How to Score Cheap Tickets and Avoid Rip-offs

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A night out at a steep discount: That's the ticket. But with all the scalpers and scammers out there, make sure you know how to pick it.

The average American spent $581 last year on tickets for entertainment like concerts, movies, and games, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The cheapest way to buy tickets has rarely been through the official channels. In fact, early this year Ticketmaster settled in a class action lawsuit that argued its markup fees, which sometimes reached more than 30 percent of the ticket price according to The Washington Post, were purely profit and had nothing to do with business costs.

Instead, most people know the best way to save on these tickets – aside from winning them – is to buy from scalpers. Ticket scalping on the street remains illegal in several jurisdictions, but online ticket brokering is generally not. There’s even a National Association of Ticket Brokers with a code of ethics.

In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers some tips on finding the best brokers for the event you’re interested in. Check it out, and then read on for more.

While the technology has changed, the downside to the resale market remains the same: You’re never guaranteed a seat, and you often have to wait until the last minute to get the best deals. And while physical safety is less of a concern when buying online, rip-offs are even more common – you may remember some of the scam sites for tickets to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Here’s some advice on where to go and what to steer clear of…

Reputable resalers

There are lots of legitimate ticket brokers, but these are 10 of the most popular. There are some good deals to be had here, but costs even for the same event can vary wildly. Do some comparisons and make sure the price is right after factoring in fees and delivery charges.

What to avoid

Sites that sell fake tickets or otherwise scam people have a lot in common. Some tip-offs to rip-offs include sites or sellers that…

  1. Aren’t members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers or the Better Business Bureau.
  2. Fail to clearly explain important details like ticket surcharges and fees, whether tickets are guaranteed, how they’re delivered and in what time frame, and policies for refunds, rescheduling, and cancellations.
  3. Aren’t secure (the address bar should start with “https” or have a lock icon) when you’re submitting payment information or lack a privacy policy.
  4. Want payment wired or in cash. (Credit card payments offer greater consumer protections including the ability to dispute the purchase.)
  5. Lack a phone number or fixed business address.
  6. Offer tickets with seat numbers you don’t see on the seating chart for the venue. (Some events and venues also tell you what a legit ticket looks like. Here’s the NFL’s detailed description of Super Bowl tickets.)

If you’re doing it the old-fashioned way – buying from a scalper at the venue – don’t go alone and stay in highly visible areas. It’s a good idea to do some price research in advance and bring a seating map to quickly see where the seats are. Separate your cash to maximize your bargaining power – if a scalper sees you have more money, they may ask for a higher price.

And if it’s movie tickets you’re after, take this tip from our story 26 Tips to Save on Entertainment: Buy in bulk and save 25 percent.

Stacy Johnson

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