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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.

Read more:

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 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • 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

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees