gym memberships switzerland tips
Everyday Money

15 Tips for Getting Cheap Gym Memberships in Switzerland

May 9, 2023 - Daniel Dreier

Get simple tips on cutting the cost of gym memberships in Switzerland for more working out and less money spent.

Switzerland has a fairly active population, with 65 percent of residents engaging in sports, gym workouts, or other physical training at least once a week. While outdoor activities have a huge appeal, gymnasiums provide a practical alternative to town dwellers and those looking for coaching. Differences between the amenities offered by gyms are vast, and the cost of gym memberships ranges between less than 500 and more than 2000 Swiss francs per year.

Here, moneyland.ch lists simple ways to cut the cost of gym memberships in Switzerland:

1. Determine what services you actually want

Do you go to the gym to socialize or just to work out? Are a sauna and jacuzzi the main attractions that lure you off your couch and onto a treadmill, or do you head straight home after getting your exercise fix? Do you have your fitness routine down to a science, or could you benefit from coaching? Would you go out of your way to travel to a far-away gym, or is a local gym more convenient?

These are the most important questions to ask ahead of looking for a gym, because there is no point buying into a gym that doesn’t give you what you are looking for. At the same time, if you do not use spa facilities or don’t even shower at the gym, you can save a lot of money by opting for a budget gymnasium.

2. Compare costs

Once you know what you are looking for, you can then compare the membership fees. If no-frills workouts are what you are looking for, a gym membership like that offered by budget operators like Puregym or Nonstop Gym may be all you need. If you don’t even need an attendant on hand, self-service gyms like those run by Discountfit can work out even cheaper.

Other clubs offer more luxury (saunas, spas, childcare), and therefore have higher membership fees. For example, a membership for mid-range gyms like Activ Fitness, Fitness Park, Let’s Go Fitness, and Update Fitness might cost several hundred francs more per year, but it may include perks like personal trainers, free childcare, saunas, pools or steam baths.

It is important to note, though, while a membership may entitle you to use a broad range of amenities, in most cases not all services are offered at all locations. Before you sign up for a more expensive membership, make sure that the local branch has the services you are paying for.

3. Don’t leave out private gyms

There are hundreds of non-corporate gymnasiums in Switzerland, and some of these offer very competitive pricing. Unless you travel or move around the country frequently, there is no need to confine yourself to big-name gym chains. In any case, you will want to get quotes from all gyms in your area.

4. Have your health insurance pay for it

In Switzerland, many health insurance companies bundle sizable contributions toward the cost of gym memberships in their supplemental health insurance policies. Some policies contribute hundreds of francs per year towards the cost of an annual membership. In every case, whether the gym membership benefits justify the cost of insurance premiums will depend on whether or not you need the insurance coverage provided and not just the gym benefit. You can find out more about the value of these insurance benefits in the moneyland.ch guide to health insurance and gym memberships.

5. Sign up with a buddy

Having a gym buddy is not only motivational, it can also save you money. A number of gyms offer major discounts when you take out two memberships at the same time. Others pay you a “finders fee” in the form of a discount on your membership when a friend signs up on your recommendation. If you have friends or family that also want a gym membership, working these deals can cut the cost of everyone’s memberships.

6. Exploit student discounts

Many gyms offer student discounts to attract young customers. Activ Fitness and Let's Go Fitness, for example, offer sizable student discounts on annual memberships. If you hold a Stucard debit card from cantonal banks, you can get discounts at many Swiss gyms.

It is also worth noting that many Swiss universities host their own gymnasiums and in many cases entry is free for students. For example, the Academic Sports Association of Zurich (ASVZ) provides training facilities and coaching to students of the University of Zurich, the Zurich universities of applied sciences (ZFH) and ETH Zurich.

7. Take advantage of discounts for seniors

Taking time to exercise as you age is one of the best ways to stay fit and sharp throughout your lifetime. The fact that a number of gyms offer senior discounts (typically 10 percent) makes aging well more affordable and helps motivate seniors to stay fit. Activ Fitness and Let’s Go Fitness are examples of chain gyms which slash the cost of annual memberships for pensioners. Many stand-alone gyms offer senior discounts as well.

