Should You Keep Paying for ClassPass?
  • April 29, 2016
  • aSweatLife_Should-You-Keep-Paying-for-ClassPass_1

    (Post updated to reflect ClassPass price increases in Chicago announced May 12)

    This week ClassPass members in Boston and New York City let out a collective yelp. The price for the memberships that gained them access to exclusive and expensive fitness studios in their home cities increased by a hefty sum.

    In New York City, prices jumped from $125 to $190 for current members and $200 for new members, according to the Huffington Post. Current members in Boston will pay $150, up from $125, while new members will pay $180. Chicago, my ClassPass metro area, will go up to $175, from $119 June 1, with an option to opt-in to what they’re calling the “Core” membership, which allows users to access 10 studio classes each month for $115.

    Before we decide whether you should jump ship, let’s talk about why this is happening.

    1. Operating a studio is expensive.

    If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I’d really love to open a gym,” pay attention. Operating your favorite studio or gym isn’t easy and it isn’t always profitable. For the purposes of this article, let’s use the city of Chicago as an example.

    If you were to open a gym in River North (congratulations, by the way, River North is lovely) your average cost per square foot for rent is somewhere around $30/year. Assume you need an average of 10 square feet per human for a safe workout space – a number that can go all the way up to 50 square feet per human for conditioning classes, according to ENRGi Fitness owner Amy Lee. If you want to fit 30 people in your studio at any given time, you need 300 square feet, minimum, and potentially as much as 1,500 square feet. That’s $18,000 each year, just on rent, or about $1,500 each month on the low end.

    Add the cost of lobby staff – let’s say $15 each hour – and your teaching staff – around $50ish an hour. If you operate seven classes each day, three in the morning, one at lunch and three in the evening, you’re paying $455 in labor. That’s not even factoring in what you’re paying to a cleaning crew.

    In a 31-day month, a gym in River North costs $17,105 to operate, before factoring in anything besides rent and labor. That’s before electricity, Internet, marketing, insurance, paying the bookkeeper, equipment and taxes.

    2. Gyms based their business models on their membership prices.

    So let’s say you’re operating your gym in River North Chicago and you built a business model to allow you to make a profit at an average cost per class of $15-$20. Remember, gyms operate on averages because in the current studio fitness model, there are a variety of ways to pay – from memberships to class packs to drop-in classes. Your classes cost $30 for a drop-in, $25 if you buy a pack of 10 classes and $20 per class if you buy a membership and come to 12 classes each month.

    The gym is probably running marketing that features reduced-cost classes or even a free class and some members may come every day. Memberships are the lowest cost per class, but the best for the gym because it’s guaranteed repeating revenue.

    You’ve got a good thing going. An average of $15-$20 per person per class and let’s say your average class size is 15 people. With seven classes a day, you’re at $2,100-$2,800 per day. That’s $48,825- $65,100 each month again, before electricity, Internet, marketing, insurance, paying the bookkeeper, equipment and taxes. You pay the rent and your other expenses and you probably actually have about $16,720- $50,100 left after all of that. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself. You’ve got money to reinvest in your business.

    But let’s say that your average revenue went down to $10 per person per class for any reason. You’re at $1,050 per day $32,550 per month. Leaving your revenue – before electricity, Internet, marketing, insurance, paying the bookkeeper, equipment and taxes – at $15,445 after paying your rent and for people. You probably actually have about $445 left after paying all of those keeping-the-lights-on expenses. Is that enough to pay yourself, your manager and your investors back? Nope.

    3. ClassPass needs to keep two sets of people happy.

    ClassPass has two audiences and they act as an intermediary between those two audiences. This is an incredibly difficult business model to start – let’s take a second to give ClassPass a round of applause.

    They have their members and they have their studios. To sustain this model, both need to be happy. Members need to see the value in the service and studios need to continue to operate profitably. If either audience is unhappy or if the ecosystem goes out of whack the entire thing can fall apart. And guys, we need studio fitness to work because I CANNOT go back to a big box gym.

    So how can I tell if ClassPass is valuable for me?

