Skip to Content

How to Get a Free YMCA Membership: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Get a Free YMCA Membership: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you find it hard to afford a gym but want to prioritize your health, you may be eligible for a free YMCA membership. The YMCA isn’t just about workout machines – they often have pools, fitness classes, childcare, and so much more!


In this guide, I’ll show you how to check if you qualify for a free YMCA membership and unlock all those benefits.

Free YMCA Memberships

Let’s start by evaluating all of your options for a free membership.


Did you know that your Medicare plan may cover a free YMCA membership? It’s true!

There are many different Medicare plans and programs that might help you get free access to the YMCA through special benefits like Silver Sneakers, Silver & Fit or other fitness benefits.


Here’s how to find out if you qualify:

  1. Check your local YMCA website. Most locations include a list of insurance companies that they’ve partnered with. See if your Medicare plan is on the list.
  2. Call your local YMCA. If you don’t find the information on their website, you can also try calling your local organization and asking them if they work with your Medicare plan.
  3. Call your Medicare company. If the YMCA staff aren’t able to help you, you may be able to find additional information by calling your insurance company directly. If they don’t offer a free YMCA membership, they may offer free access to another facility instead!

If you prefer you can also search your Medicare company’s website using terms like ‘fitness benefit’ or ‘YMCA partnership’. These terms will guide you to the right information.


Medicare isn’t the only insurance program that offers these great benefits. There’s also a chance that you can get a free YMCA membership with Medicaid as well.

The policies for this will vary by location. The YMCA of the Inland Northwest clearly states, that they have insurance paid memberships through some Medicaid policies.

To find out if you are eligible for a free YMCA membership with Medicaid, follow these steps:

  1. Visit Your YMCA: Go to your local YMCA or look at their website to find a list of health insurance plans they work with. This list will show you if your Medicaid plan might cover a YMCA membership.
  2. Check Your Medicaid Plan: Look at your Medicaid insurance card for a customer service phone number. Call them and ask if your plan has a free YMCA membership benefit. You might want to ask about a “fitness benefit” or a “YMCA partnership.”
  3. Compare Medicaid Plans: Many states offer different Medicaid plans. If you find out that yours doesn’t cover it but another does, you may want to consider switching plans. Before you decide to switch, make sure the new plan still lets you see your current doctors or go to your preferred clinics.
  4. Online Search: If you can go online, visit your Medicaid plan’s website. Use the search box to look for “YMCA membership” or “fitness benefits.” This could help you find the information without calling.

If you are eligible, you will need to contact your local YMCA for information on how to get your membership activated.

Student Memberships

It appears that many, if not all, YMCA locations offer free memberships for students who are attending the 7th grade. This is an offering that I found at many locations across many states.


In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, select locations offer a free YMCA membership to students in 6th and 8th grade as well!

If you’d like to find out if your YMCA offers free memberships to students, you will need to contact them directly.

Military Memberships

Military personnel and their families are frequently eligible for free YMCA memberships during times of deployment. These special programs often include respite child care services as well.

In order to get your free pass from this program, you will need to visit the Armed Services YMCA DOD Military Outreach Initiative page to confirm your eligibility and apply.

Personal Pricing Plan

Some YMCAs have generous financial assistance policies that allow low income guests to visit even if they can’t afford to pay.

For example:


Programs and eligibility rules do vary by location, but they often focus on factors like income, household size, and recent life events. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, contact your nearest YMCA branch directly.

Try the Y Pass

Even if you don’t qualify for a full free membership, a lot of YMCAs offer a free short-term trial pass. These are usually called “Try the Y” passes.

Each location handles their Try the Y Pass a little differently. The Greater Seattle YMCA offers a free pass that will allow your family to visit three times in one week… but the YMCA of the Triangle in Raleigh, North Carolina provides a free 7-day pass. 

Usually, you can sign up directly on the YMCA’s website. You can find the form by searching for the Try the Y pass or by contacting your local YMCA. 

Income-Based YMCA Memberships

If you don’t qualify for a completely free YMCA pass, please don’t lose hope. You may be eligible for a special discount.

