I’ve never had the pleasure of attending a Super Bowl, partly because the New York Jets have never been good enough to get there (in my lifetime) and primarily because it can be crazy expensive.
By the time you’ve saved for Super Bowl tickets, you realize the cost of transportation and boarding can blow your budget up.
With Super Bowl 50 right around the corner, I though it might be a good idea to share with you some of the saving ideas and tips I’ve applied to my personal finances so that when those always frustrating NY Jets make the Super Bowl, I’ll be prepared and ready to go.
I’ll assume one of two basic scenarios for attending the Super Bowl:
- You’re a fan of an NFL team that wants to attend the Super Bowl the year they make it.
- You’re simply looking to attend a specific Super Bowl, teams don’t really matter.
Super Bowl Tickets
The hardest part of attending any Super Bowl is finding affordable Super Bowl tickets. The resale market through brokers like StubHub and SeatGeek is out of control often times, and as I write this article, the cheapest Super Bowl 50 ticket I can find is $3,906 (nosebleed corner upper deck seats).
Double that unless you want to attend the game alone, add a $70 parking pass and you’re already close to $8,000 in the hole, just for two of the worst seats in the house. Yikes.
Without owning season tickets to one of the teams that made the Super Bowl, the secondary market appears to be the only shot anyone has to get Super Bowl tickets … but there are actually two more you may not know about.
(1) The NFL Extra Points Credit Card from Barclaycard offers cardholders 10,000 bonus points after spending $500 in the first 90 days of account opening. The card also includes a 0% Promotional APR on eligible NFL ticket purchases for 6 months and a 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within the first 45 days of account opening and there is no annual fee. The greatest feature of the NFL Extra Points Card however is not anything you’ll find in the pricing details, but the fact that every year, cardmembers have the opportunity to redeem points beginning at 160,000 and up to 250,000 points, depending on the seating level, for a pair of Super Bowl tickets.
It’s important to note that there are a limited number of Super Bowl tickets available though this point redemption opportunity, so there is no guarantee that by the time you reach the 160,000 plateau, you’ll be able to acquire Super Bowl tickets, however 160,000 points is no small feat, and unless you’re spending money specifically on NFL merchandise, that means you’d have to spend a small fortune on your credit card just to acquire them.
However, if you put most purchases on your credit card like I do, that number can add up fast and after just a few years (or if you use this card for BIG purchases). Consider the above costs for Super Bowl tickets, 160,000 points = $7,800 in actual ticket costs, that’s an evaluation of over$5 per 100 points (meaning an effective cash back rate of more than 5%).
Not too shabby at all, and the seats you receive could be anywhere (not guaranteed to be nosebleed, but pretty close I would imagine).
(2) Each year, the NFL runs a random lottery and awards the public a small amount of Super Bowl tickets at face value (normally under 1,000 tickets).
To enter this lottery, you must mail an index card to the address below with your contact information (full name, address, phone, email) between February 1st and June 1st of the year before the Super Bowl. If you’re selected, you can purchase two tickets at face value.
Super Bowl Random Drawing
P.O. Box 49140
Strongsville, OH 44149-0140
Travel and Lodging
You can bet that whenever a city gets the rights to host a Super Bowl, the eyes of every businessman and woman in town turn into dollar signs. For the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl and the day of the game itself, a flood of people come to town, looking to have a good time and spend, spend, spend. This is why it’s important to get a jump on everyone else, and plan your accommodations as early as possible.
Super Bowl 51 will be held in Houston, TX on February 5th, 2017. Most airlines won’t allow you to book so far in advance (8 months the farthest out), so in the early summer of this year, I’d be online looking at potential flights for my trip. Using the usual booking websites (Orbitz, Travelocity etc.) as well as looking at buying from discount airlines like Southwest, I’ll keep a close eye on flight + car packages when they become available.
Ten times more important than the flight (which you should still be able to find for a reasonable price even close to the Super Bowl) is your lodging arrangements. I just completed a search for Houston area hotels around NRG stadium, staying 3 nights through the Super Bowl.
Hundreds of available hotels, very reasonably priced with plenty of high rated reviews for around $100 a night. I run the same search for Santa Clara are hotels around Levi’s Stadium where Super Bowl 50 will be held, and I see listing after listing that looks like this:
If I go dumpster diving (looking at hotels rated Fair / Poor), I can find something in the $300 – $400 per night range, but after just a few nights, I’m in the hole another four figures, staying at a hotel/motel that regularly charges under $75 a night.
Take advantage of the Hotels.com booking system and book your room as early as possible. Most hotels you book, even in Super Bowl cities will allow you to cancel your reservation just two weeks before you are scheduled to arrive, no fees charged.
If you can’t go to Super Bowl 51, no big deal, you simply cancel your reservation and you’re no worse for wear. Wait until November to make your travel arrangements, and you’ll be paying 400% more than savvy travelers that booked months prior.
And if you’re part of the growing Airbnb crowd, the same applies (although you’re unlikely to be able to book this far out). Looking at available properties in the Santa Clara area for next weekend; it would almost be beneficial to stay in a city an hour or so away and rent a car. Unless of course you’re interested in the steal below.
Avoid the Tailgating Temptation
If you find yourself really wanting to attend the Super Bowl next year, and you’re on a tight budget, do yourself a favor and watch regular season and playoff games from the comfort of your own home. I know it can be difficult for hardcore fans to give up the opportunity to attend the games in person, but the money saved from just a few of them can start accumulating into thousands of dollars.
When you consider the costs of buying tickets, transportation to and from the game, parking costs, tailgating, concessions etc. you’ll find that taking your family to the game just once can set you back $500 – $1,000, and that’s for the cheap seats in week #7.
Instead of spending that money at the stadium on a cold November day, take the money and put it into a High Yield Savings Account. It won’t earn much in a couple of months but it will earn more than if you had spent it on $12 beers and $7 hot dogs.
Gather the family and friends together on Sunday afternoon and put the game on the big screen. Spend $75 to put out a terrific spread of appetizers, chips and drinks and enjoy yourselves.
When the game is over, spend 5 minutes to help clean up and enjoy the comfort of your own home rather than spending an hour in traffic just trying to get out of the stadium. Money saved and one step closer to your dream of attending a Super Bowl.
Experience of a Life-Time
At the end of the day, more people in the United States win a $100,000+ lottery prize than attend the Super Bowl that year. It’s not an easy thing to do and when you consider that the face value of Super Bowl tickets is considerably less than the value most consumers have to pay to acquire them, it’s also not an easy pill to swallow.
Writing about personal finance for so long, it’s hard to stomach that somebody I don’t know can buy a ticket to the Super Bowl for $750, and then sell it to me for $5,000, and I’m supposed to jump at that opportunity.
But so it goes sometimes. Use the advice above and look into the NFL Extra Points Credit Card. Spend time before the NFL season even starts to scout out your travel plans for that week/weekend and do whatever you have to during the season to keep your sports expenditures at a minimum.
If you’re lucky, you’ll score a couple of Super Bowl tickets at face value and if your smart, you’ll be able to spend thousands of dollars less than most to attend.
Either way, once you get there, forget about the money and have a blast. And if the Jets happen to be playing, look out for me. I’ll be the guy dressed in a Jets hat, jersey and Jets jeans screaming at the top of my lungs for three days (Although knowing the fan base, I could be describing just about anyone).
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