Both of these giants of the on-demand ride economy offer perks for frequent riders. But which one does it better?
Taxicabs have had their day; dirty cars, unfriendly drivers, and overpriced rides with automatic machines suggesting as much as 30 percent tips have met their match with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. While some city regulators debate the merits and legality of ride sharing, many argue that they have brought down the cost of transportation in major cities and forced taxicabs to improve their services.
So, which one to choose—Uber or Lyft—and why? Let’s take a look at the merits of each when it comes to scoring points, miles, and perks.
Uber is the larger of the two and offers service in more than 600 cities worldwide with options beyond the typical transfer. Uber Pool allows you to share a car with other people traveling in the same general direction while the more upscale Uber Black delivers a driver in a sedan with the click of a button. There’s also Uber XL, which provides luxury vehicles on demand.
Uber followed Lyft’s lead and now offers the ability to tip rideshare drivers within the app in many cities. What Uber does differently, however, is operate its own sort of elite status program known as Uber VIP, which is only offered in select cities to the app’s most frequent riders. It doesn’t award points, but it does offer access to the highest-rated drivers and the occasional promotion.
Point lovers oohed and aahed over Uber’s partnership with Starwood Preferred Guest, which for years awarded points for each dollar spent. Sadly, that heyday ended last year, but there are still some merits for choosing Uber if you’re interested in bonuses.
For example, if you hold the American Express Platinum credit card, one of the benefits is a $15 Uber credit per month. Link your Amex card with the Uber app, and it should automatically use the $15 credit each month toward one U.S. ride cost. Membership Rewards members earn double Amex points for every dollar they spend, and Platinum cardholders are automatically awarded Uber VIP Platinum status, which offers occasional discounts and perks in select cities.
While Uber is integrated into the United Airlines app, no miles are awarded for using it. You can, however, earn cash back with the new Uber Visa Card. Within the first 90 days, cardholders can earn a $100 credit for spending at least $500 on the card. There are also numerous category bonuses, such as 4 percent cash back on dining (including UberEATS) and 2 percent cash back on any online purchase including Uber. Hotel and airfare purchases with the card earn 3 percent cash back.
Lyft runs a smaller operation with service in U.S. cities only. Beyond traditional rides, the app has the option to order an SUV for larger groups while Lyft Premier picks up riders in luxury vehicles. Lyft Line is the company’s discounted carpool option for those traveling in a similar direction.
Drivers became quick fans of Lyft because it allowed riders to leave tips via the app instead of dealing with cash. It took Uber quite awhile to catch up (although they now have). Another nifty option Lyft offers is the ability for riders to round up their ride fares, which can be donated to charity. There is no rider loyalty program, but the company does offer a new All-Access Plan. By purchasing a “subscription” to the service for $299 each month, passengers receive 30 rides (up to $15 each) for no additional cost—plus 5 percent off any extra rides taken within the month.
There’s a valuable partnership between Delta and Lyft where SkyMiles members earn one mile for every dollar they spend on journeys with the ridesharing service, plus two bonus miles for every dollar when they take their Lyft rides to the airport. You won’t score a free flight quickly, but linking your accounts can certainly help to top up your mileage account and keep the balance active. Through a partnership between Lyft and JetBlue, Lyft also offers riders 30 TrueBlue points for every trip to the airport taken in the United States. Members can also earn 750 points for signing up and linking their accounts.
There are alternatives, too
Blacklane offers riders access to traditional and luxury vehicles, although the rides are not as cheap as Uber and Lyft. The company partners with Miles and More, the frequent flier program of Lufthansa, to award two miles for each euro spent on ground transportation (even in the United States).
Carey luxury and executive town cars can now be booked through an app, and points can be awarded for each ride through the Carey Rewards Club.
Of course, there’s always Super Shuttle, which offers miles with several different airlines for booking a ride.
For sheer volume of destinations and opportunities to use it, Uber is our ride-sharing winner. While the loss of Uber’s partnership with Starwood Preferred Guest stings, here’s to hoping the Uber Visa card, which allows you to turn credit card points into Uber cash, picks up the slack.
This article originally appeared online in January 2018; it was updated in October 2018 to include current information.
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