Credit cards come up frequently in the rules of rental car reservations. In fact, the easiest way to rent a car is with a major credit card; those with debit cards (or no cards at all) often find that the "rules" listed in their reservations are only friendly to credit card holders. And over the years, most of the travel industry has embraced co-branded credit cards with American Express, MasterCard, or Visa so their most frequent customers can earn loyalty rebates. Those co-branded credit cards abound, including the ability to earn frequent flyer miles, hotel points, cruise points, railroad points, and even entertainment/resort points. Early next month, even ride-hailing (Uber) is getting a co-branded credit card but there are still no major credit cards that award points for a rental car company. For the frequent travelers in the world (and the AutoSlash team is among the bunch), we're able to easily earn loyalty points with pretty much all needed travel providers except the rental car companies and Greyhound. So what's the story with the Uber credit card?
Introducing the Uber Credit Card
There's one reason the AutoSlash team is excited about the Uber credit card from Barclays. Rental car companies have been losing market share among business travelers to ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber. An Uber credit card (if successful) could be the nudge to finally have a major rental car company oriented toward business travelers (like Avis, Hertz, or National) issue their own version of a credit card. Honestly, we would create an AutoSlash song and dance with a YouTube video if we got a solid credit card that earned Hertz points or National credits at a reasonable rate.
We like anything that makes our travel cheaper or more comfortable. Unlike some blogs, we don't advertise for credit cards in our posts, but we do point out the benefits of certain credit cards (such as elevated status with rental car companies for certain premium cardholders). The Uber credit card might be right for some but we're never going to make a recommendation on cards to carry, just like we never tell renters how to meet their insurance needs.
The card did have one point that made us read further -- no annual fee. From there, the card provides 4% cash back at restaurants and bars, 3% cash back on hotels and airfare, 2% cash back on online purchases (including Uber), and 1% cash back on everything else. Remarkably, the Uber card rewards food and beverage at twice the level as actual Uber expenses. And while the American Express Platinum Card gives Uber VIP status, an actual Uber credit card holder would not have that standing. There are some other benefits of the card, such as no foreign transaction fee, cell phone protection (if the monthly bill is paid with the card), and a $50 credit for online subscriptions after spending $5,000 each year. That last credit is for "eligible digital music, video and shopping subscription services" (which just might cover Amazon Prime) and is effectively another 1% bonus on that $5,000 spent. For a card with no annual fee, some subset of consumers could really take advantage of the card!
4, 3, 2, 1 ... Earth Below Us ...
The rebates earned on the credit card have the same value whether used for Uber rides, gift cards, or cash back. The common valuation no matter how the points are redeemed is pretty rare in the credit card industry -- cash back usually requires taking a massive discount compared to other redemption opportunities.
"Points can be redeemed for Uber credits directly in the Uber app. Points can also be redeemed for cash back or gift cards. All redemptions are at a 1% value."
We're probably going to pass on this new credit card but others will clearly value with this product. Services like Lyft and Uber will still be used when they meet our transportation needs. And in a perfect world for frequent rental car users, the rental car companies will decide to create a credit card to protect their market share. Why don't the rental car companies issue their own credit cards already? Well, that's a story for a different blog post ...
More Information about the Uber Credit Card