Back in the day there were two types of memberships for 24 Hour Fitness, a gym that currently has over 400 locations nationwide and are mostly open 24 hours:
1) Short-term - This is the typical one where you pay a monthly fee of anywhere between $19.99 to $49.99 plus a one-time initiation fee of anywhere between $0 to $49.99 for most clubs, depending on:
What type of club you will be going to (currently "Active" & "Sport" in San Diego where I live, with three "Super Sport" clubs coming soon)
How many locations of whatever type of club you want access to (just one location vs. all locations)
What promotion they're offering at the time
This is also now the only offer they have currently available. The only variation of this that they do have is where you pay a special rate for a year or two in advance and save some money. If you're going towards this route I suggest you take a look at Costco. They currently have a deal where you pay $319.99 for two years, which turns out to be $13.33 a month. Not too shabby. I'd go for it.
2) Long-term - This was the one that separated 24 Hour Fitness from the rest of the crowd (although I hear they stopped offering this amazing deal a few years ago). The way it worked was, you'd pay a huge fee upfront for three years of membership (the only caveat). The fee for the Active type (their smallest size gym) was somewhere around $750-$850. For the Sport type (their next level up), it was an additional one-time fee of $100. Then after the three years you'd pay anywhere from $20 - $199 a year for life. $20 was only available for a short period of time in 2004 when they had a promotion celebrating their 20th anniversary (although back in 1994 it might've been even cheaper at $10 for their 10th anniversary celebration). I have the next best plan at $49, which lots of other people also pay. The rest pay $99 or (hopefully very few) $199.
So now with the pricing system of 24 Hour Fitness out of the way, let's talk about how to maximize your savings if you're thinking about joining one of their clubs anytime soon. I want to let you in on some secrets that will help you upgrade your membership from Active & Sport to Super Sport, ABSOLUTELY FOR FREE! Here's how it works:
Find out what clubs in your local area will be upgrading in the future. I found out through the local news. For example, currently there are three locations in San Diego that will be upgrading from Active or Sport to Super Sport within the next couple of years:
1) Balboa: Summer of 2012, Sport to Super Sport
2) UTC: End of 2012, Active to Super Sport
3) Carlsbad / Oceanside: Summer of 2013, Active to Super Sport
So here are the secrets to getting your Super Sport membership for the price of Active or Sport:
1) Join any of the clubs I mentioned above now and you'll automatically be grandfathered into their new system when their upgrades are done. Don't worry about the UTC & Carlsbad locations being Active right now. You're still guaranteed to be grandfathered straight into their new Super Sport clubs (I called both locations to confirm this information).
2) If you originally started your membership at any of the three locations mentioned above, you'll also be grandfathered into their new system when their upgrades are done, guaranteed.
3) If you originally started your membership at any of the locations other than the three mentioned above, your mileage may vary on this one. For example, I started my membership back in summer of 2002 in the Miramar location, but have been going to the Balboa location for the past few years. So I asked one of their employees what would happen to my membership and he said that how the system works is they look at what locations I've been going to during the past year and as long as I've been coming to the current location at least 50% of the time that I'll be grandfathered into their new system when their upgrades are done. Another employee said the exact same thing when I brought up the same question again a few days later while asking more detailed questions to get answers in preparation for this blog post. She said I shouldn't worry about anything and that I was all set. Lucky me! :D
However, I asked the same question at the UTC location and the lady I spoke to said that she never heard of what I was told at the Balboa club before, and that even if I started going to the UTC location every day from now on that I would not be grandfathered into their new system because my membership originally started at the Miramar location. I would instead have to pay an additional $15 per month, which is actually not a bad deal since that would give me access to all Super Sport locations. So again, YMMV.
So what happens if they ever decide to upgrade again later to "Ultra Sport", currently the highest level & most expensive gym at 24 Hour Fitness? From what I know the only one they have in California is a pilot program currently being tested in Irvine. In comparison, there are six already in New York. What gives? The weather of course. New York weather sucks balls (I lived there for eight years), so it needs and also therefore has a huge market for these Ultra Sport clubs, where they have just about everything including rock climbing, valet parking, restaurants, etc. In California however, you can do so much outdoors that they say the market is just not there (well not yet anyway). So even if they start upgrading in the distant future, I wouldn't even worry about it.
And that's it. I hope I've covered all the basics about the upgrade procedure for 24 Hour Fitness and that it'll help some people save money in this shitty economy. Good luck everyone! :-)