We make no secret about our use of rental cars, including cities and circumstances where we forgo renting a car. That's a common theme for business travelers, as ride-sharing transactions now exceed rental car transactions on expense reports. How do we get around when not using a personal vehicle, rental vehicle, or mass-transit? Like the rest of the population, we frequently use ride-sharing services such as market dominant Uber and Lyft instead of a taxi.

Note: We do provide a rating system for rental car companies but no endorsements or ratings for ride-sharing services.

However, any reader of the AutoSlash blog will realize that we always seek the best deals for our transportation needs! Yet it's hard to get discounted rates from the ride-sharing companies; unlike the rental car companies, Uber and Lyft don't release thousands of coupons. Instead, we focus on the opportunities to get free rides and/or loyalty points when catching rides. 

Not a User Yet?

Don't have an account with Uber or Lyft as of yet? Find a friend with a referral code* to use at the time of sign-up and there's a high probability your first fare will be without cost. On these "first-ride" bonuses, Uber is more transparent in our experience. When Uber provides an offer such as $20 off one's first fare, it's $20 off one's first fare. We signed up for Lyft under a promotion for "$20 in ride credits", which was only disclosed as $2 off each of the first ten rides in a 30-day period after enrollment.  

* We don't provide referral codes on our website but your friend will also get credit for your referral!

Speaking of referrals, that's a limited way of getting free fares. Each of the companies provides a benefit to the individual giving a valid referral. Referrals are not done by spamming on Facebook (friends might stop following you) or e-mail (friends might implement spam filters) but organic referrals can happen whenever a friend's thinking of taking a cab from point A to point B. The recent woes of the Washington D.C. Metro system garnered me multiple Uber referral credits from individuals who wanted to avoid the cost of cabs. 

Already a User of Uber and Lyft? 

Use credit card incentives for free rides 

A well-publicized benefit of the American Express Platinum card is $200 per year in Uber credit ($15 per month but $35 in December). The card is pricey and not for everyone -- the annual fee was just raised to $550 per year -- but the Uber benefit shouldn't be ignored by existing cardholders. We've mentioned this card in the past, as it also provides included benefits with multiple rental car companies. We've discovered a few nice touches about how AmEx has implemented this benefit:

  • The credit does not have to be used all at once. Have a short trip that's only an $8 fare? The remaining credit of $7 will still be available for the next trip.
  • The credit has worked on various Uber services, including UberEATS (but the Terms and Conditions state that shouldn't work).

Lack an American Express Platinum card? All Membership Rewards-eligible cards still earn double Membership Rewards points on Uber fares.

Earn hotel points at Starwood

Do you stay at Starwood Hotels? If so, you may want to take advantage of the crossover promotion between Starwood and Uber, where an enrolled user earns Starpoints on every Uber ride after completing one Starwood stay each year.

Starwood provides more points when the Uber rides occur during a stay.

Earn frequent flyer miles

Prefer to earn frequent flyer miles when using a ride-sharing service? American Express has the standing offer to earn double Membership Rewards points with Uber.

Prefer Lyft instead? The company offers two possible frequent flyer tie-ins -- Delta or JetBlue.

With Delta, a Lyft user can earn 1 SkyMile for each dollar spent on Lyft rides.

On the Lyft / JetBlue promotion, a rider earns 30 JetBlue points for every ride to/from the airport.

Through the Ibotta App

The Ibotta rebate program lists Uber as a participating partner and offers $1 per Uber ride. As Ibotta is a rebate program where customers "opt-in" to rebates, the rider only receives the Ibotta rebate if clicking the Ibotta link for Uber and then taking a ride within 30 minutes. We're more than happy to make a few clicks when we know we'll be paging an Uber in the near future! The app even offers periodic promotions for Uber; we were presented with a $5 Uber bonus (for a total of $6) on the day we enrolled. 

Earn points from a distressed retailer

Are you one of the few folks who still live near a Sears or KMart? The loyalty program of ShopYourWay Rewards has a rather inexplicable partnership with Uber where a rider can earn rewards points per ride based upon geographic area -- although not listed in the Terms and Conditions, we receive $2 in credit for each Uber trip (your mileage may vary). On occasion, we've even received these points on rides when there's no fare as a result of our American Express Platinum cards!

Pay for fares using gift cards

Uber has begun selling gift cards through major retailers. These sales mean there's frequently the ability to purchase Uber gift cards at a discount through third-party sellers. Other travelers we know purchase Uber gift cards at stores where they receive larger category-based rebates from their credit card companies (like grocery stores or office supply stores) and/or discounts on gasoline purchases.  

Limited time offers

The offers listed above are considered to be fairly permanent; no end date has been disclosed (although the Sears/KMart end date might be near). However, the companies have offered other limited-time offers. Our favorites were the two free Uber rides from airports promotion in late 2016 and the former Capital One / Uber partnership that originally offered 20% off all trips and later a free ride for every nine trips. When those promotions arise, we'll always let you know in the blog and on our Facebook feed


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