Everyone knows the golden rule:
You’re not supposed to give out your Social Security Number (SSN) to just anyone who asks.
Yes, your SSN is a secret number that represents your identity. And it’s your responsibility to keep it that way.
However, you’ll need to provide it when doing things like buying a home, opening a bank account, or applying for a credit card.
But do gyms ask for your Social Security Number? And do you need to provide your SSN to join a gym?
You’ll need to give your Social Security Number when you join at many (but not all) big name commercial gyms. However, you may be able to decline and offer a different form of government ID, instead.
And remember that just because a gym doesn’t have your SSN doesn’t mean they can’t send you to collections or hit your credit for unpaid dues.
Let’s take a closer look at why gyms want your SSN and what to do if you don’t have one, or don’t want to give it.
Do Gyms Need Your Social Security Number (SSN)?
Many big box gyms may ask you for your Social Security Number when you are signing a membership contract with them. However, not all gyms will ask you to provide an SSN because a gym doesn’t require a background check. Others may only require the last four digits of your SSN.
Why do gyms ask for your SSN? There are a few reasons.
First, a lot of gyms — especially big chains — insure their members against on-site injuries.
The cost of this insurance is usually built into your monthly membership, or your annual membership fee. In this case, they will need your SSN for documentation.
Your gym may also require your Social Security Number to give them more ammo against you if you fail to pay your membership dues.
Yes, your unpaid gym membership can affect your credit.
Like any other recurring bill, if you fail to pay, your gym can send your account to collections, which means a negative mark on your credit.
Gyms often prefer to have your SSN on file if they need it, but don’t be fooled — they can still ding your credit or send your account to collections even without it.
What to Do if You Don’t Have a SSN (or Don’t Want to Give It)
If the gym asks for your SSN, and you don’t have it or don’t want to give it, you can inquire if they take other forms of identification such as your ID, driver’s license, or passport.
However, gyms are private businesses and there’s no law that says they’re required to provide you with membership. If they insist on having your SSN and you don’t want to provide it, they may refuse to allow you access.
So if you find that a particular gym is demanding your SSN, they are not breaking the law.
However, you’re free to try other gyms in your area that may be more lenient.
(Check out gyms that don’t require a contract, you may have better luck there.)
If you decide to give them your SSN, just make sure their terms of service protect your personal information.
You can find this information in the membership contract you sign with the gym, or ask management directly what privacy measures are in place to protect your identity.
If you’re not comfortable providing your Social Security Number, ask a manager if you can give a license, passport, or other form of government ID, instead.
Why Some People Aren’t Comfortable Sharing Their SSN with the Gym
There are many reasons why people consider it a considerable risk to give out their SSN, with the main reason being identity theft.
Fraudulent people can easily steal your identity if they have access to your SSN.
Due to the countless security breaches, you may want to think twice before giving out your SSN.
If your identity is stolen, someone can do you significant harm, from opening new accounts in your name to taking loans in your name.
However, if you have to give it out, make sure you know who you’re giving it out to.
Big name gyms may seem trustworthy, but the front desk at Planet Fitness isn’t exactly Fort Knox — careless gym employees have been known to leave membership applications lying around out in the open with people’s SSNs visible.
These kinds of stories make some people hesitant to give their SSN out on when joining a gym.
That’s why it’s a good idea to inquire at your local gym about their privacy and security measures before you join.
Another reason some people don’t want to provide their Social Security Number is collection agencies.
No one wants their SSN out there due to unpaid fees, and the fear of their accounts being sent to collections for known or unknown reasons.
However, you can still have your credit affected or be sent to collections if the gym has only your name and address, so withholding your SSN won’t save you if you suddenly can’t afford the gym anymore.
How to Join a Gym as a Non-Citizen or Someone Without a SSN
As a non-citizen, you may not have your SSN yet.
Not having one may deny you many opportunities, including a gym membership in some cases.
However, there are a few things you can try if you want to join a gym that insists on requiring your SSN:
- Apply for your SSN: To make your life in the USA easier, a SSN will come in handy. Find an immigration attorney to guide you on what to do. You can also do it yourself, if you prefer that.
- Use your passport: Your passport is a valid identification document and is acceptable in most gyms. Inquire if they accept international passports. They certainly have no reason not to.
- Get a gym ID: Some gyms simply use your SSN as a way to ID you as a member. Ask if they can generate a unique ID number for you in lieu of a SSN.
- Offer to pay in cash: When you pay in cash, you have no liability. In this case, they will not need your SSN to tie you to anything such as recurring payments. However, remember that not all gyms offer this option.
- Use a friend’s benefits: Some gyms allow members to bring a guest. If you have a friend who goes to that gym, accompanying them will earn you a workout session. However, they likely have a limit on how often they can bring guests.
Remember, don’t be careless with your Social Security Number — if the wrong people get a hold of it, they can cause serious havoc to your life.
However, in many instances, you may need to give out your SSN, and starting a gym membership may be one of them. Especially at most of the big name commercial gyms.
Not all gyms will require your SSN, though. Even more. You’re not obligated to provide it. If you’re a non-citizen, you may be able to exploit other ways such as paying in cash, using an alternative ID, getting a gym ID, or using a friend’s benefits.
For more, don’t miss:
- What’s the dress code at the gym?
- Do gyms have air conditioning?
- Do gyms have scales?
- Do gyms check your credit?
Hope this helps!