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5 Ways to Save on Event Tickets

Patience and flexibility are the keys to avoid paying top dollar

spinner image  People line up to enter Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for the Opening Day of baseball season on April 01, 2021 in New York City.
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As more Americans are vaccinated and the number of COVID-19 cases wane, fans are once again starting to go to sports events and concerts. All 30 National Football League (NFL) stadiums have gotten the go-ahead to operate at full capacity, and many National Basketball Association (NBA) arenas can too.  

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And some top stars are hitting the road, after nearly two years of staying home or performing via Zoom. Tickets for Coldplay’s 2022 tour are on sale now; tickets for Bruno Mars' tour in December are on sale, too.  And other acts, such as the Tedeschi Trucks Band, are adding dates to their 2022 tours.

If you’re tempted to go see a big game or big name, you’re probably going to pay big bucks. The average price of an NFL ticket is $151, according to SeatGeek, a popular ticket seller. NBA tickets cost an average $94. Concerts cost an average of $96 in 2019, according to the latest data available from Statista, and big names, such as Taylor Swift or Bruce Springsteen, can run way higher.

But you don’t always have to pay that much to see your favorite team or artist. Here are five tips for saving money when you’re trying to get a glimpse of the sports and music stars live and up close.

1. Wait

Normally, you can get the best prices when they first go on sale at the box office. Many times, however, tickets sell out within a few minutes, and that’s often because ticket resellers snatch them up for resale. If you can’t get tickets from the primary source — the box office — then you have to buy them on the secondary market, via resellers such as StubHub, SeatGeek or Gametime. “We tend to see a price spike up until about a week before the game, when prices typically decline,” says Gametime CEO and founder Brad Griffith.

The longer you wait, the cheaper the ticket gets, as sellers become nervous that they will get stuck with worthless inventory. If you buy NFL tickets 30 days before the game, you can expect to pay 10 percent more than average, but the prices will be 40 percent less than average the day before kickoff, according to Gametime.

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2. Wait until the last minute

Because you can often download tickets onto your smartphone, you can sometimes get great deals by waiting until just an hour before the event starts. “That's when you tend to see a lot of brokers and suppliers trying to unload inventory that they have that they know will soon be worthless,” Griffith says.

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Buy from a reputable ticket reseller, rather than some guy in front of the concert hall or stadium, who may be selling fakes.  Many resellers offer money-back guarantees that your seat is genuine. The risk is that you won’t get the seat you wanted. If you just have to be in the front row, be prepared to pay for it. On the other hand, you can often have as much fun in the upper deck as up close and personal.

3. Swing by the actual box office

Venues often hold back tickets for promoters as well as the artists and their guests, according to Stadium Help, a website for helping ticket buyers. If the box office has unused promotional tickets, they will sell them close to the time of the event. You never know, and it doesn’t hurt to ask.

4. Use credit card points

Some major credit-card companies, such as American Express and Citi, sometimes offer tickets at box-office prices before they are on sale to the general public — and you can use points to buy them, according to Stadium Help. Sometimes you need a presale code to take advantage of credit card deals. This often is the support phone number on the back of the card or the first six digits of your card.

5. Be a fan

Many artists have fan clubs, and they sometimes offer presale codes that let you buy tickets before they’re for sale to the general public. Some artists charge to join their fan club: Eric Clapton, for example, charges $29.99 to $75 annually. You’ll have to decide whether the fan-club cost is worth getting the presale tickets and other benefits, such as newsletters. Other fan sites, such as the one for country star Darius Rucker, are free.

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Sports teams have fan clubs, too. The San Francisco Giants, for example, offer membership to The 415, which includes access to a special section 415 feet from home plate — as well as discounted ticket offers. Cost: $149. Again, you have to weigh the cost of the club against the benefits of discounted tickets.

John Waggoner covers all things financial for AARP, from budgeting and taxes to retirement planning and Social Security. Previously he was a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and  USA Today and has written books on investing and the 2008 financial crisis. Waggoner's  USA Today investing column ran in dozens of newspapers for 25 years.

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