Love to Hate Ticket Fees: Scam or Fair Business?

We love to hate ticket fees and regularly ask ourselves whether they’re a scam or fair business. We know the additional 25-50% in fees for a ticket is always a buzzkill. And yet, there’s no getting around them. We have to pay them for virtually every live event we go to. Every friend asks us two questions about fees:

  1. Are fees a scam?
  2. Is there anyway to reduce or avoid them?

Here’s the simple answer right up front:

  1. Yes and No
  2. Yes, but you have to pay attention when you buy tickets and during check out.

Some Ticket Fees Are Not Scams

We don’t dispute primary ticket providers (Ticketmaster for example) run a valuable business and deserve to get paid for it. There’s always the question of how much. They make most of their money through ticket fees. These fees have several names: service fees, order processing fees, facility fees and delivery fees.

  • Service fees: Fees charged for issuing the ticket. These go to the provider and to the performer. It varies how much goes to the performer depending on the negotiated amount between the provider and the performer.
  • Order processing fees: Ticketmaster describes them as “costs of ticket handling, shipping and support”. Sometimes the ticket provider makes money of them and sometimes they don’t.
  • Facility fees: Charged by the facility that hosts the event (like a Madison Square Garden) and the provider will add on this fee and give any money that it collects to the facility.
  • Delivery fees: The fees charged to deliver the tickets to you. Typically they’re free if you accept electronic delivery and sometimes there are charges if you want physical tickets.

It feels fair to have service fees, while “order processing fees” have always felt a little weird and redundant to a service fee. Facility fees are outside of the ticket provider (or the performer’s) control.

When ticket fees feel like a scam (and kind of are)

Resale providers also provide a valuable service to consumers if the show is sold out. Once a show is sold out, you have to buy your tickets from a reseller. However, really popular events that sell out have astronomical fees. Events like a Taylor Swift show or the Super Bowl have ASTRONOMICAL fees. You’ll want to punch the screen because all resellers charge fees as a percentage of the ticket price. So if ticket price is really high (like $1,000), you’re going to see some outrageous ticket fees. And it’s safe to say these resellers didn’t do any more work to sell the ticket on their site than they did a cheaper ticket. For example, we saw ticket fees of nearly $10,000 for a pair of Super Bowl tickets. This is absurd. But if you can afford these kind of tickets, then fees probably aren’t a problem for you. 😊

If you want to avoid high ticket fees, you have to buy before an event sells out. Once it sells out, the ticket prices at least double and that doubles your fees.

How to Limit Scam Ticket Fees

There are a couple ways to limit fees. Our #1 suggestion is: Buy from the Primary Ticket Provider.

Buy from the primary ticket provider

The primary ticket provider is almost always the cheapest option for buying a ticket. If you don’t know who the primary ticket provider is for an event, google for the venue and buy from them. See our blog post here about how to find the primary ticket provider for a show.

Another mental shortcut to remember is if you’re going to be arena show, virtually all arenas in the US are represented by Ticketmaster. Primary ticket providers usually have fees between 10%-40% of the ticket price. Smaller primary ticket providers like EventBrite or PreKindle tend to have lower fees, while Ticketmaster tends to be on the higher end of these fee percentages.

If you buy from a reseller like StubHub, SeatGeek, or Vivid Seats, you should be prepared to see ticket fees starting at 25% of the ticket price and going all the way up to 40% of the ticket price. Smaller, lesser known ticket resellers will go even higher, up to 50%.

Don’t fall for email delivery or will call delivery fees.

Some ticket providers still try to charge you for delivering the tickets by email or regular. These aren’t really a scam, but our best advice on this: Don’t be lazy. Just pick whatever the delivery method is that doesn’t cost you money. Yeah, it doesn’t cost the provider $4.50 to send you an the physical tickets, but they’ll still charge for this if you let them. Why do it?

Check out screen for additional ticket fees from primary ticket provider. Mail delivery ticket fees aren't a scam; but no need to pay this unless you're in love with a physical tickiet.

Don’t buy ticket insurance

While not technically a fee, many sellers are offering it as an optional add in equal to about 10% of the ticket price. The simple advice is: Don’t buy it.

Ticket insurance has lots conditions and exemptions making it not a valuable as you think. For example, ticket insurance doesn’t cover you if you decide not to go for personal reasons. Also, if you can’t go because of a pre-existing medical condition, they won’t cover you either.

Remember, you can always sell your tickets to friends or even put them on a resale marketplace. There’s a bunch of choices that make it easy to sell: StubHub, SeatGeek, TickPick, Vivid Seats. And while these marketplaces are mostly designed for ticket brokers to sell volumes of tickets, they make it pretty easy for an average person to sell their extra ticket.