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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express, Citi ThankYou Premier Card
On-demand ride services such as Uber and Lyft make transportation easier both at home and abroad. To help you maximize your spending with these two companies, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen walks you through the top-five cards to use.
Whether you’re a fan of it or not, there’s no denying that the sharing economy has created additional options for travelers. Airbnb is a prime example, allowing you to enjoy a more local experience at your destination – even in new, fast-growing markets like Cuba. The sharing economy has also transformed transportation in many cities around the world, with ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft that provide a convenient alternative to traditional methods.
Today, I’ll share my list of the top credit cards to use with these services to ensure that you’re maximizing your point and mileage accrual on every purchase.
1. Citi ThankYou Premier Card
My top pick for Uber and Lyft rides may surprise you: the Citi ThankYou Premier Card. This card changed its bonus categories back in April by moving travel purchases to 3x ThankYou points per dollar spent and expanding its classification of travel. Both Uber and Lyft qualify for this bonus category. TPG pegs ThankYou points at 1.6 cents apiece in his most recent valuations, so you’ll get a return of 4.8% on these purchases.
The Citi ThankYou program became a major player in the transferable points arena when it added eight airline transfer partners back in July 2014 (that number now stands at 12 with the addition of Virgin America in September). Though it still lacks a major domestic player like American Airlines, you can still get a ton of value out of the program.
Current sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Another great card option for Uber and Lyft rides is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, a TPG favorite and my number one recommendation to those getting started in the points and miles hobby. Both of these services are categorized as travel with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, allowing you to earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. TPG pegs these points at 2.1 cents apiece in his most recent valuations, giving you a solid return of 4.2% on these purchases. Remember that the card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, so this is also a terrific option when traveling outside the country.
There are many ways to maximize the Ultimate Rewards program with both this card and others (like the Ink Plus Business Card and Chase Freedom). You can transfer points to partners like Hyatt Gold Passport and United MileagePlus, allowing you to redeem points for luxurious travel experiences like the Park Hyatt Tokyo or Lufthansa A380 first class. For more information, be sure to check out Richard Kerr’s post on redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value.
Current sign-up bonus: 40,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You’ll also earn 5,000 bonus points after you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months from account opening.
3. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Another great option comes from Capital One. We’ve written about other Capital One cards with some over-hyped advertising, but the Quicksilver card is actually a solid cash-back card, offering you a 1.5% return on all purchases. However, if you’re looking to ride with Uber, the card actually offers you a 20% discount on all rides through April 30, 2016, bringing your overall return to 21.5%. This card also waives foreign transaction fees, a terrific benefit given the fact that there’s no annual fee.
A return of 21.5% sounds pretty great, but there are a couple of reasons why this card fell to third place:
- The 20% discount is only available for another six months. If this were a benefit without an expiration date, I would naturally place this card at the top of my list.
- The discount is only applicable to Uber. If you’re interested in taking Lyft but still want to earn cash-back, I would recommend using a different card that offers a higher return.
Current sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $100 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months.
Note that this 20% discount also applies to the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. However, that card does carry a $39 annual fee, yet provides the same 1.5% cash-back and offers no sign-up bonus, so you’re better off with the Quicksilver versions.
4. Any card that earns Membership Rewards points
The fourth spot on the list doesn’t go to a specific card, but instead belongs to a category of cards. If you have a credit card that accrues Membership Rewards points (like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express or the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express), you can earn 2 points per dollar spent whenever you travel with Uber. With Membership Rewards points pegged at 1.9 cents apiece, you’re getting a return of 3.8% on these purchases. In addition, if you use the EveryDay Preferred Card and can manage to make 30 or more purchases in a billing cycle, you’ll actually earn 50% more points, bumping your return to 5.7%!
The new partnership also allows you to redeem Membership Rewards points for Uber trips at a rate of 1 cent per point, though you can get much better value redeeming your points in other ways.
The final card that’s a great option for Uber and Lyft purchases is the SPG Credit Card from American Express. A lot of this is due to the fact that Starpoints regularly top TPG’s valuations, pegged at 2.5 cents apiece in his latest version. This value is a main reason that TPG recommends the card for non-category bonus spending, though it can also be quite lucrative when used as your primary card for an entire year. It also just added several new benefits as of August 11, including no foreign transaction fees and Boingo Wi-Fi access.
However, using this card for Uber in particular is a great complement to its new partnership with SPG, which was launched in February. All SPG members can earn 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent with Uber after linking their two accounts and completing a qualifying stay each calendar year. You can also earn additional points when the ride happens in conjunction with an SPG stay, and elite members earn even more points. I took Uber twice last weekend while staying at Le Meridien Dallas, The Stoneleigh, and here’s how they posted to my account as a Platinum member:
Remember too that the card grants you two stay and five night credits toward SPG elite status every calendar year, and if you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you’ll enjoy an automatic upgrade to Gold status. There are some terrific award redemptions in the program, but you can also transfer points to 34 airline partners (Korean was the most recent addition). For more information, be sure to check out Richard Kerr’s post on redeeming Starpoints for maximum value.
Uber and Lyft have opened up a myriad of transportation options in cities around the world, but you want to make sure you’re maximizing your earnings on these purchases when traveling. Hopefully this post has given you some suggestions for which credit cards offer the best return on these purchases.
What cards do you use for Uber and Lyft purchases?
- Earn 30,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
- Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
- Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
- Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
- Points are redeemable for $375 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $300 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
- No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
- Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*