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Planet Fitness Black Card – Is it worth it?

Is the Planet Fitness Black Card worth an additional $11.99 per month? Below we break down all the perks of the PF Black Card and Black Card alternatives. This is a must read before signing up for your next gym membership.

With low membership rates and free pizza, Planet Fitness has taken over the fitness industry. In 2017, nearly 20% of all US gym-goers are members of a Planet Fitness. However, Planet Fitness is notorious for having low attendance rates. A study by NPR’s Planet Money found that half of Planet Fitness members never actually visit the gym. With such a high number of members not attending the gym, one must question, is it worth it?

Membership Options

Planet Fitness Membership Perks, courtesy of Planetfitness.com

All Member Perks (both Black Card and Regular)

Perk #1: Unlimited Access to Home Club

This perk should be expected. If you purchase a Planet Fitness Black Card you are allowed to workout at the home club you purchased the membership from. With Planet Fitness, you know exactly what you are getting, a quality, clean gym with good equipment. You won’t get “health club” amenities like a pool, sauna, basketball courts, racquetball …etc., but if you’re only objective is to lift weights, PF has you covered.

Perk #2: Free Fitness Training

Planet Fitness offers all members “free fitness training.” This training consist of two different functions. First, Planet Fitness staff will show all members how to use PF equipment. These are meant to be more informative than an actual personal training session. Second, PF runs small group training sessions throughout the day. These training sessions consist of circuit workouts and can be both fun and a great workout. All Planet Fitness trainers are certified, and the workouts are legitimate workouts that will definitely help add muscle tone and benefit your health.

Perk #3: Free Wifi

The fact that this is listed as a perk is kind of strange. Does any gym not offer free wifi these days?

Black Card Perks

Perk #4: Reciprocal Use of All Planet Fitness Locations

Planet Fitness has nearly 1,400 locations spread across the US. For a frequent traveler, this is a must. As the greatest value-add of all the Black Card perks, many members purchase the Black Card solely for this reason. One drawback of the multi-location access is many cities may not have a PF or may only have one. If that one location happens to be across town from where you’re staying, it’s probably not worth the gas to visit. Many Black Card holders claim this access is great in concept, but really not that practical for real-world use due to the scarcity of Planet Fitness locations.

Perk #5:  Unlimited Guest Privileges

Unlimited guest privileges is a really awesome perk. Basically, Black Card members can bring a guest to any location anytime they’d like. The guest do not have to pay for the visit. This can be great for couples who only visit the gym together or for someone who always needs a workout buddy. PF front desk staff will try to upsell the guest on purchasing a membership on nearly every visit, but if your guest has the slightest ability to dodge a sales pitch, they will escape unscathed.

Perk #6: Use of Tanning

Black Card members receive unlimited tanning. This can be a great perk for those of you who like to periodically bake your bodies. Yes, with a Black Card you can have a deep, dark tan in the dead of winter. With all we know about how harmful tanning beds are, I’m somewhat shocked any facility would offer unlimited tanning for so cheap, but what you do with your body is your own prerogative.

Perk #7: Unlimited Hydromassage

Hydromassage machines are really cool and give great massages. I’ve actually never seen anyone else use the machine at my PF, but nonetheless, they’re really cool. With the Black Card, you can jump in there and get as many massages as you’d like.

Perk #8: Unlimited Massage Chairs

Have you ever been to a Sharper Image, sat down in a massage chair and passed out? With a Black Card, you can do that every day and you don’t have to pretend you’re interested in buying the chair for those extra few minutes. PF’s massage chairs may be a little greasy from the sweaty guy who sat there before your massage, but overall, they are quality chairs and give pretty great massages.

Perk #9: Unlimited Total Body Enhancement

Describing Total Body Enhancement is not the easiest thing to describe. For a great review of all the features, read this linked article. In short, an individual wanting total body enhancement steps into a tube where they are blasted by red lights while standing on a vibrating platform. The red lights, in theory, are rejuvenating and give the recipient a dose of vitamin D. The vibrating panel or “vibra shape” gives the user, “similar metabolic benefits as walking on the treadmill, excluding the cardiovascular benefits.” I’m not exactly sure what that means walking on a treadmill for 12 minutes would only burn about 100 calories. Anyway, this machine shakes you and flashes you with red lights and it is supposed to be beneficial.

