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Uber announced on Wednesday a new program that frequent travelers have been requesting for years. The ridesharing service announced Uber Rewards, its very own loyalty program that will reward riders with Uber credits and elite status that comes with a wide variety of perks.
The program is quite robust and somewhat resembles an airline or dining rewards program. It’s free to join, but riders won’t be automatically enrolled, so make sure you opt-in in the app.
Uber Rewards will only be active in eight cities and one entire state starting today, including New York City, Miami, Denver, Tampa, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego and New Jersey. However, it’ll be rolled out to the entire US over the coming few months, Holly Ormseth, senior product manager at Uber told TPG. If you’re not in one of the launch cities, you can sign up here to be notified when Uber Rewards comes to your town.
There’s two main aspects to the program: First the rewards you earn, and second, the different tiers of elite status you can attain and each perk that comes along with it.
Once you join Uber Rewards you’ll start earning points on rides and UberEats orders, Uber’s food delivery service, immediately. Points earning breaks down like this:
- 1 point per eligible dollar spent on UberPool and UberEats
- 2 points per eligible dollar spent on UberX, Uber XL, Select and WAV
- 3 points per eligible dollar spent on UberBlack, Black SUV and Lux
But how much are the points worth? Points are worth 1 cent apiece in Uber credit — once you’ve earned 500 points, you’ll get a $5 Uber Cash credit, which can be used toward future Uber rides and UberEats orders. For every additional 500 points you earn, you’ll receive another $5 credit.
What this essentially equates to is 1% back in Uber credit on UberPool rides and UberEats orders, 2% back on Uber’s flagship UberX product and 3% back when taking rides in high-end vehicles like UberBlack.
While the program isn’t insanely rewarding, it definitely has a solid return, especially considering that prior to the launch of Uber Rewards, no one was being rewarded at all. Even better, this stacks with points you’d earn from a credit card. So if you were charging a $50 UberX ride to a card like Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3x points on all travel purchases, you’d be earning 100 Uber points through Uber Rewards (essentially worth $1 in Uber credit) and 150 Ultimate Reward points (worth $3 according to TPG’s valuations).
There’s no cap on how many points you can collect, and you’ll even earn your own points on business rides charged to your employer’s account and when splitting rides with friends. Note that points are accrued based on a ride’s base fare and taxes and fees, but tips aren’t eligible for points earning.
Company reps also told TPG that Uber car rides outside the US and on the company’s JUMP e-bikes and scooters aren’t currently qualified to earn points, but plan to be added to Uber Rewards in the near future. If you’re in one of Uber Reward’s launch cities you’ll still earn points on rides taken outside of an area that hasn’t yet joined the program.
Earning elite status with Uber is relatively straightforward compared to some legacy airlines’ loyalty schemes. It really comes down to how many points you collect with Uber over a six-month period.
Like an airline, you’ll have a qualifying period to earn points toward elite status. These elite points are the same points you earn that can be redeemed for Uber credit and are accrued at the same rate.
In the case of Uber Rewards, each rider has six months to hit status. The earning period is tied to the date you joined Uber Rewards and when you obtain each level of status, you’ll stay at that tier for the remaining earning period and the next six months after that.
Here are the points needed to earn each elite tier (which appear to be inspired by other, more prominent loyalty schemes):
- Blue – requires no points
- Gold – requires 500 points earned in a six-month period (i.e. spend $250 on UberX rides)
- Platinum – requires 2,500 points earned in a six-month period (i.e. spend $1,250 on UberX rides)
- Diamond – requires 7,500 points earned in a six-month period (i.e. spend $3,750 on UberX rides)
For example, if you joined the program on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, the six-month earning period would last until May 14, 2019. If you unlock Gold on Feb. 1, 2019, you’d have Gold status from that date until Nov. 14, 2019, since you keep your status for the remainder of the earn period and the six months after that.
And there’s great news for riders who want a fast-track to status. Uber will automatically look at everyone’s ride history over the past six months and apply those eligible rides toward your elite status. So, it’s quite possible you’ll have status the minute you sign up for Uber Rewards.
Each elite tier comes with its own unique set of perks:
Blue – Access to earning reward points that can be redeemed for Uber rides and UberEats orders.
