Offering discounts to family members has been common practice throughout the history of the fitness industry.  Nearly all gyms offer a discount for additional family members, but it is very important to determine just how much of a discount to offer.

When you think about it, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to discount memberships for family members.  Your local movie theater wouldn’t offer you a discount for buying an additional movie ticket for your spouse.  Nor would your local Starbucks give you a discount on your second beverage because you say it’s for your mother.

One might also argue that by offering a discount, you are decreasing the perceived value of your memberships.  Why is one member entitled to a discount simply because they are married?  These are all reasonable considerations.  Why then would we offer a family discount in health clubs?

Well the simplest explanation is because it’s the way it’s always been done and it is now
While it’s not always best to continue decade-long habits in the fitness industry, the practice of offering a discount to family members still makes sense.  But the key is to not get carried away and offer too much of a discount.  Some gyms will have a price of $39 for the first person and discount a second family member to as low as $15 and additional family members for $5-10.  This is a bit extreme.universally expected.  It is likely that your fitness business offers very similar amenities and services as one of your competitors.  If a prospect and spouse are considering your facility and a competing facility…and your competitor offers a family discount but you do not; chances are good they will join your competitor.  This is especially true if they have teenage children who want to join as well.

As always, you should test your prices to find out what your market is willing to pay, but a good rule of thumb would be to offer no more than a 40% discount for additional family members.  Based on the example above, you wouldn’t want to discount more than $15-16 on a $40 per month membership.  Your members will be appreciative of any discount you offer.  Don’t decrease the amount you earn per member more than you have to!

And if you allow teenage children of members to join, it is ultimately up to you to offer an additional discount for a third family member, but no more than a $5 discount would be a good rule of thumb for all additional family members.

If you operate a discount-membership club, with rates of $19 or less per month, you should not offer a family discount.  There are some club chains now offering primary memberships for $10/month.  Can you imagine offering a spouse’s membership for $5?

Alternatively, if you operate a high end health club, you should consider having a limit on the total amount you charge for a family membership.  If the primary member is charged $89/month and a spouse is charged $59/month, they’re already paying a lot for their membership.  Consider allowing their eligible children to join for free.

If you feel you are currently offering too dramatic of a discount for add-on memberships, that problem is easy to fix.  You can allow all of your current members to maintain their current rates, but all new add-on memberships can be sold at a slightly higher price point.  Your new members will not know that your prices have historically been lower than what they were offered.  Rather, they will be thrilled that you offer a discount at all.

A discount for family members is always a nice gesture.  You don’t want to be the only one in your community unwilling to be family friendly.  But you also don’t want to discount too heavily and you always want to test and retest to determine the best prices for both primary and secondary members.  Recognize that no matter what, your prospects will be appreciative of any discount you offer their family.

Do you offer a family discount?  Do you agree or disagree with me?  Comment below…

    35 replies to "Should You Discount Family Memberships?"

    • Hey Curtis, yes we do discount for family members. We have an under 18’s m’ship for 78.50 a month, where adults would be paying 87.50 to $100+ depending on contract length. The kids have a no lock in contract, ie 7 days notice to cancel and pay a month up front on joining. We find this works as the parents are paying and are most worried about the kids not using their m’ship, so being able to cancel anytime is often a deal clincher.
      Rather than discounting for a spouse or partner we, offer the discount for anyone joining together on a prepaid m’ship and usually offer a spouse or partner the same deal as the member is on if it is a billing m’ship.

      Hope you are well

    • Bill

      we dont sell memberships, but with personal training we do our part to help out. some people or family need help from time to time, we have always helped by discounting our services to those who need it.

    • Tracy

      We offer a discount but our year is 37 per month and family member is 27 a month. We are a women’s only gym so this applies to mother or daughter memberships.

      We have several who fall into this category. I agree don’t sell yourself short. If you have a quality service it will be proved out over time.

    • Our Memberships are $39/month for just the club and $49/month for club and unlimited classes. We DO NOT offer a discount to spouses…it costs the same to keep the club open and service each individual, why should we give them a discount? Do they expect less service? We do however offer “student rates” of $99/3 months. We this because most kids are paying for themselves.

      • Catt

        How do you monitor who has classes and who doesn’t. How do they gain entry into a class?

    • Is the article and comments above referring to Family members living under the same household? We’ve always had that stipulation. I have a new sales person hired and we are trying to decide whether we should let two unrelated people in different households join together (as long as the billing is one account, of course) We have always given an enrollment fee discount when two join together? Do you even recommend that?

      • Patrick O'Flaherty

        At a previous club, we created a Buddy membership that allowed 2 unrelated persons not sharing the same residence to join together but only charge 1 account. It was at a higher dues rate than a traditional couple membership but less than 2 individual memberships so there was an economic incentive. About 11% of all memberships sold were Buddies so it was well received!

