If you're going to Super Bowl LII (52 for those of you who aren't Roman numeral experts) in Minneapolis Feb. 4, chances are, you're packing more than your toothbrush. If you're thinking ahead to the costs and identity security factors involved with traveling to a super popular, once-a-year event, you're bringing along your credit cards. And so, always wanting to help out, we're providing tips for using your credit card during your Super Bowl weekend, so your trip can go as smoothly as possible.
Because, while half-time show headliner Justin Timberlake might be able to spare a few thousand dollars if he loses a wallet full of cash, we're willing to bet the average person would prefer to NOT be on the hook for that lost money. If that's you, credit cards are the way to go when you travel thanks to their anti-fraud policies.
Lastly, if you're a huge football fan and desperately want to go but can't, then rest assured there are plenty of credit cards tips and tricks that can help you save or even score you free flights if a future Super Bowl trip is on your bucket list.
The Super Bowl and your credit card: What you need to know
Buying tickets: If you already know you're going, you've probably already bought your tickets. But for those of you just starting to scope out the best deals now that we know it will be a New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles showdown, think carefully before you search out tickets on Craigslist or consider buying from a scalper. The Better Business Bureau recommends going with the reputable Ticketmaster, which manages ticket exchanges for the NFL, or StubHub, which also guarantees a ticket's authenticity.
And authenticity is the primary problem -- while the tickets you buy on Craigslist might be real -- heck, they probably are; as we all know, plenty of ethical people use the service -- there's nonetheless no guarantee that they're real. You could be paying thousands of dollars for a very real looking, but utterly fake, set of tickets.
By the way, a quick look at StubHub ahead of the divisional championships revealed tickets were starting at (gasp, choke) $4,255.... and that was before the teams were even set! On Ticketmaster's resale marketplace, tickets started at $4,346.
Rewards and perks. Officials estimate more than 1 million people will head to the Twin Cities for Super Bowl LII and its surrounding events. That no doubt means that Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will be flooded with travelers during the week around Feb. 4, 2017. Now might be a fantastic time to put to use a credit card that offers free airport lounge access. What, you don't have one? Have fun with the masses at the airport (remember that a solid half of them could be mopey sore losers after the game) -- or check out a couple of our top cards for free lounge access.
Additionally, this close to the event, the cost for flights will likely have gone up. If you haven't purchased your fights yet, you might consider cashing in some miles that don't have blackout dates or other restrictions. Cards like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, among many others, could really come in handy.
Getting a seat at the table: You may want to book your table at a restaurant early -- like now. Minneapolis has become quite the culinary darling and a number of high-profile restaurant openings ahead of the big game have foodie football fans salivating. Do your research and book your table sooner rather than later for some of the top spots. A quick word of caution: During busy seasons, restaurants will sometimes request credit card info to hold your reservation and if you fail to show up, you'll be charged a fee. Make sure you know what you're getting into before you book.
All that said, eating out in the Twin Cities could be rewarding to more than just your palate if you play your... ahem... cards right. A number of credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for instance, reward users handsomely for dining out (two points per $1 spent in this case). Take the time to fully understand the rewards structure of your credit card before you start swiping in Minneapolis-St. Paul; you might come home with a nice bucket of rewards for a future trip or even a pocketful of cash back.
Buying stuff: The Better Business Bureau also recommends that consumers only buy Super Bowl clothing, mugs and other souvenirs directly from the team or official vendors at the stadium. A store in the mall is going to be just fine, too. It's just that around this time of year, a lot of websites crop up that are selling counterfeit, sub-par Super Bowl items.
Bring [a little] cash for incidentals: It's easy to forget that there are still a few areas where you might need cash, like to tip a baggage handler, or if your kids want to put a quarter in a gumball machine. So, by all means, bring some. But that said:
Credit cards offer the most protection: You are safer -- especially in Super Bowl-sized crowds -- to pay for most of your trip with a credit card. By law, if your credit card is stolen, you can't be liable for more than $50 (and you can't be liable for a dime if you report your stolen credit card before a thief has a chance to use it), and many credit card companies -- not wanting to be outed on Facebook and Twitter as jerks -- will even waive the 50 bucks you are liable for.
And, of course, a credit card statement leaves a better paper trail than cash if later you're wondering how you spent so much, or if you're trying to get a refund on something. It's also worth noting that most cards have some form of purchase protection, which means that if you buy some Super Bowl merchandise and it's stolen on your trip, in many instances, you can get your money back.
Buying a new TV instead?
Staying home to watch the Super Bowl on a new flat screen TV? Consumer Reports has an interesting tip. Some advertisers shy away from using "Super Bowl" in their advertising for fear of running afoul of some licensing agreement. Instead, Consumer Reports suggests searching on the phrase "big game" if you're looking for TV sales ahead of the "big game."
Above all, set your Super Bowl budget in advance and stick with it. Your credit card will thank you. You don't want to be a Monday morning quarterback wondering how you're going to pay for your big weekend for the rest of the year. That said, if you do rack up a bit of debt for your once-in-a-lifetime trip, don't resign yourself to paying interest until the Detroit Lions win a Super Bowl. There are plenty of balance transfer credit card deals out there that would give you a bit of extra time to pay off your debt interest-free.
Photo: creative commons football photo courtesy Eierschneider