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Start checking Uber and Lyft as soon as you land

Aug. 21, 2022
5 min read
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Given how frequently I fly, I’m fortunate to live pretty close to my home airport. Normally, when I forgo parking fees and take a nine-minute Uber or Lyft ride to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), it costs between $14 and $16.

As most frequent ride-hailing customers know, though, the price you actually find when you plug in a ride is not always what you’d expect. This was particularly true in 2020 and 2021, when driver shortages fueled a combination of long waits and often unpredictable surge pricing.

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After a flight earlier this year, I plugged my address into Uber as I walked toward ground transportation. I was surprised to find the cost at almost $40 for the brief ride. It was a similar story on the Lyft app.

I pondered going to get a taxi, but instead decided to just wait a bit and then check back; I accepted the fact that I’d probably be sitting around for a half hour in hopes of overpaying by $15 to $20, instead of by $25 or more.

After just two or three minutes, though, I was pleasantly surprised that the fare didn’t just drop by half ... it dropped right back to where I’d normally expect it. I paid a quite typical $14.97 for the ride home.

(Screenshot from Uber)

It’s a reminder that the price you find when you plug a route into your ride-hailing app can largely be a snapshot in time. If you’re hoping to save money, there are a few tactics you can try, whether you’re landing at an airport or leaving a busy gathering.

Look early, check often

A variety of factors drive the price you’ll pay for a ride through ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Namely, it’s a supply-and-demand equation: If a lot of people are looking for rides and a relatively small number of drivers are available, there’s a good chance you’ll pay more.

It’s the reason you can end up paying a lot more than normal when trying to get a ride after a concert, sporting event or at an airport after a bunch of flights just landed.

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As I learned earlier this year, the price can change dramatically from one moment to the next, so one of the best things you can do is monitor the situation as closely as possible.

This means checking your Uber or Lyft app as soon as you land, potentially while you’re still in your seat on the plane.

If it’s going to be a 25-minute wait for a ride, this may be a good time to go ahead and book your ride (or at least once you’re off the plane).

Checking early can both give you a good sense of how long you might be waiting for a ride — and thus when you might want to book it — and what the prices are.

If the fare is higher than you’re expecting, you may want to take your time heading to the airport exit, refreshing the app to see if the prices start trending downward again. If you find a great fare, it may be a good time to hustle to the pickup area so you can lock the good price in before it spikes.

Of course, if you book your ride early, it's important to be sure you have enough time to actually make it to the rideshare pickup area before your ride arrives, or else you could face cancellation fees. So be sure to consider factors like how long it will take you to walk to the pickup area, and whether you checked luggage before locking in a ride.

(Photo by LPETTET/iStock/Getty Images)

Consider other Uber, Lyft app functions

If you don't think fares on Uber or Lyft are going to come down or if you’re waiting and not having any luck, you may want to consider one of the other functions the apps offer.

In addition to sharing and splitting a ride with a stranger — a more feasible option now than it was during the height of the pandemic — there are also ways to essentially de-prioritize yourself in the queue in favor of a better fare.

Namely, Lyft has a "wait and save" function where you can delay your pickup a bit but enjoy a discount on your ride. This could be an especially useful option when you’re still far away from the pickup area.

There are also ways to book a ride in advance, locking in your price ahead of time. For instance, Uber Reserve is available for typical rides as well as for pickups from dozens of airports nationwide; you can schedule it up to 30 days ahead of time, and your driver will be alerted of your flight status. Be sure to check and see if the price is right before booking this way.

Bottom line

Even though more drivers have joined Uber and Lyft in recent months, there are still times when you’ll find fares far higher than you’d like when trying to get a ride from an airport. By beginning your ride-searching process as soon as you land — and checking back often — or using the alternative ride options the apps offer, you may be able to ward off unpleasant wait times and prices.

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Featured image by (Photo by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees