Directly from the team:

Individual game tickets go on sale to general public sometime in mid-July. The specific date for that year will be announced a month or two in advance (in 2015 this is July 15th). These tickets are sold via Ticketmaster. In order to buy them, you will need to use a Visa debit or credit card. While this has the advantages of being at face value and being assured to be legitimate, it has the downside of being very hard to accomplish. Due to the team’s great run of success, these individual game tickets sell out extremely quickly. Particularly popular games (such as when Peyton comes to town) can sell out during the presale to wait-list members. That is, some of the games are completely sold out prior to going on sale to the general public. Even if the tickets aren’t sold out when the sale begins, there are so many people trying to purchase at once that you need to get lucky and refresh at the exact right time to grab the seats you want. This method is great when it works, but is unreliable.

From the secondary market:

Buying your tickets from someone who already has them is the way most non-Season Ticket Holders will get their tickets. The major downside is that this is expensive, especially for the more popular games. Another risk is that it’s harder to confirm the tickets are real. Using a site like StubHub, AceTicket, or SeatGeek protects you against fake tickets (StubHub will refund you if you have a problem and AceTicket has a 200% guarantee), but has more fees. You can often save money by trying Craigslist, but you have no way to make sure you are getting real tickets and no recourse if you get turned away at the gate. SeatGeek is a website that does the same thing as Kayak, but for tickets. This can help you find the best listing. If you are buying on the secondary market, and don’t need to be sure of your trip ahead of time, you can often get a better deal by waiting until shortly before the game. Sellers get desperate as the game approaches, because the tickets are worthless after the game so they will usually drop their price when it gets close.

From the wait list:

If you plan on attending multiple games (or eventually want season tickets), it might be worth it to check into the Wait List. Right now, you can’t get Patriots Season Tickets, and there are somewhere around 60,000 people in line waiting for them. The estimate is that it will take decades to get them (the people who are getting season tickets right now signed up in the early 2000s, before the huge spike that followed sustained success). So, why bother signing up if you won’t get season tickets for 20 years? Because, if you are on the wait list for season tickets, you can get individual games.

Before we cover the benefits, we’ll go over the cost. It costs $100 per seat to get on the wait list, up to a maximum of 4 seats (and a minimum of 2). This is a deposit, so when you eventually get tickets it will be applied to the cost of your first season, and it is refundable, so you can get the money back if you decide to leave the list before you get tickets. However, you do still tie up a couple of hundred dollars for years.

The most obvious benefit of being on the wait list is that you will eventually get season tickets. However, there are several benefits that you can use in the meantime. Considering how they are immediately available, these benefits are arguably better than saving your spot for season tickets which won’t happen for 15 more years. The main type of benefit is access to individual game tickets. There are a couple of ways that Wait List members can get tickets: Ticketexchange and pre-sales.

The Patriots TicketExchange is the only way that Season Ticket Holders (STHs) are officially allowed to resell their tickets, and is only available to buyers who are STHs or Wait List members. They must do so at face value (and the buyer has to pay an additional ~$10 fee per order). Their incentive to sell their tickets at this price, rather than marked up through a secondary market, is to preserve their own season tickets. If they are caught reselling season tickets, the Patriots will revoke their season tickets. Given the decades it takes to get season tickets right now, that’s a pretty big deal. On top of being caught in the actual act of reselling, STHs are responsible for whoever is sitting in their seats. If they sell tickets to someone, and that person starts a fight (or other disruptive behavior), the season ticket holder is deemed responsible for them being there (which may result in loss of season tickets). When a STH sells through the Ticket Exchange, it is endorsed by the Patriots, and the responsibility for behavior is transferred to the buyer. This means the STH can recoup their face value without risking their place as a STH.

From the perspective of a Wait List member, the Ticket Exchange offers a way to purchase individual game tickets at face value (there is also the per ticket fee, but the face value price is the STH face value price, which is slightly lower than individual game price). The buyer is also assured that the tickets are legitimate. For most games, tickets mostly become available about a week before the game. Some less popular games (e.g. a late season game against the Bills), will have listings available right at the start of the season. For very popular games (such as a Jets-Patriots game), tickets may be sparse until 1-2 days before the game. A Wait List member may only buy up to 4 tickets per game via the Ticket Exchange.

The second way that Wait List members can get tickets is through pre-sales. The Patriots do a pre-sale for both the regular season and playoffs. About a week before the regular season individual game tickets go on sale, Wait List members get access to a private sale. This lets them buy tickets before the huge rush of the general public. Some popular games may still be sold out, due to STHs buying extra seats or faster Wait List members buying up the rest during the pre-sale, but this is an easier way to get face value tickets than during the general sale. In recent years, these pre-sale packages have required the purchase of a preseason game to go along with each regular season game. Due to the variable pricing discounting preseason games, this isn’t as big of a burden as it has been previously. A Wait List member may only buy up to 4 tickets per game through the pre-sale (excluding preseason games).

Wait List members also get access to a pre-sale for home playoff games. Due to the higher demand, it is still difficult to get playoff tickets through the pre-sale, but it is impossible to get them via the general sale since they will sell out during the pre-sale. The number of playoff tickets a Wait List member can purchase is limited to a max of 4 (and the 2011 AFCCG was limited to 2), to try and spread out the small supply.