Gold – Over the past few years Uber has introduced fees if you can cancel your ride two or three minutes after ordering it. Now, if a Gold members cancels a ride after the fee-free cancellation period, but rebooks a new Uber within 15 minutes, you’ll automatically have the cancellation fee refunded (normally ~$5). Note that UberPool rides aren’t eligible for this benefit. This is a great perk, as TPG staff and readers have been dealing with ongoing issues around cancellation fees. You’ll also receive priority support when contacting Uber, meaning faster response times and being connected with better-trained support agents.
Platinum: The biggest benefit Platinum members enjoy is the ability to lock-in prices on one particular route. You’ll be able to change this route once a month, and price protection works in both directions — meaning you won’t be subject to surge pricing. This could be a real money-saver for commuters who incorporate Uber into their daily life. Uber recently introduced a similar feature called Ride Pass, but you have to pay $15 a month, so this gets you around that fee, albeit only on one route.
Platinum members also get priority pick-up at “most” airports where you’ll jump to the front of the digital queue. However, this doesn’t mean your car will be curbside in two minutes — you’ll still be subject to wherever the closest driver may be, which could be in an off-site parking lot. Platinum members also enjoy all the benefits of Gold members.
Diamond – Uber’s top level status is called Diamond, and riders get four more valuable extras by sitting on the loyalty program’s throne. Diamond members have dedicated phone support from Uber’s “most-experienced customer support agents.” Most exciting is that Diamonds receive complimentary surprise upgrades from UberX cars to premium products like UberBlack or UberSelect — although Uber doesn’t specify when or how you’ll be upgraded. Like Uber VIP, Diamonds have a special “UberX Diamond” option in your app if you want only want to be paired with highly rated drivers. Finally, Uber waives the delivery fee on three UberEats orders every six months for Diamond members, which could save up to $8 on each order. Diamond members also enjoy all the benefits of Gold and Platinum members.
Best Credit Cards for Uber
The The Platinum Card® from American Express gives a up to $200 in annual Uber credits, which is now added directly to your Uber Cash balance, and automatic Uber VIP status that matches you with highly rated drivers and luxurious cars. An Amex representative told TPG that Uber Rewards will not affect Platinum cardholders’ access to Uber VIP or their monthly Uber credit.
Uber Rewards is a great opportunity to stack your earnings by using the right credit card. These cards net the best return on spend with Uber:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve– 3x Ultimate Rewards points on all travel for a 6% return
- Chase Ink Business Preferred Card – 3x Ultimate Rewards points on all travel up to $150,000 in purchases a year for a 6% return
- Citi Premier Card – 3x ThankYou points on all travel for a 5.1% return
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card – 3x points for a 4.5% return
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – 2x Ultimate Rewards points on all travel for a 4% return
By pairing Uber Rewards with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could be earning a 7% back on Uber Pool rides (1% with Uber Rewards + 6% through Chase), 8% on UberX or a 9% return on UberBlack.
For road warriors and frequent Uber users, this is a big win. It’s only adding value to the current Uber experience — points can rack up at a decent rate with periodic travel, and benefits like Price Protection can save serious cash if maximized correctly. Uber’s created a win-win scenario by allowing travelers to earn and redeem points across the entire Uber ecosystem; it makes it easier for riders to use points but also creates an incentive to spend money solely with the company. Will people who use Uber a few times a month see a big change in their experience? Probably not, but it’s still much better than nothing.
Some of the perks like priority support and priority queue at airports seem a bit gimmicky and don’t feel like they’ll change the overall rider experience too much. Even the Diamond “surprise upgrades” already happen — I’ve been matched with UberBlack cars when requesting an UberX, since Uber gives these drivers the option to accept up UberX trips. Hopefully Diamond users will see plenty of these upgrades.
What’s more hopeful is that Uber plans on “evolving the program as needed” and will likely roll out other elite benefits and perks over the coming months. When asked about possible promotions like double points days or partnerships with other travel loyalty programs, Uber Director of Product Management Nundu Janakiram wouldn’t share any details but did say there are things are in the works.
“We know this isn’t the final benefits list,” said Janakiram.
It would be fantastic to see a partnership similar to Lyft and Delta’s integration where Lyft riders earn SkyMiles on every ride in addition to points in Lyft’s upcoming loyalty program. Janakiram also hinted at points being able to be redeemed for more than just Uber Cash credits.
Regardless, it’s great to see that Uber and Lyft both have their own rewards systems, and the increased competition will likely result in higher value and better service for consumers.
Featured image courtesy of Uber.
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