    It all depends on how much you use ClassPass and what your goals are. For the sake of this, let’s assume class prices are $25 per class because you buy you classes in packs and let’s compare the membership price to an average larger gym – low end is $40 and high end is $200 per month in Chicago. Let’s meet in the middle and call it $150 if you want to get closer to your ClassPass-quality classes. We’ll compare two ClassPass prices, the current price in Chicago $119 and the future price, $175 each month.

    You’re a super user and you like to jump around: Stay

    If you’re using your ClassPass membership 20 times each month, this is a no-brainer. It would cost you $500, on average, to take a comparable number of classes with your class packs and you would likely go stir-crazy at one gym. This is still a savings of $325 in Chicago and $300 in New York at the price of $175 and $200, respectively.

    You’re somewhere in the middle: You have options.

    If you’re taking around 10 classes each month, two or three each week, you’re still saving money with ClassPass. A comparable number of classes would cost you $250 each month. But the key question is this: What are you doing on your remaining days of the week? Is that activity costing you money? If you have an additional gym membership that’s costing you $150, you could be spending $325 in Chicago and $350  in New York City. You could consider three solutions – two of them are cost-saving:

    • Consolidate to just ClassPass for $175 in Chicago and $200 in New York City. 
    • Consolidate to just your gym membership for the rate you locked in at: $150. This is a savings of $25 in Chicago and $50 in New York City.
    • Continue with your gym membership and reduce the amount of classes you’re taking with ClassPass to just 10 and reap the benefits of the $115 “Core” membership: At $265 in Chicago, this is an additional expense of $146 from your soon-to-expire $119 ClassPass price.

    You travel for work and use ClassPass on the road: Stay

    For the most part, larger gyms are regional, but ClassPass has a presence in most major metro areas. If you’re traveling for work and enjoy the benefits of changing your metro area to take classes across the country, you could be spending $125 on drop-ins if you’re able to make it to five classes while you’re on the road each month.

    • You can continue with ClassPass and continue to enjoy that extended fitness reach for $175 in Chicago and $200 in New York City. 
    • You can downgrade to ClassPass Core just to use while you’re traveling and join a gym at home for a total of $265, which is $10 less than what you’d pay for a gym membership and drop-ins ($275), but it’s $146 more than current ClassPass prices.

    You’re using ClassPass less than 10 times each month: Stop paying full price immediately.

    In Chicago, you won’t have to do anything. You’ll automatically downgrade to the Core membership, which will cost you $115, getting you access to 10 studio classes each month..

    But remember that the average recommended activity level is more than two 60-minute classes each week – it’s two hours and 30 minutes of cardio and two or more days each week of strength training for the whole body.

    So if you want to increase your activity level, you can do a few things.

    • Keep your base ClassPass Core and augment with complimentary and bodyweight workouts on your remaining days of the week. aSweatLife keeps a list of free workouts in Chicago here and you can use any of our bodyweight workouts. $115. This is a savings of $60 from your $175 ClassPass membership.
    • Join a gym and challenge yourself to get there four days a week and take an outdoor run one day each week. $150. This is an additional investment of $35 from to Core ClassPass membership and a savings of $25 from the full ClassPass membership.
    • Quit everything and train for free. If you’re able to keep yourself accountable or to find a group that can, you can go totally free. This is a challenge for most. Do a real gut check before you quit everything. aSweatLife keeps a list of free workouts here and you can use any of our bodyweight workouts. $0. a savings of $175 from your full ClassPass membership.

    What you do with your ClassPass membership is a personal choice based on your own use. I’m going to stick with Core because it aligns with my usage of 10 classes each month, which makes financial and fitness wanderlust sense for me.


    Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

    About Jeana Anderson Cohen

    Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of, a destination for living your best life, with fitness as the catalyst. After graduating from University of Wisconsin with a degree in Journalism, she spent much of her career - before leaving agency life - creating and executing social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience and her passion for wellness. You can find Jeana - who’s certified as a personal trainer - coaching group fitness classes and hosting aSweatLife’s #Sweatworking events.

    24 thoughts on “Should You Keep Paying for ClassPass?

    1. GMM

      Disgusting article. Albeit, not a popular one (I’m the first to comment?!)