8. Look into association membership discounts

If you are a member of an alumni association, industry association or club, look into possible discounts you may be eligible for. Organizations usually form partnerships with merchants to offer value to members, and in some cases these can be beneficial.

For example, members of the FH Schweiz alumni association are eligible for a discount at Clever Fit. Roche employees who are members of the AVR labor union can get a tidy contribution towards the cost of memberships at many eligible gyms. Other associations offer similar discounts or subsidies. It is also worth checking whether your employer has employee discounts for gym memberships.

9. Consider long-term memberships

Signing up for long-term memberships is risky because there is always a chance that circumstances may prevent you from using it over the full term. However, if you are confident that you will not be relocating and that you will always have the time to work out, getting a long-term contract can save you a lot of money.

For example, you can save around 20 percent at Kieser, 9.5 percent at Activ Fitness, and 16 percent at Puregym when you get a 2-year membership instead of an annual membership. If you only want to subscribe one year at a time, you can still save money by paying upfront rather than monthly. Activ Fitness discounts premiums by around 7 percent when you pay your full annual fee up front. Migros Fitness Park membership is also around 5 percent cheaper if you pay annually instead of monthly.

10. Beware of automatic membership renewals

Some gyms automatically renew your membership when it runs out without first asking if you want to renew it. Unless you give notice ahead of your membership’s expiry, you remain a member and they simply continue to bill you. With life being as busy as it sometimes is, the chances of forgetting to give notice on time are high. 

Always make sure that a gym will not automatically renew your membership when your term expires without getting your outright consent first. If that is not possible, another option is to give notice for the end of the contract term right as you sign up. That way your subscription will not be renewed automatically.

Examples of memberships that are not automatically renewed include Activ Fitness and Fitness Park. Gyms that automatically renew your membership include Clever Fit, Puregym, and Update Fitness, among others.

11. Put unused memberships on hold

You may find yourself in a situation where you are not able to use your gym membership for long periods of time (due to injuries, maternity, or travel, for example). When this happens, it is worth checking whether your gym gives you the option of putting your subscription on hold. Some gyms let you put your membership on hold for a certain amount of time without providing a reason. Others only do this for medical reasons, and require you to provide a doctor's recommendation.

Important: Some gyms charge a fee when you put your membership on hold. In this case, you have to compare the fee to the cost of your membership to determine whether pausing your subscription makes financial sense.

12. Sell unneeded memberships

Some gyms give you the option of transferring your membership to somebody else. The advantage of having a transferable contract is that if for some reason you are unable to use your membership, you can transfer it to an acquaintance who will use it. In the best case, you may find someone who is willing to compensate you financially. Examples of gyms which give you the option of transferring your subscription to another person include Clever Fit (100-franc transfer fee), Let's Go Fitness (no fee), and Puregym (50-franc transfer fee).

13. Buy unused memberships

You may just have acquaintances who have gym memberships that they no longer need, and are willing to transfer to you. They may well be happy to give you their unused subscription, or exchange it for token compensation. It can be worth asking around (via social media, for example). Alternatively, you can often find offers for gym membership transfers on platforms like Anibis, Ricardo, and Tutti.

14. Keep an eye out for special promotions

Gyms sometimes run special promotions with introductory offers. These promotional offers can save you money compared to getting the same membership at the standard price.

However, it is still important to compare promotional offers. In some cases, the reduced price may still be higher than the standard prices of similar gyms. You should also check whether the offer comes with a long minimum contract term (2 years, for example), or other unfavorable conditions.

15. Use your gym membership

No matter how cheap your gym membership comes, it won’t do you any good unless you use it regularly.  A large number of people who hold gym memberships do not end up using them throughout their full term, or only end up visiting the gym occasionally.

It is worth noting that some gyms offer single-entry tickets, and if you only visit a gym now and then, using these is usually cheaper than getting a membership. Many gyms also offer short-term memberships. Although the price you pay per month is higher than what you pay for a long-term membership, short-term memberships can actually work out cheaper if your enthusiasm for fitness dies down after several weeks or months.

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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at moneyland.ch.
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