour Fitness, our recommendation is that you:

  • Get an initial tour of the club.
  • If you like what you see, sign up for a free three-day pass. Their website says the pass is good for three days from the first day you use it, and that you can use it at “multiple locations.”
  • Read Yelp and Google reviews of the location you want to join.
  • If you want to join, sit down with a sales rep and ask for a copy of your contract. Tell them you want to go home and read it first, and that you’ll be back the next day to finalize with them.

Once you take your contract home, read through it line by line. If you have any questions whatsoever about suspicious wording or fees, bring it up when you return.

Another tip: What your sales rep tells you means nothing; it’s what is written in your contract that counts.

If you think you want to research other gyms before signing up with 24 Hour Fitness, take a look at our reviews of Planet Fitness and LA Fitness, and be sure to research gyms in your local area.

In the meantime, we suggest reading through one of our articles about New Year’s resolutions. While you may be signing up in the middle of the year, the insight we gained from psychologists and sports psychology experts will help you set yourself apart from the 70% of Americans who don’t use their gym membership.

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