      You failed to mention, Jeana, that ClassPass originally set out to “make classes affordable for everyone!” At least that’s the lie they initially spewed in their focus talk/mission. They went back on their word. We (customers) do not care about their financial issues. We don’t care how much it costs to run a gym. Not our concern.

      We want fairness and transparency when it comes to where our money is going. We want what was first promised to us – the same platform that had a customer like me posting about CP on all areas of my social media and singing their praises – getting them business (over 20 referrals).
      Now they change their “game” (as you so eloquently put it) only a little after a year of their official launch.

      This is cause for an outcry. You’re quite sad and desperate in your support of them. Not sure why your loyalty lies with corporate greed but I guess that is a question you need to ask yourself.

      1. Jeana Anderson Cohen Post author

        Hi there. Thanks for your comment – I can hear your frustration and I totally get it. This wasn’t meant to be pro or anti ClassPass, it was meant to present consumers with options.

        1. LLG

          I don’t agree with GMM’s post. I left Chicago and unfortunately CP isn’t available in my new city but if it was I’d pay the $200 in a heartbeat. The luxury of the pass is that you get a ton of variety for the same cost or less than boutique fitness studios. I think I’m like most people and don’t like paying $200/month for one class type (e.g. Pure Barre is over $200/month and all you get is barre).

      2. d

        “You’re seem entitled and uneducated”.. to whoever made this comment GMM .. you never signed a contract with ClassPass, you can quit whenever you want, they can also raise the price whenever they want. ClassPass is also not “profitable” they raise money by selling off shares of the business to keep operations going until they become profitable, if they don’t raise prices or convert people who won’t use it as much ClassPass is out of business in 10 months. The article was meant to educate you.. listen or don’t listen, but nobody needs your precious opinion about the authors motivation for writing

      3. Maggie Wolff

        Wow, are you kidding?? You really expect studios and ClassPass to take a hit financially just to keep you happy? And then what happens? They both go out of business. And then where are you going to work out?

        If you want an affordable workout, go join Charter Fitness.

    2. Cass

      Love this article. I can already tell from feedback since you posted this a few hours ago that it will be a popular one!

      I think you did a great job mentioning, Jeana, the bigger picture here instead of just staying narrow-minded from only one perspective (e.g., the ClassPass customer’s only). As we know, businesses like ClassPass have to make tweaks to their original model and vision sometimes in order to stay in business. If we want businesses like ClassPass to stay around, they need to find a pricing model that helps them not only generate a profit, but is healthy for the fitness ecosystem and gyms in general. We (customers) need to care about their financial issues because if we want nice gyms and all of these extra features, we need to understand that it comes at a price. You pay for what you get; there is a price to admittance if you want to work out at boutique gyms (AND if you don’t, you outlined some really great options at the end of this article instead! Or just join Planet Fitness)

      We want fairness and transparency, and we need to realize that the partners of ClassPass want that too. We realize that CP is more than just what it costs – so when we sing their praises it is not just because it is a “cheap” option, but because of other factors you outlined in this post.

      ClassPass is still doing what they have always set out to do: give customers the benefits of multiple gym memberships while only having to pay for one subscription to get that access. It is unfortunate for the end customer that they did not get the pricing model right from the out-set, making it very painful to deal with the sharp price increases within a year. This is, admittedly, something that they could have avoided or prepared customers better for. Somewhere along the lines, they messed up financially. (Although, this is nothing new with tech businesses. Pricing models and profitability analysis changes all the time, especially during such high periods of growth)

      I think you do a good job presenting the facts and options here. I think it is a bold and refreshing look at the situation instead of just crying about a price increase and not seeing the bigger picture at play.

      Not sure why you are so good at being a fair and unbiased journalist, but I guess that is a question you need to ask yourself.

