We tried ClassPass—is this your fitness solution for 2020?
The workout class subscription service is everywhere. We tested it in three cities to see if it's worth it.
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Some people know exactly how they want to exercise. There are runners, cyclists (indoors and out), weightlifters, yogis, Pilates-ers, Crossfitters (but you knew about those guys already), and more—the people who have a clear vision of what they want, fitness-wise, and have no problem sticking to it. For everyone else, there’s ClassPass.
Or, at least, that’s what the brand would have you believe. ClassPass is a membership-based fitness app and website that allows you to try out different fitness studios and classes without getting a membership or paying pricey drop-in class prices. Available in more than 2,500 cities in the U.S. and abroad, a ClassPass membership offer access to various name-brand and local fitness studios so users may create their own workout schedule.
Is ClassPass the convenient bargain it seems? We tested it with three people in three cities—Boston, Chicago, and San Diego—to find out.
What is ClassPass?
When you sign up for ClassPass, you purchase a set amount of credits that can be used to purchase your spot in the classes you want to attend. The monetary value of the credits varies by city, as do the classes and studios available. The amount it costs to take each class works about the way you might expect—a 5 PM class at a franchise studio in a major city will take up a bunch of credits, while a local studio in a smaller city will require less. Depending on the package you go for, credits work out to be somewhere between $1.50 and $2 apiece. In Boston, I could use the credits to sign up for open workout time at a local gym for one credit or a brand-name class like Barry’s Bootcamp or Flywheel for 14 and 11 credits, respectively.
ClassPass also has a selection of workout videos—some from ClassPass only, some in partnership with studios like Barre3 and Sh1ft—that air live at scheduled times or can be streamed on-demand at your leisure, for no additional cost. To me, they seemed similar to videos from professional studios on YouTube, like PopSugar Fitness or Fitness Blender, but it’s nice to have as a built-in option for a workout on the fly, especially because you don’t have to watch ads or use up credits.
How do you sign up for ClassPass?
For me, signing up for ClassPass was easy. I had used it back in 2016 (a halcyon time in the app’s early days in which you paid a flat fee to take unlimited classes at participating studios, as opposed to the credit system it uses now), so all I had to do was log into my account to reactivate it. If you’re new to ClassPass, you will get a free trial period for two weeks or a month. After that, you can opt into a credit plan for $49 for 27 credits or $199 a month for 130 credits, or do a “light” plan, which gives you seven credits a month for $15, with the option to buy more credits a la carte at varying rates—$20 for 10, $50 for 25, or 50 for $95. For the purposes of this review, I selected the light plan and added on credits so I had the exact amount I needed for the classes I wanted to take, but if I were doing it on my own I’d go for one of the preset plans because the credits are a little cheaper that way.
To set up our Chicago tester, K. Aleisha Fetters, CSCS, a personal trainer and freelance writer, and San Diego tester, Sea-Anna Thompson, one of Reviewed’s software developers, I sent them a virtual gift card for ClassPass credits. There was only an option to load up money, not credits, so to figure out how much I needed to give to each person for the classes they wanted to take, I had to reach out to ClassPass customer service. They got back to me quickly, and I was able to load the proper amount on a virtual gift card for each person.
As the receiver of the gift, getting into the ClassPass system was a bit more of a hassle. Sea-Anna and Aleisha were setting up new ClassPass accounts, so the system made them sign up for ClassPass’s two-week free trial period and wait until that was over to use the credits—presumably, this would have been fine (who doesn’t want extra credits?) but they also had to put a credit card on file, no doubt to facilitate the purchase of additional credits or a recurring membership and to cover class cancellation fees (more on this coming). Because I already had an account, my credit card was already in the system.
That said, if you’re starting from scratch, sign-up is pretty typical of any subscription-based service: Fill out a form, enter payment info, and you’re ready to go.
How do you use ClassPass?
Once you get the hang of how it works, ClassPass is pretty simple to use, both on the mobile app and desktop website. When you log in, you see a dashboard that shows how many credits you have in your account, every class that’s available in your area, and the amount of credits required to take it. You can refine your class options by searching for an activity, like “yoga” or “cycle,” or an individual studio. You can also narrow your search by your location and distance from the studio, and the amenities you want the studio to have, like showers and parking.
ClassPass allows you to sign up for classes a week in advance, so I did this to ensure I got into the ones I wanted. It didn’t always show a studio’s full range of offerings—for example, the 5:20 PM and 6:30 PM classes at Barry’s Bootcamp sometimes didn’t show up on ClassPass, even though they were listed on the studio’s website. Also, you can’t count on a studio being on ClassPass forever. Sea-Anna tried F45 in San Diego, but at some point after she went to the class, F45 left ClassPass. Still, none of the testers had issues getting into the classes. Most studios had their full schedules available for booking through ClassPass, and in almost all cases, it was possible to sign up day-of. When you sign up for a class, you can press a button to add it to your Google Calendar, and ClassPass also sends email reminders 36 hours before your class.
