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Are Uber and Lyft’s New Reward Programs Worth It?

Uber and Lyft simultaneously announced new reward programs this week, with both set to roll out in the coming weeks. Like the respective services themselves, both programs are similar but offer some nuanced differences—so users of both might be wondering which is more worthwhile.

Lyft Rewards

Let’s start with Lyft Rewards. Lyft hasn’t released the full details of its program yet, but it does say customers will earn a point in the program for each dollar spent. “Earn enough points and you’ll unlock a reward like an upgrade to Lyft Lux or savings on future rides,” Lyft says in a release. Riders will be able to check their point balance when they log into the app.

Looking ahead, Lyft says it’s “also exploring how we can keep making Lyft Rewards better over time. We hear you: Passengers want perks like ride upgrades, access to more-experienced drivers, and double-points days.” So it seems those benefits will become part of the program down the road.

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Uber Rewards

Uber Rewards is more clearly defined. The program is structured like a traditional airline frequent flyer program, with tiered reward levels—Blue, Gold, Platinum and Diamond—carrying increasingly valuable benefits.

“Once you’re in the program, you’ll start earning one point for every eligible dollar spent on UberPool and Uber Eats orders; two points for UberX, UberXL, Select, and WAV; and three points for Black and Black SUV,” the company said in a statement. “Once you earn 500 points, you’ll advance from Blue to Gold. At 2,500 points you’ll advance to Platinum. And at 7,500 points, you’ll advance to Diamond.”

You’ll also earn $5 toward your Uber Cash balance for every 500 points earned, regardless of your membership level.

The Gold membership tier includes flexible cancellation (you can cancel and rebook within 15 minutes and have the cancellation fee refunded), plus “priority support” for faster response times. Platinum members get those benefits plus price protection on a route, which lets you “lock in lower prices between your two favorite places on UberX, even during traffic or busy times.” Platinum members also receive priority pickups to reduce wait times at most airports.

Diamond Uber members will receive the Gold and Platinum benefits, plus dedicated phone support with fast 24/7 response times, complimentary surprise upgrades from UberX to premium products like Uber Black, and a special “UberX Diamond” option in the app that gives members access to highly-rated drivers. Diamond members can also skip the delivery fee on three Uber Eats orders every six months.

Uber Rewards will launch in phases over the coming months, with the initial roll out limited to Miami, New Jersey, Denver, Tampa, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta and San Diego.

Should You Join?

As with any loyalty program, the value of participation is dependent on how often you use the service already. It’s impossible to compare the programs yet, as neither is ready for use and Lyft hasn’t released nearly as many details about Lyft Rewards. But if you use either Uber or Lyft exclusively and often, there’s no reason not to enroll in either program. If you use Uber Eats there’s probably even more of an incentive to join Uber’s reward program. Why not receive something in return for the money you’re already spending?

The equation changes if you’re agnostic about Lyft and Uber, or don’t use either service regularly. Notably, Uber’s earnings period lasts six months, which means you have to do a lot of riding during a six-month stretch to both earn and utilize your rewards, and to maintain your rewards tier. Easy enough if you live in a city and use Uber ever day, but non-urban residents may find it challenging to hit those tiers consistently. You don’t want to overspend on rides just to chase those rewards tiers.

Will you be joining? Which one? Comment below.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

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