    3. Stephanie

      Thanks, Jeana for laying this all out. I think the info you’ve shared (and other articles about the price hike I’ve been reading) serve to highlight the fact that the bigger issue here is that the ClassPass business model was NEVER going to be sustainable. I saw the writing on the wall with the first price increase a few months ago that made me ask myself, “wait a minute, does it even make sense that anyone could be making money off of this?” Because essentially what ClassPass did was take a luxury commodity and make it available to a group of people who can’t afford boutique fitness in a non-ClassPass environment. It should have been obvious from the start that this would never work. Boutique fitness is priced the way it is for a reason. ClassPass removed the barrier to entry for us commoners who can’t drop $200 on a monthly fitness membership.

      What’s frustrating for those of us who took the bait – myself included – is that now we’ve established a completely new lifestyle based on the ability to go to a different class every day. My body has totally changed. My mental state has totally changed. How I spend my time and what motivates me – has totally changed. Because of what ClassPass allowed me to experience. That’s why this feels like such a huge blow for so many of us now – because a big piece of my way of life is about to be upheaved because I will soon be priced out of it. ClassPass’ price hikes have not been on the same timeline as my salary increase, unfortunately. I totally understand the group that’s crying “it’s a business! If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it!” But those people are not taking in to account the fact that actually, yes – I do feel like I HAVE to pay for it because if I don’t, my personal life requires a bit of an overhaul based on the fact that I’ve been using CP so frequently for the past year.

      I understand how businesses work. Not trying to be naive about that. And will my life come crashing down around me if I cancel my membership? No. Will I gain weight and lose my current level of fitness? Depends on how motivated I am to find other ways to push myself. The point is, it just feels like a bait-and-switch. And I think that, more than anything, is why people are pissed.

      1. Jeana Anderson Cohen Post author

        Thanks for sharing that, Stephanie. I can see how it’s frustrating, definitely. With all of that in mind, what do you think you’ll do? I guess the real questions for consumers will be – 1. do you see enough value in it still. 2. Do you trust that the rate increases will stop? 3. What’s your upper-limit if you plan to stay?

        1. Stephanie

          That’s a great question! Still trying to figure it out. When I signed up with ClassPass at the beginning of 2015, paying the $99/month was definitely a splurge for me but I was willing to do it because it gave me access to a couple of specific studios I had found and fallen in love with that I definitely can’t afford memberships to outside of CP. I had previously been paying $40/month for a fairly decent gym so the extra $50 a month was not an easy jump, but it was worth it. I swallowed the jump to $120 because ClassPass had proved its value to me (as stated in previous post) and I had gotten a promotion that gave me a little more wiggle room in my budget. To go up to $200, though (or close), just isn’t justifiable for me right now, even though it is a product I really believe in.

          What I will most likely do is go back to the $40/mo gym and supplement with Gilt City packages, free classes, etc. (and try to stay at $120/mo on fitness). I am also considering the $60/mo ClassPass option. Really appreciated your ideas for different options in this article! Something I’ve already been trying to work through so this was helpful.

          1. Brooke

            Stephanie I dropped Classpass and it is hard to stay motivated and I miss the variety! But if I wanted to when I go to the classpass site it does say I can rejoin without the fee (not sure if that’s true for everyone). Just wanted to give you a heads up in case you wanted to drop it after the price increase and then decide to go back.

    4. Bain

      Good overview, though the pricing does vary from market-to-market. (We’ve had one previous price hike in San Francisco, but from the time I joined to now, the options have gone from 30 studios to almost 300.)

      Here are a few additional considerations:

      If you belong to a gym–not a boutique studio, but a gym–your gym is probably a member of IHRSA. This means that if you travel outside the metro area where you live, you can access other IHRSA member clubs for free or a decent discount. Check with your club–you might need an IHRSA “passport” document in addition to your club’s membership card.

      Each gym/club/studio gets to determine (1) which classes are available on ClassPass, and (2) how many spots they will allow for ClassPass users. The facility can choose to use ClassPass ONLY to fill less popular classes, for example, or limit each class to 1-2 spots for ClassPass. (I don’t know what the contractual requirements are, but I do know the facilities get to choose which classes are included.)

      Streaming content is now available from a huge number of sources–Barre 3, BeachBody on Demand, Grokker, Daily Burn, GaiamTV, YogaDownload, YogaWorks, YogaGlo, Les Mills On Demand–and is much less expensive than a gym membership or a ClassPass membership. If your wifi is strong and you have space to work out at home, you could have an entire year of BeachBody on demand for around $240 ($60/quarter). Some specialty studios (e.g. Barre 3 and YogaWorks) offer streaming content with their most popular instructors.