The membership itself is also straightforward, as long as you keep up with it. You receive your allotted amount of credits on the day you sign up, which are yours to use as you like over the next month, or “cycle.” If you don’t use all of them, up to 10 (but no more) roll over into the next cycle. Conversely, if you run out of credits before your cycle renews, you can buy more to use right away.
The one thing that can make ClassPass difficult is its interface, which prompts you to search for certain classes on the current day. This can be confusing if you’re just trying to search for classes and studios in general, not necessarily for right now, because it can make it appear as though no classes are available—especially if you’re trying to peruse ClassPass’ offerings at, say, 10 PM on a Tuesday. You can look at an individual studio’s page to see its full schedule, but you might not realize that the first time you look at the website. “I found the website a bit unintuitive, largely because I was looking for cool classes, and the actual days I wanted to take the classes was an afterthought,” writes Aleisha. “The search page comes with the current date preloaded as a filter, so I was stymied when I kept running searches only for no classes to show up. Once I figured out that it was searching for today’s classes, finding classes was much more doable; but I do wonder if I missed out on seeing certain studios and classes because I was only able to search one day at a time. I wonder what else I would have found if I could search for ‘all Chicago studios or classes’ irrespective of date.”
Another thing to be aware of: the strict class cancellation policy. If you cancel a class more than 12 hours beforehand, the credits go back onto your account, no big deal. But if you cancel within 12 hours, you lose your credits and there is a $15 fee. Further, if you don’t show up to class, there is a $20 fee. (And that’s why you have to have a credit card on file!) “For the free week trial, I ended up not feeling well and had to cancel a class last minute,” Sea-Anna says. “I understand why the fee is set up how it is. But for the free two weeks, I feel like we, as users deciding if we would want to do this after the free weeks, should get a break.”
How do you cancel ClassPass?
If our experience getting on board ClassPass was a little difficult, cancelling was harder (as is often the case with membership-based services). Once Aleisha finished her classes and tried to end her membership, she was distressed by all the hoops she had to jump through to do so. “I understand that this is becoming more and more common, but I was frustrated that I couldn't just click ‘cancel’ and move on with my day,” she says. She was taken through “multiple” screens with prompts for different membership packages and the promise of free extra credits as a means of getting her to stay. Then she had to chat with a customer service rep and turn down two more membership deals, which were cheaper than the ones offered on the site. Only then was her membership cancelled. “I get it,” she says. “But this kind of thing really turns me off.”
Is ClassPass worth it?
For the most part, ClassPass provides a good value on classes. Every class we took—Flywheel, Barry’s Bootcamp, and Exhale barre in Boston, Cycle Bar, Pure Barre, and TITLE Boxing in Chicago, and CorePower yoga, Yoga Six, and F45 (a cardio and resistance-style workout) in San Diego—was less expensive than it would have been for a drop-in.
But if you’re totally new to a studio and you want the best price, check out its website to see what they offer for newbies, as this is generally the way to get the steepest discount. CorePower, for example, offers newcomers a full free week. Many studios, like Flywheel and Pure Barre, offer a free first class. Exhale, on the other hand, offers three classes for $59 for beginners—I paid about $16 for the class I booked through ClassPass, so it seems ClassPass is the way to go with Exhale (in Boston, at least).
Finally, if you fall in love with a studio and want to go more than twice a month, you’ll want to look into registering for its classes directly. With Classpass you can go to most studios as many times as you want per cycle, but the amount of credits (and therefore your cost) required to register can increase on your third visit per month. (The credit price goes back to normal when the cycle renews.)
Should you try ClassPass?
Overall, ClassPass is worth it for most people who want to get a taste of the fitness studios in their city—but not for everyone and maybe not forever. We found a wide range of offerings in the three cities where we tested that, if they don’t always end up being cheap, are at least a few dollars’ savings over the usual drop-in rate, without the rigamarole associated with signing up at each studio for a trial period. Because of this, I loved using it to check out studios I’d always wanted to try but hadn’t quite been motivated to. Sea-Anna, Aleisha and I all agreed that we would recommend ClassPass to friends and coworkers, particularly those who like group fitness and mixing up their workout routine.
Personally, I plan to use ClassPass for a few more months, but I don’t see it as a long-term workout plan. So much of the ClassPass experience is dependent upon the individual studio rather than the service itself, so if I were to discover a studio or plan I really liked, I would be more likely to sign up for a monthly membership for unlimited classes with that studio rather than continue going to them with ClassPass. I prefer having a set routine and the sense of camaraderie that comes from going to the same workout studio for a long period of time—both of which you miss out on with ClassPass.
On the other hand, if you already have a set routine—say you’re a runner or you play a sport—one of the less expensive ClassPass plans could be a great option for cross-training or just to mix up your routine and try other fitness disciplines. In almost all cases, the classes you sign up for through ClassPass are cheaper than a drop-in class (and comparable to what you might get in a multipack, if not an intro pack), so it’s a nice way to have the drop-in experience without committing to the studio or paying the usual price. All in all? ClassPass is worth a shot. You may not use it forever, but it could introduce you to the routine you want to follow for at least the near future.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.