Monday, February 1, 2016

CREDIT CARD | Curb Recurring Charges! (Updated Feb. 14, 2016)

Squeezing dollars from customers at fitness centers.
The New York Times has a good story on recurring credit charges by Ron Lieber. (He has another good one on how to save money on cable-phone-alarm charges.)

He describes a new free service called Trim that checks for and gets rid of charges for services you don't need or want.

The top three offenders, according to Trim, are:

#1 and #3: Experian and TransUnion, which charge you a monthly fee for "credit monitoring"–i.e., providing a credit score (FICO or other report) that you can get free from some credit card companies or from annualcreditreport.com.

#2: Planet Fitness, which requires a registered letter to cancel your monthly fitness center charges. This is a more serious problem than the credit score charges because the monthly charges are much higher. The YMCA and a fitness club in LA are also on the list of offenders. NY Sports Club has had the same requirement as Planet Fitness. The way it worked for me at NY Sports Club, I went in to the local branch where I had signed up many years before, to cancel my membership. They didn't tell me what I needed to know, which is that it can only be cancelled by a registered letter to a headquarters address. In fact the branch membership officer called in two other people so they could hear how she handled the request to cancel. Instead of telling me how to cancel, they offered to reduce the monthly amount to avoid a re-signup fee. But, again, they didn't say that this reduced amount is only good for three months, and they went back to billing me for the full amount every month. It's just a scam to collect fees from resigning members long after they have moved on from the club.

I wrote to the New York City Public Advocate to suggest a law that you should be able to cancel a membership the same way you sign up, but never heard back. If the local branch of a fitness club can sign you up on the spot, you should be able to cancel on the spot at the same place. Maybe this should be a NY State or even a Federal law. It's common sense.

Meanwhile, when you see a clause like that on any membership signup agreement, just walk away. If they have scam built into their membership form, you can imagine how many other ways they will be trying the squeeze revenue out of you.