      Personally, I have to factor in transportation costs–and I assume the Chicago Crowd does too–when I think about gyms and classes. I live in the East Bay, and many of the classes I take are in San Francisco. It costs me $6.90 for a roundtrip on BART (or gas plus $5-6 plus parking if I drive). When I add that to a $30 class, I can’t afford class anymore. This is also why I can’t justify a membership to Equinox; as much as I’d love it, that’s $160/month and if I went five times I’d be at over $200/month for just five visits.

      Overall, I would think ClassPass early adopters should be savvy enough to have expected some growing pains–that’s what happens in every business.

    5. Ellen

      I’m in the camp who kept the “base” ClassPass membership (5 classes/month) and supplements outside of it. Before that I was a 10 classes/ month subscriber for 4-5 months. Now I’m training for a race and I bought a pack of classes for yoga (a studio I discovered through ClassPass and love!), so I’ll attend 1 or 2 classes a week for cross-training, and for now that’s enough for me. In the winter I may go back up to 10 classes depending on whether I feel that I need to attend classes more. ClassPass also recently added the support to buy additional classes if I want to use more than 5 — I haven’t actually tried the option yet but good that it’s there.

      I understand the outrage but like you say, ClassPass has a vested interest in keeping studios and gyms in their network so that their subscribers like me have enough choices. It cuts both ways. In my view, the company has done a pretty good job of communicating price increases well in advance of them kicking in, even if they were ill timed. For heavy users, a gym is likely a better deal anyway IF they feel they can switch from boutique classes to that gym’s versions of them (barre, circuits, etc.) If all the people who are complaining about the price increase end up leaving the service, that is very bad news — but I think a lot of it is noise at this point.

    6. Maggie Wolff

      Honestly, I’m shocked that anyone was surprised by this change. Sure, the price jump is a bit significant. But anyone who is paying any attention should have seen this coming. I always wondered how ClassPass managed to stay in business charging $99/month for unlimited classes. I was worried that at that rate, studios would leave ClassPass (I know some in Chicago did and others “hated ClassPass” but still worked with them). I was worried that eventually, the only studio options left for members wouldn’t be all that great, and then the members would leave, and then ClassPass would go out of business. So personally, I’m glad that they are making adjustments to keep the studios happy, meaning the awesome studios (who can very likely get by without ClassPass) are happy and hopefully stay with ClassPass. Yes, ClassPass was great because it was so affordable, but it’s also great because it allows for variety, which to me is the value.

    7. Brooke

      I’m just curious though if the individual gyms are actually getting a bigger fee once Classpass ups their monthly membership? How do we know for sure that the extra 70 bucks per month is going to the studios? I did Classpass when it first started through all of 2015. I loved it and found a lot of great studios! But ultimately I decided to join one single gym (Crosstown Fitness) because I wanted to be part of a community (and also commuting in the winter SUCKS for me since I have no car). I was thinking about signing up again for the summer, I miss pilates, yoga, spin, etc! I’ve been curious to see if studios would start dropping prices because of Classpass. If a drop in class is $30 it’s hard to justify (for me) that cost. But what if drop in price was $15? does a studio make $15 off a class pass person?

      1. Jeana Anderson Cohen Post author

        That’s a great question! Based on what I’ve read – it varies studio to studio and based on time of day. An assumption that we can potentially make is that this move was either to allow ClassPass to incentivize studios more, to increase their own margins or to do a combo of the two.

    8. Michelle

      This article assumes that Classpass is increasing the amount of money each studio is paid per Classpass user – this is (unfortunately) not the case. This price increase only benefits Classpass. I’m stopping my membership and joining Equinox – better amenities, better customer service, and a ton of classes to choose from. Really a no-brainer.

      1. Jeana Anderson Cohen Post author

        Hi Michelle! Thanks for your comment. That wasn’t necessarily my assumption – I was really just trying to lay out the state of the union. I can see why you would read it that way though. In which city are you using ClassPass?