Perk #10: Half Priced Cooler Drinks (restrictions apply)

With this perk, you can buy drinks for almost as cheap as you can buy them at the grocery store. If you’re someone who doesn’t plan ahead at all, this perk can be beneficial. Bringing a water bottle has always been a must for me when I visit the gym, so this perk doesn’t really help me out. Also, even with the ½ price, protein drinks and other fitness drinks are much more affordable at the grocery store or GNC.

Perk #11: 20% off Reebok Products

If you like Reebok gear and buy a lot of it, this perk alone may be a good enough reason to get a Black Card. Cardholders get 20% off all online and Reebok Outlet purchases. In recent years, Reebok has put out some really cool gear and this is definitely a great perk. You will have to buy a substantial amount of gear for this to be worth it, but I know there are some hardcore gym fashionistas out there!

Overall

The Black Card has some great perks and some perks that sound great, but you will never use. If you travel somewhat frequently and are an avid gym-goer, the Black Card is absolutely worth it. However, if you are new to having a gym membership (the type of people PF prey on) it is very unlikely you will use any of the perks because you will never visit the gym. As I discussed before, only 50% of Planet Fitness members ever attend the gym after they enroll. That means every other person buying a PF membership will get zero value out of their membership, ever.

If you are interested in purchasing a Black Card, I recommend first buying the normal membership to see if you use it. Planet Fitness makes it a pain in the butt to cancel your membership, so it’s much better to have a $9.95 membership rolling over instead of a $21.99. If you find that you are visiting the gym frequently and would like the added perks of a Black Card, just upgrade then.

Final Thoughts

Everything boils down to how often you visit the gym. Are you part of the 50% that visit a couple times a week, or will you purchase your membership and never go? Many of the perks offered by the Black Card are just fluff, no one actually uses them, and there is really no benefit. Some of the perks offer real value and can be a great addition to a normal gym membership. However, at the end of the day, Planet Fitness is a pretty below-average gym. They’re typically overcrowded and are very limited on amenities. While they market to folks that are just beginning their fitness journey, the people who get the most benefit are gym junkies, while the newbies never show up. At $9.95, it can be a great value, but you have to visit to make it worth it.

1 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting conclusion. I would like to offer my perspective as a former PF member. I joined when the gym just opened up in my area and I did get the black card. I went to the gym often I and used the massage benefits a lot! I even used the total body fitness thingy a few times, but just to enhance circulation. I certainly didn’t and still don’t buy that it gives you a “full body workout.” After many months of going regularly, I lost 30 pounds. Not a typical story, I guess, but it is mine. The problem came when I developed plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis from going from a couch potato to someone who works out at the gym for a couple hours each time she goes. Oops. Eventually, we canceled by membership only to find out that during the whole time I was having medical issues, I could have had it paused. Now, I am a few years out and I still have leg problems. I want to rejoin, but I know this time I will have to go slow with the exercise. Very slow! The problem is, when I first joined, and because the location was new, I am 99% positive that I was able to get the black card membership without a commitment. $2 cheaper too. I don’t mind the extra $2. (Well, I kind of do, but I understand it a little bit). Still, what ticks me off is that to join the black card club, they want a 12 month commitment. For a gym which touts no commitment as its mantra, this is crazy. I just don’t see myself getting up the courage or motivation to go back, especially when I know my workouts will be short, without also having the hydromassage to look forward to. That will bring me to the gym alone, and while I’m there, I’ll slowly exercise and do tons of stretching in the back. But to sign up for 12 months, knowing I have ongoing health issues that limit me, is too much. I suppose I could quit or pause if I ran into issues, but I am going to try to avoid that at all costs. I just want my membership back–with the black card benefits–but without being locked into a contract. Just wanted to add my perspective here as someone who did join and actually did use the gym in the past.

    Oh, and I just saw the author is from Scotland. My husband and I wanted to honeymoon there, but we weren’t able to. Still the #1 destination on our list though.

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Chris Stone is a Personal Trainer and Fitness writer who lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland. During his time in the Health and Fitness Industry, he has worked at the Commonwealth Games, spent time in North America coaching and directing football camps and now runs his own successful Personal Training business in the Scottish capital. His passion and involvement in fitness, health and sport has been apparent since a young age. This prompted a move from the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh where he studied Sport and Exercise Science at University. He consequently qualified as a Personal Trainer and is now immensely grateful to have the opportunity to help others improve their wellbeing whether through his personal training service or fitness writing.