I love Uber.
If you've never used Uber and you hate the whole process of using taxicabs, I'm about to blow your mind.
Think about what it's like to get a cab – you stand by the curb and look for a cab to drive by. You raise your arm each time and then see the “Occupied” light.
Eventually, one comes by, slows down, you get in. You tell the driver where to go and settle in for your ride. If you're in a major city, some stupid video on a monitor plays. There might even be a plastic partition between you in the driver, like you're some kind of criminal.
You get where you're going, the driver presses a button and the price magically goes up a couple bucks. You get out, try to figure out how much you're supposed to tip, round up to the next largest bill you have and pay.
Compare Uber — you open up the app, check the price to your destination, hail the cab. You know it'll be outside in X minutes so you don't have to leave until then. Car arrives, you get in, say Hi, and the driver drives. You arrive, thank the driver, and start walking.
It seriously is that easy.
As a fan of Uber, I thought I'd pool together some of my favorite hacks.
Refer Friends, Get $5 Off Your First 4 Rides
The best way to save on Uber rides is to get money off your rides.
This only works if you've never had an Uber account before. If you have one, you'll need to make a new one to take advantage of this promotion.
Get the App
The Uber app is what you'll use to check prices, hail a cab, and pay for rides. You can't really use Uber without it so pick that up after you sign up via a referral.
American Express Platinum Cardholders: $15 monthly credits, $20 in December
American Express and Uber have a promotion where Platinum Card Members get $15 in credits for Uber in the United States each month plus a bonus $20 (to make it $35) in December.
To get it, add your Platinum Card as a Payment method and use it to pay for your ride. You'll get $15 off a ride each month and up to $200 a year.
It also gives you access to Uber VIP, where available, which gives you access to the best drivers.
Use 30-Day “Flat-Rate” Packages
If you use Uber often and you live in one of the included major cities, you can purchase a 20 or 40 ride package that makes your ride cost anywhere from $4.49 – $4.99 for uberX and $2.49 to $2.99 for uberPool. The flat price per ride is based on the city but it's a fantastic deal.
The packages cost $10 for a 20-pack and $20 for a 40-pack.
For example, as of this writing on February 3rd, San Francisco, LA, Boston, NYC, Chicago, Seattle, and DC have 20 and 40 packs. Miami and San Diego have waiting lists.
Double check the maps for rides are included because you have to stay within a certain area designated as a “Pass Zone.” This is NYC's pass zone and it excludes La Guardia and JFK Airports. San Francisco's Pass Zone is enormous but also excludes SFO, OAK and SJC Airports.
Check for Promotions
Every so often, Uber partners with a brand and you can get a few bucks off your ride.
Most promotions are only for new customers, but sometimes you can get lucky and see one that applies to everyone — the latest one I know about is from Lay's Potato Chips.
— LAY'S (@LAYS) June 22, 2016
Only UberSELECT at the Airport? Ride a Hotel Shuttle.
In some places, like airports, you can only get UberSELECT rides. I was recently in Orlando and there are only UberSELECT available, so I took an UberSELECT with its higher cost.
I learned this tip from my friend Tom at CanadianFinanceBlog – Just take a shuttle to a nearby hotel and get an Uber there. UberX should show up. Added savings if you pick a hotel in the direction you're going!
Use Facebook Messenger to Hail a Cab
Click on the Facebook Messenger and chat up Uber!
When you open the app, tap the New Message icon and type Uber into the To field. Uber (the bot) should appear as something to select.
I only have an iPhone so when I do it, there's a little car icon on the bottom near the keyboard. Tap that and the image to the right should appear. Login, set it up, get $20 off your first ride.
There is usually only ever one complaint about Uber and that's surge pricing. Surge is when they increase the rates on rides because of demand. This is to get more cars on the road so you don't wait a long time for a ride. You can wait until Surge demand subsides or pay the higher rate. Either way, you know your ballpark rate before you get in.
A survey in late 2015 showed that surges may only last a few minutes. If you open up the app and there's a surge notification, try again in a few minutes and the surge may be gone.
If that doesn't work, move the pick-up area a few blocks away and see if it changes the surge pricing. You might need to walk away from a very popular area to see if you can exit the surge area. You may be lucky and find yourself on the edge.
(also, sounds like surge pricing might be quietly going away…)
Use Uber Pool
uberPool is their car pooling service, is the cheapest option, but using it doesn't always mean you'll be sharing a ride with a stranger.
If available in your area (as of this writing it's only in a handful of major cities), you pick your origin and destination, then wait for the car. The fare they show is your guaranteed fare.
Get the Right Car
There are several tiers of Uber service (not every tier is available everywhere), know what you need before you book it because the tiers are priced differently:
- uberX – Individual drivers using a 4-door personal vehicle (2005 and newer) and can take up to four riders.
- uberXL – Larger vehicles, can accommodate 6+ passengers.
- uberSELECT – A luxury sedan that can fit up to 4.
- uberBLACK – Limo or livery companies driving a luxury sedan or SUV
- SUV – An SUV that can hold up to 6 passengers
Higher tier cars can sometimes pick up lower tier fares. I've booked uberX rides a few times and been picked up by a uberBLACK or uberXL car. You pay the lower fare.
I did a fare estimate from my house to BWI Airport, here are the pricing differences:
- uberX – $41-$50
- uberXL – $61-$74
- uberBLACK – $114-$139
- SUV – $138-$169
Bad Ride? Overbilled?
If you have a particularly bad experience, contact Uber support and they will take care of it within a day.
I was in Austin when a friend took a Uber ride back to the house we were renting. For some reason, the ten-minute ride cost him a whopping $150. He contacted Uber, explained the situation and how it was impossible for the bill to be that high, and they lowered it to $33.
Link Up Starwood Preferred Guest
If you are a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, you can earn points for your Uber rides.
The Starpoints earning schedule will depend on your guest tier as well as when you take the ride. At the lowest tier, Preferred, you earn 2 Starpoints per dollar during a stay and 1 Starpoint per dollar every other day.
Find Out Your Uber Rating
Years ago, you had to email Uber or do some crazy hack to discover your rating.
Now? Just open the app, touch the menu, and the rating is right underneath your name!
I have an average trip rating of 4.83 stars! Hot dog!
Set up Family Profiles
Family Profiles are a relatively new feature but it allows multiple users (up to 10) to join one “family.” Don't have to be related (not sure why that would matter).
The Family Profile gives you the ability to pay using the same credit cards, track rides, and aggregate recipes. While my kids are too young to have phones or rides, I could see this was extremely valuable as they get older. One of the cooler new features is Trip Tracker, which lets you see where a family member's ride is in real time.
Send a Friend Home in Your Uber
Did you promise to give your friend (or maybe the babysitter) a ride home but you don't feel like it? (or otherwise shouldn't?)
Hail the uber, tell the driver it's for a friend and then send them off. You're on the hook for the ride, so make sure your friend doesn't take a two hour ride, but it's totally allowed.
Do you have an Uber hack we don't know?