      • Two unrelated people in different households is a No for me. You can work out a deal where they can “share” the enrollment fee, but they’ll both be on separate EFT. Make them feel they’re still getting something special for joining together. Better to take a little hit than to lose two EFT members.

        I don’t even like two non-related people living under the same roof to join as a family. Just because they have the same address (I.e. roommates) doesn’t qualify them IMO.

        Similarly, adult siblings living on their own separately aren’t qualified in my book.

        When I sold memberships, it was: living under the same roof AND related. This typically kept it to husband/wife/kids with the occasional grandma living with them.

    • Joe

      I agree with Greg. I don’t see why the industry has gotten into the bad habit of not valuing their product. I don’t discount membership and I don’t give away free classes.
      So far neither has been a problem when you explain to people that we do it to protect our paying members (why should they pay full price for something I’m willing to discount?)
      So far this has been very well received; it makes them feel they are buying a more valuable membership at a club that cares about their members.

      • I’m with you and Greg completely as far as not wanting to devalue your service and the rationale behind it. And its good to hear that it’s worked well for you without any fallout. Unfortunately, I must not be as good a salesperson as you because I always felt that if the competitor offered that courtesy to families, I’d look like a jerk if I didn’t. Plus it is a feel good thing for a family-oriented business. I just never wanted to offer more of a discount than necessary. Or maybe I was just too big a sissy to try to sell without it lol

        Great to hear it works for you. When a planet fitness rolls into your town, I hope you can still maintain the same high rates for everyone!

    • MJ

      We discount.

      However membership is Always listed as full price.

      Then a discount is applied including the higher member’s name. This encourages the discounted members to keep the higher paying member to stay.

      Discounted members have an important, well planned role in our retention strategy.

      • Jenn

        hmm I am curious to know more about how this works for your club.

      • MJ

        One important part of our strategy is what author Seth Godin calls this “Permission Marketing”. A perfect example is what you’re reading, ‘fitbiz.tv’ is great at it.

      • Thanks for the compliment MJ! I always like to be compared to Seth Godin 🙂

      • Jenn

        Now that I think about it, our discounted members play a role too in retention.. if the original member cancels, their membership rates will increase to the single person rate, so they in turn would want the account holder to stay an active member.

        THANK YOU EVERYONE- great feedback so far on this topic.

    • I think offering discounts on “group” type of memberships is a great idea and I implement it myself. I offer incentives for referrals in the form of free time or certain dollar values off, depending on the promo. The multiple-person discount is the same thing as paying for the referral on my part. It’s no different that buying at Costco. You get it cheaper if it’s bought in bulk. I give that same incentive to multiple people joining up.

      This same idea is practiced all around membership structures:

      Sign up for a longer time? Get a cheaper rate.
      Sign up for more personal training sessions? Get a cheaper rate.
      Sign up with more people? Get a cheaper rate.

    • Many of the gyms I looked into when opening had family discounts that got bigger with family members. Since most of the bigger gyms are really based on selling memberships to people who are not going to come in they see the additional revenue as just gravy. They base all sales and most of their efforts on selling as many memberships as they possibly can. A local big box gym had over 8000 members and only 900 were actively coming in and using the facility. Being a fitness professional who opened a gym that offered membership I want everyone who comes in to use it so we offer a smaller discount than most. Hope this market research is helpful to everyone. Have a great day. Sam Iannetta

      • Definitely helpful Sam. I agree that I want as many members as possible using my gym. I’d rather have 400 members with 100% usage than 1600 members with 25% usage. I know that the members who are most active end up buying more services and ultimately stay longer. Turnover is less and the energy in the gym is powerful. Too many gyms focus on replacing members rather than stopping the bleeding and making people happy and involved from the beginning. It’s a tough cycle to be in, but not difficult to break if an operator begins focusing on quality service for new members. Thanks for the insight.

    • We have 2 family owned and operated facilities. It is a part of our culture to promote family and friends to both be referred and/or added onto the existing members account. I feel that although each member is getting the same level of service, giving this slight discount leads to higher retention and makes our members feel privileged to be a part of our gym “family.” I don’t compare what I am offering to other places, because what I do is what is right for my members and is what has kept our gyms in the area for the past 35 years.
      We do however have a cut-off to the amount of people that can be on the same account, to prevent abuse of the privilege.

      • That’s a good point. If you have mother brother cousin uncle grandpa all trying to jump on a discounted membership, that is too much. Same roof, same family should cover it.

    • Jenn

      We offer family discounts on the same PAP account.. (it has to come out of 1 persons bank account to get the discounted rate, less banking for us)

      $19 biweekly for the 1st person
      $17 biweekly for the 2nd person
      $15 biweekly for the 3rd person
      $13 biweekly for the 4th+ person

      *this also works for corporations that pay their staff’s membership at our facility..

