12 Clever Money Saving Uber Hacks

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.

Table of Contents
  1. Get the App
  2. Use 30-Day “Flat-Rate” Packages
  3. Check for Promotions
  4. Only UberSELECT at the Airport? Ride a Hotel Shuttle.
  5. Use Facebook Messenger to Hail a Cab
  6. Surging? Wait. Or Move.
  7. Use Uber Pool
  8. Get the Right Car
  9. Bad Ride? Overbilled?
  10. Link Up Starwood Preferred Guest
  11. Find Out Your Uber Rating
  12. Set up Family Profiles
  13. Send a Friend Home in Your Uber

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.

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.

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

I've never used it but $20 off your first ride usually means its free!
I’ve never used it but $20 off your first ride usually means its free!

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.

Surging? Wait. Or Move.

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.

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.

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.

Read more about Family Profiles and how to set them up.

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?

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    • Jim says

      I love it too, so convenient and affordable. I haven’t used Lyft much, not nearly as popular where I am, but I might soon!

  1. Stefanie O'Connell says

    “surges may only last a few minutes” – good to know. I was once WAY overbilled on Uber. Like 4x what a cab ride of the same length would cost. Contacted them and they reduced it, though not as much as I’d have liked.

    • Jim says

      It always stinks to fire up Uber and see the price has skyrocketed, but it’s better than no ride!

  2. Millennial Moola says

    Loving uber pool right now. Took a ride by myself the other day with 50 lbs of books I was donating. They usually don’t even pick another person up

  3. Jason Butler says

    I’ve been using Uber for nearly two years. In total, I’ve paid less than $25 for rides during that time. I promote my Uber code on my various social media accounts. By doing that, I’ve accumulated over 30 free rides.

  4. Vic @ Dad Is Cheap says

    I found a way to travel hack Uber. Using the sign up bonus for a Capital One Venture – which will be $460 by the time you meet the minimum spend requirement. I used it to send my parents back and forth when they were in LA for a wedding.

    It’s a pretty flexible travel card. πŸ™‚

      • Vic @ Dad is Cheap says

        It’s basically a cash back travel card (like the Barclay Arrival). Unlike other cards, you just use the points (which is equivalent to 2% cash back) to cancel out purchases. You don’t have to figure out how points work like other travel cards. It’s also a lot more flexible than the Barclay because you don’t need to spend $100+ in travel purchases to use points. So a couple $20+ uber rides can get cancelled out w/ the Venture points.

        One thing I found out is that you can essentially cash out the sign up bonus into a statement credit by purchasing a refundable flight or hotel, using your points, and then refunding your trip. I found this out when I had to cancel a trip and had a credit in my account.

        The $400 sign up bonus isn’t too shabby πŸ˜‰

        • Jim says

          Ahhhh gotcha, the old transaction eraser trick! πŸ™‚

          Yes, $400 sign up bonus is pretty solid.

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