Tim Foolery

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Uber Flat Fares – Worth It or a Waste?

Late last week, I received a promotional email from Uber.  Let me start by saying I haven’t taken a traditional taxi in a very long time – I almost exclusively take UberX when needing transit (that is when I’m not taking proper public transportation).  When traveling for work, I don’t rent cars, but take UberX constantly.

This promotional email was akin to an email I got last year, just with updated pricing.  The new promotion allows you to get fixed price Uber rides for 30 days.  You can snag an UberX for $4.49 per trip or UberPool for $2.49.  There is a one time activation fee of either $10 or $20 depending on how many rides you want.  For $10 you have a maximum of 20 rides at this price and for $20, you get 40 rides.  You can only have one promotion active at once, but with either option (20 or 40 rides) you cane use them for either UberX or UberPool.

Last time this promo came out, the math didn’t work out for me, but this time I pulled the trigger.  Unfortunately these rides won’t get you to or from the airport, but they do get you pretty much anywhere else in Chicago you’d want to go.  Last time the map didn’t go as far as my house, so it made absolutely no sense for me.

So, how does the math work out?  I chose 40 rides – so with the $20 activation fee, if I end up taking all 40 rides, I’ll have spent $199.60 ($20 + 40*$4.49) or on average $4.99 per ride.  That’s a killer deal.  But what happens if you don’t use all 40 of your rides?  Well for me that was an easy decision.  On Friday night I was going to dinner in Streeterville – which is easily a $15 UberX ride, then I’d be coming home, another $15.  I used my first two rides for this dinner – even if I don’t ever use Uber again in the next 30 days, I ended up saving about $1 by signing up for this service.

I’m confident this will be a decent financial decision for me.  My biggest concern is that I’ll end up taking UberX more than I do now – for example if I’m running late for the train, I’ll just slow down and Uber into the office for $5 (My train ticket costs about $3.50 right now).  This also means that I’ll be much less active (when taking the train I end up walking about 45 minutes each day, just transiting to/from the stations).

You can further reduce the cost by ensuring that you charge your fares to a points earning credit card (Chase Sapphire Reserve nets you 3 points per dollar spent), plus you can get Starwood Points for all Uber rides too.

Other cties ended up getting this deal as well.  I’ve heard from friends in Boston, LA and DC who’ve signed up for their respective promotions.  Did you get a notice of this promo in your city?  How does the math work out in your world? I’m sure this type of promo will continue to pop up, but the price will be adjusted until the team at Uber finds an equilibrium point, where they still make money and consumers are getting just enough value to keep the promo going — does that mean that the drivers are getting screwed?  Probably.

What do you say? Does this Uber deal make sense for your transit needs?


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