      • You’re charging fortnightly, which makes me assume you’re not in the U.S. I wish we could implement this, but bi-weekly and fortnightly aren’t common terms for membership of any type here. In your system you get an extra month payment out of everyone…I’m jealous.

      • We also only allow family memberships to bill out of one account. It is the main members responsiblity to get payment from the others, not ours 🙂

      • Jenn

        We are in Canada. It sounds better when we say it, 19 biweekly is affordable for most. 😉

        and yes we do get the extra payment, which we waive when someone pays an annual membership (up front)

    • Shannon

      Having managed a club in a resort community, I evolved our strategy on this one. Five years ago, we switched from offering a “family” membership to a “double” membership. The Double allowed any two people to join together at a discounted rate as long as one person was solely responsible for the billing. The reason to do this was to re-build our membership base after some tough years. In this community, most people are young and single, and joining with a buddy was a helpful incentive for both parties.

      However, with our membership redeveloped, over a year ago we starting selling “Single” memberships only – no discount. We have proven our worth, made a statement in the marketplace, and now the most effective and profitable way to move forward is to treat each individual equally in terms of their buying power.

      My advice: it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and you can always change in the future!

      • Glad to hear your move worked for you Shannon. Offering that type of membership was a “means to an end”. You knew you wouldn’t offer it forever, but it served its purpose. It was more or less a long-standing special offer and it looks like it worked for you. Great job!

    • Hi,

      I happen to agree with James. We offer discounts for other profit centers so why not memberships? However, our individual rate is $54 per mnth, $84 for a couple and $99 for a family of four (immediate family members only and children cannot be over 24).

      The majority of our memberships are ofcourse individual followed by couple so the discount from couple to family really is a way to increase draft and enable the primary member to justify putting the sometimes finnicky teenager on. 🙂

      • I’m happy to see you’re still able to maintain such high prices. These low cost competitors are really affecting the non-niched general fitness centers everywhere. I commend you!

    • Joe

      @curtis
      Wow Curtis, I am surprised at your reply. I think if the only differentiation a gym has from its competitors is price, then you are absolutely correct in thinking that a Planet Fitness would roll in and put me out of business.
      If I were transpose that thinking to other industries you would find that fine dining establishments would be displaced by McDonalds, and luxury car dealerships would be displaced by used car lots.
      Fortunately for me, there is a large market out there and some customers are looking for quality and service rather than price.
      I would suggest to those afraid of asking for value in their membership that they look at their offering and make sure they are differentiating themselves from the market enough to be able to command such higher prices (it’s worked for Rolls Royce and Ruth’s Chris)

      • Again, I agree with you. I 100% agree that there needs to be high price/high service options in a marketplace. (That’s you) Keep your prices as high as your market will bear. Keep your service and value at a level that exceeds the amount you’re asking them to pay, and you’ll be perfect. We’re talking about family add-ons in this case though. If your membership rate is $59/month per person, no budging for a spouse or child….that’s where my point lies. Again, every gym is different and if full price/per person works for you, you go get that money my friend. Just always be willing to adjust your business model as the market and demand changes.

    • We are in a unique position in our community because we are the highest priced competitor with the most amenities. However, with the opening of our satellite 24/7 club (under a different aegis), we are also the lowest priced competitor with the newest amenities. A good place to be! As you stated Curtis, price your add-on discounts appropriately and don’t discount low price point clubs! From our perspective, I think you hit the nail on the head.

    • Alan Anderson

      There are several reasons to offer a discount for realtives/friends that join together
      1. People who exercise with a friend will stay members longer and are more likely to achieve their goals,
      2. Any 2 people will have a different marginal benefit, one will be more motivated to join than the other, set your price point high get the first person and then offer the discount to get the second person who isn’t as convinced,
      3. Get the kids involved at a cheaper rate and you will have experienced, motivated consumers ready to use their own money when they leave home,

      and of course the benefit for your centre in having people of all ages, genders and body types is that you become less intimidating to other similar potential members (unless you are aimed at a particular niche).

      Everyone should offer a partner/family/2nd member discount, it is just how much and whether it is advertised or upsold on joining that you should really be thinking about.

    • I operate the biggest gym in a country town of 45000 people and there are 18 other gyms in this town some charging as low as $1.00 per workout others $7.00 per week.
      I charge $79.00 per month for facility use with no training or $158.00 per month for our unique ongoing personal training program or $600.00 cash up front for 10 one hour personal lessons. I offer 10% discount for 2 family members, 15% for 3, 20% for 4 and I have found after running gyms for 43 years if you can convince people of the better value you retain better Quality clients longer

    • We are based in Memphis and sell at $15 per month, 24 Hour Access and No Contract.
      We will discount the joinging fee for the second family member by $20. monthly dues for second remains at $15

    • Maki

      I offer an unlimited fitness classes membership at $120 per month. I run 29 classes per week. I am going to introduce a spousal or partner rate where they would pay $90 each instead of $120.

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