The Tip Jar: A simple way to avoid surprise fees when buying concert tickets

Going straight to the box office can save you big bucks.
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When it comes to buying tickets to concerts or live sporting events, I'm caught in two minds about making my purchase online.

I'm a big fan of the convenience, knowing I've secured my ticket from the comfort of my couch. But at the same time I can't understate how much I hate paying surprise "service fees" when I reach the checkout.

These fees can sometimes tack on more than 50 percent to the cost of a ticket, so I've decided to find out if making a little bit more effort – by going to the venue's physical box office to buy tickets – is a worthwhile money saver.

I realize this isn't a realistic proposition for some of you, particularly those living outside the metro area who want to attend a Twin Cities show, but for those within a half hour, or even an hour, of downtown venues, this guide will show whether it's worth making the trip.

I've looked at the online costs of attending shows/games at 10 venues, and then called the box offices to see how much it would cost if I just turned up in person.

Target Center

Event: WWE TLC, Oct. 22 – Sec. 235, Row N, seats 1-2.

Tickets online: $123.94 total ($100 for two tickets including tax, plus a $2 facility fee per ticket and a $19.34 convenience fee).

Tickets from box office: $104 (still pay facility fees).

Saving: $19.94.

Xcel Energy Center

Event: Kendrick Lemar, Aug. 19 – Sec. C 04, Row 2.

Tickets online: $220.36 total ($170 for two tickets, plus $34.70 service fees, a $3 facility fee per ticket, $7 order processing fees, $2.66 tax).

Tickets from box office: $178.66 (still pay facility fees).

Saving: $41.70.

Target Field

Event: Twins vs. Cleveland Indians, Aug. 15 – Sec. 229, Row 2, seats 18-19.

Tickets online: $61.50 ($50 for two tickets including tax, plus $7.50 convenience fee and $4 order fee).

Tickets from box office: $50 (including tax).

Saving: $11.50.

State Theater

Event:Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Aug. 4 – Balcony 5, Row S.

Tickets Online: $118.26 ($79 for two tickets, plus $28.80 service fees and $8.20 processing fee, $2.26 tax).

Tickets from box office: $81.26 (no fees, only taxes).

Saving: $37.

First Avenue

Event: Midnight Oil, Aug. 29.

Tickets online: $126.24 ($100 for two tickets, plus $23.70 fee, $2.54 sales tax).

Tickets from box office: $107.54 (two tickets, plus $5 in ticket fees and sales tax).

Saving: $18.70

Palace Theatre

Event: The War on Drugs, Oct. 18 – Floor.

Tickets online: $77.64 ($62 for two tickets, plus $14.26 ticket fees, $1.38 sales tax).

Tickets from box office: $68.38 (two tickets, plus $5 in ticket fees and sales tax).

Saving: $9.26.

US Bank Stadium

Event: Coldplay, Aug. 12 – Sec. 311, Row 23.

Tickets online: $85.46 ($55 for two tickets, plus $19.40 service fees, $2 facility charges for each ticket, $5.54 order processing fee, $1.52 tax). 

Tickets from box office: $60.52 (still pay facility charges and tax).

Saving: $24.94

Roy Wilkins Auditorium

Event:Alt J, Sec 214 – Row U.

Tickets online: $114.32 total ($74 for two tickets, plus $26.30 service fees, $2.50 facility charges per ticket, $7 order processing fee, $2.02 tax).

Tickets from box office: $81.02 (still pay facility charges and tax).

Saving: $33.30.

Ordway Center

Event: The Ohio Players, Aug. 11 – Tier 1, Sec. 3, Seats 3-4.

Tickets online: $94(for two tickets, includes taxes, $5 facility fees for each ticket and $6 service charges).

Tickets from box office: $88 (still pay facility fees).

Saving: $6.

Treasure Island Resort and Casino

Event: Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows, Sep. 16 – lawn seats.

Tickets online: $72.44 total ($50 for two tickets, plus $4 facility charges per ticket, $13.50 service fees, $0.94 taxes).

Tickets from box office: $62 total (including fees and tax).

Saving: $10.44.

Verdict

The results above show that if you can make it in person to venue box offices, it will save you money.

Some venues, typically the smaller ones like the Ordway Center, Palace Theatre and First Avenue, include some of their fees in the initial ticket price, so the extra fees added on when you reach the online checkout aren't as severe.

The difference in price at the box office versus online at these venues, as well as at Target Field and Treasure Island, is smaller, and you could make the case that it's worth paying extra online for the convenience alone.

But in other cases the difference was dozens of dollars, and while box offices aren't open 24/7 and require a time-consuming journey, if it means the difference of more than $40 for a single event, it could be well worth the trip.

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