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How to Save the Most Money on Sports Tickets

Watching Serena Williams slam some triple-digit mph serves doesn’t have to empty your wallet.

by Ryan Lynch
May 30 2018, 7:15pm

Now's the time to buy tickets to see Houston Astros' pitcher Justin Verlander on the ball field and tennis champ Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. Photos by Getty Images

If seeing a live sports event is your idea of summer fun, then you know how expensive that can get: Last year’s U.S. Open tickets sold for an average of nearly $300 each in the resale market, for example, and even a box seat behind the home plate at a Minnesota Twins game can cost nearly $70 this season.

But there are ways to indulge your love for tennis, baseball, soccer or any other professional sport and still have money left over for hot dogs and beer. Ticket prices are typically determined by dynamic pricing, which means demand controls the price. (Prices get even more dynamic when you buy from a scalper outside the venue, but that’s a risky move since you have no protections if the tickets are fraudulent.)

Seemingly minor details like the day of the week and weather can have a big effect on prices. Other factors include how early you buy tickets, what discounts you can find, and whether you buy directly from the box office or through a reseller.

Play your cards right and you can save more than $50 a ticket in some cases. In short, buying those cheap tickets only involves at most the athletic skill of your fingertips.

Here are some tips on saving money while you’re rooting for your favorite teams and athletes:

Buy from the team (or venue)

If you are close to the team’s stadium, you could buy directly from the box office to save on “convenience fees” of anywhere from $4 to $6 per ticket when you buy online.

Christian Singleton, a video producer for the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, said he likes to get to the stadium an hour and a half before the game to buy his tickets. “I can look a game up and if it says tickets are $40, I can go to the box office and pay $40 instead of paying close to $65 for the tickets and fees,” Singleton said.

Choose your days wisely

One way to avoid expensive prices is to keep an eye on the day of the week you go, as weeknight tickets, for example, are in much less demand than weekend ones. Even Friday night tickets can be cheaper than Saturday ones in some cases. For example, you could to the U.S. Open for $82 on Friday, Aug. 31 or go for $179 in the same exact section on Saturday, Sept. 1. So before you set your heart on a certain day, check prices for other days, as you may save a bundle.

Check the weather forecast

Overcast days usually have the least demand when it comes to resold tickets. In one extreme example, tickets to Super Bowl LII earlier this year dipped from $4,900 to as low as $2,000 because of temperatures in the teens in Minneapolis, where it was held.

Don’t worry about being rained out either, as most outdoor leagues have some type of refund policy on the books to let you get to another game in place of the original.

Apps are your friend

Apps and websites can also bring the cheapest tickets to your fingertips, especially if you’re looking to see a game at the last moment. SeatGeek, StubHub, Gametime and TickPick may offer prices lower than the advertised cost of the ticket when demand is low and prices tend to fall in the hours just before the game. For example, standing room tickets behind the goal at Major League Soccer’s Orlando City against Toronto FC on July 14 cost $25 from the team, but only $12 on SeatGeek. Where you won’t save, however, is on fees. Most services charge a service fee of about $3-7 per ticket you purchase. (TickPick collects a 10 percent commission from the seller.)

Be a procrastinator

Buying tickets later will allow you to pounce when secondary sellers are more likely to dump their tickets. “It’s kinda funny because in life procrastination isn’t always a great thing, but in ticketing it actually does work in your favor a lot of times,” Joe Cassitto, the head of broker relations for TickPick, said. “Early planners a lot of times are the ones paying more money because at the point where it’s two months before a game or concert, the people selling the tickets aren’t as desperate to dump them for whatever they can get.”

Learn to love the losers

That dynamic pricing for tickets is also affected when the participants you see stink. With the New York Mets, a ticket in the outfield promenade costs $31 for an Aug. 4 game against the Atlanta Braves, yet $19 for the same seat two days later against the less successful Cincinnati Reds. Regardless of the score, you can take comfort in the fact your wallet didn’t lose out on savings.