How to Play the Online Ticket Game

Whether it's World Series or Jersey Boys tickets that you are looking for, these sites can help you save a buck.

Nearly two-thirds of online ticket buyers who bought from brokers report paying more than face value for the ticket, compared with just 17% who claim to have found a deal, according to a Forrester Research report.

Still, bargains can be had with a little luck and strategy. But be prepared to do some aggressive shopping and to be astounded by the difference in ticket prices for the same event.

We compared ticket prices for a recent U2 concert at Rose Bowl Stadium, in Pasadena, Cal. StubHub offered tickets ranging from $100 to $3,000 for the VIP Red Zone. TicketZoom’s highest-priced ticket for the same concert was $275 less than StubHub’s, but its lowest price was $134 for an upper-level seat., a smaller broker, had VIP Red Zone seats for $2,340 while its lowest-priced seats, in the lower level, were $180. TicketNetwork’s available seats were $49 to $2,828.

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To find a deal, a good strategy is to wait until the week before the event. Ticket prices may drop daily and could fall below face value. However, selection decreases at the same time, so you might not be able to get the seat you want. If unsold VIP packages are released at the last minute, you might pick up a front-row seat a day or two before the event.

Be wary of sites that claim to offer discounts. Those generally exist only for less-popular events or for last-minute purchases. Rare bargains usually come from people who cannot use their tickets or brokers stuck with tickets they haven’t sold.

So who is selling the tickets on these sites? Often, a ticket’s owner is the broker itself or a ticket wholesaler that imported its inventory onto the site. That’s why you can find the same tickets advertised on several different Web sites. Even a site such as StubHub, which advertises itself as the “ticket marketplace where fans like you buy and sell,” offers thousands of tickets that are owned by wholesalers as well as fans who are trying to unload their tickets.

When shopping the sites, watch for fees. Some sites levy a service charge in addition to the shipping or delivery fee. On most sites it’s tough to determine the total cost until you are entering your credit-card information to pay for the ticket. Tickets are nonrefundable so make sure you know the total price before you buy.

StubHub adds a service charge of 10% of the face-value price of the ticket and a delivery fee that ranges from $4.95 for e-tickets to $25. TicketZoom charges a 20% service charge and a $15 to $25 delivery fee. differentiates itself from other sites by not adding a service charge. Its shipping fee ranges from $13 to $35. Ticket Network adds an 18% service fee and a $15 to $25 shipping charge.

Some specialized sites offer discounts for less-popular events. Search the Goldstar Web site for half-price tickets for a variety of venues, including concerts, plays, lectures and walking tours, in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Generally, the tickets available are for small theaters and lesser-known artists.

Going to the Big Apple? Subscribe to and buy theater tickets at a 10% to 50% discount. Recent attractions included Avenue Q, South Pacific and Bye Bye Birdie. If your taste runs more to Off-Broadway shows, offers discounts of up to 50% on Off-Broadway productions, including The Fantasticks and Cirque du Soleil.

Tickets from online ticket brokers are usually no bargain, though they may be the only source available for your must-see concert, sporting event or play.

Senior Reporter, Kiplinger's Personal Finance