YMCA offers a financial assistance program for low income people who can’t afford the regular membership rate. This program can reduce the cost of your membership by 50% or more, depending on your local YMCA’s policies.

These programs are often called YMCA Scholarships, Personal Pricing Plans, Income-Based Memberships, or Financial Assistance programs.

To be eligible for these discounts, you’ll usually need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must meet income limits.
  • You must live within the YMCA’s service area.
  • You must provide documentation about your identity, household size and income.

The discount that you are offered will need to be renewed every year, so make sure to update the YMCA every 12 months to maintain that discount.


If you are unable to get a free YMCA membership for whatever reason, there are some alternatives you can consider:

  • Community Centers: Many communities offer local centers that provide free or low-cost fitness classes, swimming pools, and recreational activities.
  • Public Parks and Trails: Take advantage of free outdoor spaces for walking, jogging, biking, or even bodyweight exercises. Many parks also have community fitness equipment.
  • Online Fitness Resources: There’s a wealth of free online resources offering workout videos for all fitness levels. Websites and apps can guide you through exercises at home, requiring minimal or no equipment.
  • Local Health Workshops: Some community health organizations host free workshops or fitness classes. These can be a great way to learn and stay motivated.
  • Discounted Gym Memberships: Some gyms offer free gym passes or sliding scale fees based on income. Don’t hesitate to ask about financial assistance or discounts.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and try these options!

FAQs about Free YMCA Memberships

With so many different ways to qualify, it’s natural for a few questions to come up. Here are some of the most common things we’ve been asked.

How much do YMCA programs cost?

Some YMCA programs are completely free, while others may have reduced fees or a sliding scale cost.  You may also qualify for scholarships if you meet income limits. These policies vary by state and location, so use the Find Your Y tool to find your nearest location.

How can the Y help me?

The YMCA is way more than just a gym; it’s a community hub where you can find a plethora of services to fit your lifestyle and needs. Along with fitness classes and swimming lessons, they offer top-notch child care and exciting camps to keep the kids engaged and active. Looking for sports? They’ve got everything from basketball to soccer, catering to all ages. Health programs are a big deal too, offering support for nutrition, chronic disease management, and overall wellness. And it doesn’t stop there – many YMCAs also play a crucial role in food distribution, helping to ensure that everyone in the community has access to nutritious meals. It’s truly a place where you can grow, learn, and give back, all under one roof.

Relief Recap

There are many ways to get a free YMCA membership! There are programs for seniors, teens, military families and everyone in between. The YMCA is very inclusive and helpful in their pricing, ensuring that everyone in the community can enjoy the facilities and programs they offer.


Friday 5th of April 2024

I'm pretty disappointed in haven't received any responses from my emails and messages left for your program. It's been several months.

Nicole Thelin

Friday 5th of April 2024

Hey Michelle! We are extremely understaffed right now but I apologize for the delay. I don't have any records of your prior messages, but if you try emailing [email protected], I'll tell Michael to keep an eye out for your email.


Thursday 4th of April 2024

Thank you for this great updating of this email. You have covered so many ways to check into the YMCA gym memberships besides encouraging people to insure at local area facilities and centers that are not YMCA. Our country is finally embracing the importance more now for helping people stay physically healthy and also socially connected no matter what age. Which of course can help cut down on medical costs and help people stay more independent. Great synopsis.

Kelly D.

Saturday 23rd of March 2024

I live in Oneinta, NY. and am 55 years old. I am a low income single person household. i work but still receive SNAP, HEAP and Medicaid. I find myself getting weaker, heavier, and have difficulty with flexibility and mobility. i really want (NEED) to get in better shape or I feel my physical decline will only accelorate. I want badly to join but I simply cant afford it. What are my options? Do I have any?

Catherine Marucci

Thursday 28th of March 2024

Hi Kelly. Have you called your local YMCA yet? They usually have a list of programs and ways to get a discounted or free rate.

Eric collinsworth

Tuesday 12th of March 2024

I'm in okmulgee, Oklahoma and I'm homeless. I would like to just take a free shower. Can I do that?


Monday 4th of March 2024

I'm in sober living in Concord new Hampshire is there a way to get free membership while ur in recovery