SHAME: Uber Is Ending Its Rewards Program With Less Than 3 Weeks’ Notice

Uber is terminating its rewards program. They’re dropping elite status. Customers who earned benefits – even just earning them this month – won’t receive their promised extra points, better customer service, or priority on airport pickups effective September 1. In fact there won’t even be any more points-earning.

Already they’d largely gutted the Uber Rewards programs.

  • They’ve eliminated upgrades as a top tier elite benefit
  • They’ve eliminated ‘price protection’ (no surge) from a single favorite route as an elite benefit
  • They’ve devalued the currency. At a minimum you used to get 1 cent per point (so a minimum 1% rebate on spend, higher for more premium or better margin products). Now it’s tough to get that, with new redemption options that require higher point totals for lower values.

Now they will end the program entirely.

You will still earn points and enjoy Rewards benefits including Flexible Cancellations, Priority Pickups at Airports, and Highly Rated Drivers until the end of the month. And there’s still time to get all the rewards you’ve earned: just use your points by October 31. You can redeem them from the Account section of your Uber and Uber Eats apps.

Redemptions have two additional months’ of runway, but you won’t be able to add to your points total to reach an award level. And rewards are much costlier than they used to be, there’s no more ‘500 points for $5’ anymore (indeed very few redemptions come close to offering a penny per point).

Uber is trying to push their paid subscription program Uber One and offering some members 3 months free of the benefit. It involves paying up-front for a discount, hopefully locking you into using their service over competitors.

They are ‘thanking’ members “for being a loyal Uber customer” – by dropping their rewards for loyalty. And doing it with almost no notice. That makes it far easier to just use Lyft (which can be far more rewarding for Chase customers, anyway).

Uber once had a vision far beyond transportation. They’d be intimately involved in moving people and things around cities. That would put them at the center of peoples’ lives.

So it made sense when they launched a rewards currency and a co-brand credit card that they might succeed with their own digital currency that was interoperable, far beyond Uber’s own ecosystem. But they’ve given up on their credit card (which was the primary way the currency was created). And now they’re even giving up on a rewards program. No more loyalty marketing engine and no more currency at all. For a company that once has just grand ambitions this is sad to watch.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I often find Lyft being cheaper than Uber.

    If not for the Amex credits and some other bank cards’ merchant offers for discounted Uber rides, I would use Uber less.

  2. Stinks. This was a reason to use Uber over Lyft if prices were the same. Now I guess I’ll just go with the cheaper option and call it a day.

  3. @David. No. Generally, consumers have little to no recourse when negative changes are made to loyalty programs. Every terms of service make clear they can modify or terminate the program at any time.

  4. I expect the pandemic has been pretty tough on all rideshare. My use of Uber has been way down since the pandemic started. Any expected change to Amex benefits?

  5. Some people still don’t understand that rational for-profit companies don’t give away any more of their product than they have to; airline loyalty programs set the gold standard for expectations about free stuff but no one expects every 5th gallon of milk to be free at a grocery store and airlines are constantly trying to cut redemption costs but the airline industry is still very competitive.

    Like it or not but Uber has grown large enough and has a high enough market share that they do not need to aggressively discount and provide a rich loyalty program to maximize revenue.

    If you are a customer looking for free stuff, the best revenge might be to start your own company and find enough customers to pay the bill so that you can ride as a business expense.

  6. UBER is wildly inconsistent in its service model. Too many drivers that have crappy cars, an unwillingness to follow basic recommendations (I’ve have drivers that wouldn’t shut off hip hop music, religious music etc.). Uber doesn’t let you rate drivers that cancel. Often 20 minute pickup time where drivers cancel with 1 minute left. Guaranteed scheduled pickup is a joke. I’ve ordered service for airport trips a day in advance and had drivers no show

  7. Lyft is always a better choice than Uber if you have the option. Good service is far more important than a few points.

  8. @Tim Dunn – you completely misunderstand the scaling back of Uber’s model, and therefore its potential growth. This has nothing to do with being a customer looking for free stuff (though terminating a program even as you are requalifying members for status *for the next six months* and not delivering on that is fundamentally dishonest).

    This is Uber dropping liabilities off of its balance sheet, cutting costs, and settling into being an unprofitable or low return business [Adjusted EBITDA margin of 1.3% and net loss of $2.6 billion in the second quarter] rather than a disruptor beyond just on demand transportation and food delivery.

