Super Bowl XLV is upon us. On Feb. 6, an estimated 80,000 privileged fans will flood Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to be part of the live audience for football's crowning event. Those few, those happy few.
For the remaining 100 million folks expected to tune in, finding affordable Super Bowl tickets is as laughable as Jerry Jones' prediction his Cowboys would make the playoffs. At present, only a few thousand legitimate tickets are still available through third-party resellers.
As with scalpers of old, blatant upselling by legitimate resellers is the new norm. Rates through Ticketmaster, the NFL-sanctioned resale site, start at nearly $2,400 per ticket for nosebleeds. Over on eBay's StubHub, seats range from $2,100 to over $11,000, while posh suites are available for the reasonable price of $304,000.
All raging against the machine aside, fans will pay dearly to indulge in the Super Bowl atmosphere. Read on for nine ways to save on tickets and other game-day celebrations while protecting yourself from counterfeits.
1. Online Resellers and Ticket Exchanges
To beat the market and cut pure cost, the best game plan is to buy tickets now. Like, immediately. While tickets for regular season games are occasionally discounted several hours before kickoff, the price for Super Bowl tickets will go up until they're gone.
Resellers are arguably the most trustworthy source for Super Bowl tickets. The larger online outfits deal only with reputable sellers. Most should offer a money-back guarantee if tickets are counterfeit or don't arrive in time. Look for the Better Business Bureau seal or search the national BBB directory for accredited virtual and physical stores. Along with Ticketmaster and StubHub, reliable names include GoTickets.com and TicketCity.com.
Onto the appalling price and questionable service fees. Sites are often upfront about initial costs, but service fees vary widely. Ticketmaster adds a flat 10 percent service charge for all sales made through the NFL Ticket Exchange, while most others tack on 5 to 10 percent if you pay with a credit card. Policies change from place to place, but be wary of such additional fees as taxes and delivery charges.
A final perk when buying from online resellers is security and ease-of-access. Along with a money-back guarantee on fakes, it's nearly an industry standard for brokers to reimburse buyers with equal or greater tickets if seats become unavailable.
Most sites also feature stadium maps to show exactly where seats are located, but be aware many of the cheapest tickets promise a section or row, not a specific reserved seat. This isn't the reseller's fault: The folks in Arlington decided to label most upper-level tickets by row only. You'll need to plan ahead during the tailgate to be sure your group isn't split.
2. Razor Gator
Razor Gator coupons can be used for all Super Bowl tickets the site sells. As of now, the Razor Gator offer includes a free 12 month subscription to Rolling Stone, though various coupons come and go. Keep an eye open as the big day gets closer.
The current SelectATicket coupon is good for a $75 rebate. When paying upwards of $3,000 per seat, any throwback is a good throwback.
4. Buy From Another Fan
The other reasonably reliable way to grab tickets and skirt reseller pricing is to buy direct from another fan. Online classifieds and auction sites are obvious go-tos. Several Craigslist postings show tickets for under $1,000 a piece, including two seats in the lower level for $1,400 total.
What you save in cash on Craigslist or eBay, you may spend in time and uncertainty. Directly contact each seller who piques your interest and ask for photos of the tickets, both front and back. E-mail conversations may suffice, but given the exorbitant amount being exchanged, a phone call is wise. Before you buy, however, follow the tips in No. 5.
5. A Word on Counterfeit Tickets
Several weeks back, some hooplah was raised about fraudlent tickets in the midst of college bowl season, spurring the BBB to release seven steps to take before handing over any money. One simple guideline is to never, ever wire money direct. Such requests are a scammers best friend. Use a fraud-protection credit card or PayPal, which covers every purchase for the full amount.
What to do, then, if you feel you've been duped?
Before making accusations or reaching the stadium gates, give your tickets a once-over. Unadulterated NFL tickets feature a two-tone hologram, laser cutouts, special ink and a gloss varnish. Also carefully check the printed row and section against a seating chart to be sure both exist.
6. Watch for Stolen Tickets
Counterfeits aren't the only issue to be wary of, as some people sell real but stolen tickets. If the theft was reported, even a bonafide ticket will be rejected at the gate. It sounds harsh, but don't trust any guy hawking tickets on a street corner with such an enormous amount.
If on the total losing end of this scrum, hopefully you took precautions beforehand and can file a claim to get back a portion of your money. Call your credit card company or payment provider immediately.
7. Game Day Alternatives
Let's say you make it this far and decide tickets aren't worth the headache. In recent years, the NFL has cracked down on giant parties held at vacant stadiums, so venues are limited to bars, hotels, the occasional church and, of course, your place. If all else fails, convince friends to bring snacks in exchange for your hosting the event. If you still want the fevered atmosphere and inherent insanity, a slew of Super Bowl viewing parties are held across the U.S., including the following.
The Dallas area plays host to the most exclusive events throughout Super Bowl weekend, but sensible locals and ticketless visitors will head to the uptown location of Frankie's Sports Bar, which made it's way onto USA Today's list of best place to watch the Super Bowl in 2008. Other vaunted venues include Press Box Grill and Ten Sports Grill.
Las Vegas fans can attend the "MegaGate: Big Game Day Viewing Party" at the Crown Nightclub in the Rio. Admission is $50 per person for entry only or $100 for entry, food and two libations. The finest free party is at the Las Vegas Hilton, featuring $1 hot dogs and $2 beers. Plan on showing up a few hours early as the line gets unwieldily.
All told, Super Bowl tickets can be found but they won't be cheap. How much are you willing to pay and where will you go to find them?