    9. Jenny

      As a New Yorker using Classpass, I have to say that I am honestly sad to leave it. I love working out, I love having the flexibility and variety, and I am lucky enough to be able to afford the new $190/mo fee. But I’m still leaving. The problem with Classpass is this: customer service. The way that the rate hike was announced and the Classpass response to it has been absolutely abysmal. If there were more transparency, more sincerity, and a less shocking price hike then I would stay. I’m probably going to switch to Equinox or supplement my local YMCA membership with studios packs (or even monthly memberships – there’s a great yoga studio in my area that has 3 locations unlimited for $75/mo). A lot of studios are even offering a ‘Welcome Home’ discount to their long lost studio members. Sadly, I am actually Classpass’ target audience – a young woman with a decent disposal income – but I hate that the previous mission – ‘fitness for all!’ – has been so completely disregarded. Right now I am using Classpass just to hunt out where the best deals in town are. I’ll be leaving before the start of the price increase at the beginning of the June cycle. To all those in other Classpass cities: beware, you’re probably next!

      1. Alina H

        Agree with you entirely. I am a CP user who averages 20-25 classes a month, but I plan to cancel before the rate hikes in June. Equinox makes more sense now and with all the top studios removing the best classes from the schedule, I’ve been forced to switch to gym time anyway so I’ve learned how to just do the gym instead of classes. So studios are now moving away from offering classes at good times on CP, the price went up over 50% in under a year, and now Equinox is a better rate. To me, that sort of disrespect for the customers is a no-brainer. Also, while I agree that it takes a ton of money to run a studio, that studio will hold class regardless of whether 5 spots or 20 spots are filled. So in my opinion, getting those extra 15 people from CP is a benefit, even if only 1 of them eventually becomes a convert because without it, they would’ve only had 5 people there to begin with. Since studios get to pick which classes they put up and how many spots they open up, the biggest loser here is the consumer.

    10. MC

      Los Angeles has also been afflicted with the same rate increases as Chicago ($175/unlimited, $115/10 classes). As much as I love ClassPass, I think I’ll be saying goodbye in June. I average around 20 classes/month, so the 10 class option won’t cut it for me, and financially I can’t justify $175/month for fitness. I have also found myself missing the community of a gym or single studio membership, so I think I will be going that route.

      I’ve read from several sources that studios are not benefiting at all from this rate increase. That just makes me mad. I would understand the rate increase if ClassPass wasn’t retaining their partnerships with studios, but that’s not the case (retention rate is 96%, according to CNN). If studios weren’t benefiting from their ClassPass contracts, they would cut ties. So if that’s not the driving force behind this 47% rate increase, what is? Greed? ClassPass needs to be more transparent if they expect to hold on to their members.

        1. MC

          I haven’t decided yet, but I’m leaning toward a boutique gym near me that offers a variety of group classes. They used to be on ClassPass, so I’ve been once before; It’s nowhere near as nice as Equinox, but it’s more affordable and better than any of the big box gyms I’ve visited.

    11. Sue

      I’ve been a member of ClassPass for a few years now. Got introduced it as an early partnership with my old company and had a $19 trial for 1 month and then decided to join with the $99 / month fee.

      Am I upset about the 47% price increase? Yes. Did I consider leaving? Absolutely yes. And my conclusion?
      I’m staying.

      I looked into Equinox as my #1 option. It seemed the most comparable to boutique studios on ClassPass, especially since they offer classes. My biggest deterrent was that there just aren’t as many class variety as I have on ClassPass. I work out virtually same times every day (early mornings OR after work). The classes on Equinox during those times seemed to be the same classes. On ClassPass, I rotate between CrossFit, circuit training, yoga, pilates and cycling. Can I do that with Equinox’s schedule? Not really. And, my local Equinox was $200 / month or $230 / month to go to all the ones in my area. Still not cheaper than ClassPass.

      I’m still upset and confused about why the DRASTIC increase in price and all these rumors of them not increasing their payouts to the studios. It scares me that the business model isn’t sustainable and THEN what will I do??

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