  9. @Gary,
    I do completely understand the economics and the consumer aspects of what Uber is doing. They aren’t generating needed profits even though they dominate an industry; no rational company that is giving away inventory without generating sufficient returns is doing the right thing but esp. if you are as large in your industry as Uber is.
    Does it hurt to see your loyalty thrown out the window if you have been loyal to a company and they suddenly ditched the program, esp. on short notice? You better believe it. I am not arguing whether Uber did the right thing from a consumer or brand perspective. I am saying they are doing what they financially need to do and they are big enough that it won’t really cost them esp. in the long term.

  10. @ Gary — Uber and Lyft both suck. The cars smell like weed about 20% of the time. Drivers frequently do airport rides with their trunks filled with crap. Often, cars are filthy. I’ve actually started to wonder if a taxi may be better (probably not). Welcome to America, where too many people only seem to care about themselves.

  11. People like @Gene should take a step back and remember the cheapest uber and lyft cars were, and are, marketed as Joe Blow giving you a lift in his personal vehicle when he’s not at work. The fare isn’t meant to sustain a professional service. It’s more of a token gesture of gas money and gratitude.

    Uber and Lyft also offer professional cars and drivers. They cost a lot more. Their cars are clean and their trunks will be empty. They know the local area better and navigate you to a more suitable dropoff point by your destination in crowded city centers. Better than trying to get out on the street side from a double parked Prius on a major thoroughfare during rush hour.

    Welcome to America where you have a choice.

  12. Gave up on Uber when I moved to a small town just outside Phoenix. Pre-pandemic I flew frequently and used Uber almost exclusively to get back and forth to the airport. 100% reliable when I lived in town, 50% reliable when I moved just outside of town. Kicked them to the curb when I missed my flight after their third no-show to get me to the airport. All of my Uber rides, including the no-shows, were reserved and confirmed at least a week in advance. Been using Lyft ever since – no issues with them.

  13. @Gary – Even worse, some of the options have terms that make them a real scam.

    I had 600 points and no plans to increase that balance in the remaining weeks. So, I investigated options. I only had 2-3 and the one that made any sense to me at all was $3 off a Starbucks order (300 points for $3, so the best value I could find, to boot). Fine, click through to read details, and it’s a minimum order of $10… I don’t even drink coffee, I was planning on getting some cookies or something, so now I’m wondering if a max 30% discount is worth on what are probably 500% marked up baked goods. Whatever, I figure, I could discover my favorite new hipster banana bread or something. I redeem my points for the discount. A button pops up to use the points… but it doesn’t respond in any way. Weird, but I’ve hit Uber bugs before, so I go “back” and start looking for Starbucks. Surprise #2 – Starbucks is only available as a delivery, with a $3.99 delivery fee (at least in my area). That means it’s a 0% discount on actual food, and delivery won’t even be free (even if I stiff the driver on tip).

    TLDR – Uber Rewards is a scam, IMO. It often requires you to spend more than the discounts themselves are worth. I want that time back from my life, but since I can’t do that, I’ll probably just switch to Lyft.

  14. Uber drivers accept the ride and then cancel if they get a better fare on a different service before they arrive at your location. See Gary’s article from a few months ago. Paris in 2019, was stiffed five times by drivers in 30 minutes. Paris in May 2022, we’re actually in the car and the driver instructs us to get out of the car because he has another fare. Excuse me? Get out of my car! Manhattan in June 2022, I’m standing on the corner of Madison and 48th and reading an email on my phone. Driver stops, thinks I’m looking at the app and where my driver is. He tells me to cancel my ride on the app and he’ll drive me off-app for cheaper. I told him that I wasn’t waiting for a ride. He repeats his offer two more time. I tell him again that I wasn’t waiting for a ride. “Well, f*** you. I hope your f***ing driver f***s you on your f***ing fare. F*** you.” and drives off. Bottom of the barrel drivers across the board.

    Needless to say, the NYC driver was from the Bronx.

  15. “Drive me off-app for cheaper” HA — as if the driver knows what the rider’s paying. In the early days, a fare table was published (by miles and minutes), now, it’s a opaque quote and it goes up and down every minute.

    The driver’s behavior is exactly why we don’t have universal healthcare in this country. You would think it’s a noble good thing for all of us to be cared for, right? Then you run into a guy like that. Yeah, pay for your own healthcare.

  16. There is no such thing as “an Uber driver” or “a Lyft driver”. They are usually one and the same. Just have both apps open and pick the ride that comes up first and offers the most. I was one once, and it destroyed my car.

  17. Gary,
    the correct approach is the way exdriver says to view ride share services. There should be no loyalty for a commodity. Unless you step up to a limo, an urban ride is not much different from one company to another – or compared to your relative or neighbor.

    Uber clearly reconizes that its model wasn’t working and neither has Lyft’s from a financial perspective. Holding onto some idealistic business model that doesn’t make money is the fastest way to drive the company into the ground

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