Ridesharing is no longer a new-fangled trend. This on-demand, app-based car service is now part of the norm and sometimes the preferred choice over traditional rides such as taxicabs, black cars, and public transportation. And it all started with Uber.
With 15 million trips completed every day, Uber serves 75 million riders with its network of 3 million drivers in more than 600 cities located in 65 countries. Not bad for a startup that serviced only San Francisco black-car livery when it launched in 2010.
Even as competitors enter the fray, Uber remains a leader not only in size but also in services as the company has since expanded into food delivery, shipping, and e-scooters as well as invested in future opportunities in air travel and self-driving vehicles.
But back to ride sharing. If you’re a newbie, Uber is as good a place to start as any. Below is a basic how-to on traveling about with Uber.
There are two ways to sign up for Uber: the website and the app. Although you can request a ride from your web browser, chances are you’ll be utilizing the app 99% of the time. Might as well get acquainted with navigating Uber on your phone by setting up your account there.
Creating your rider profile requires the basic information for signing up with any other service or retailer: name, email, password, phone number, and payment method. Now, the payment section could take the longest to setup up because, as mentioned earlier, with Uber you’ve got choices. And when it comes to handing over your hard-earned money, you’ve got five options: credit or debit card, PayPal, Venmo, commuter benefit cards, and Uber Cash.
Commuter benefits, which might be unfamiliar to many, are workplace programs that, using pre-tax dollars, cover public transportation for employees with monthly commuting expenses. Uber currently accepts 16 prepaid commuter cards for payment.
Uber Cash, on the other hand, works like a store card. You can reload it with any amount at any time, but you can only use it with Uber. However, adding to your Uber Cash balance will fetch you bonuses of up to 5%. Also, your Uber Cash funds never expire, and everyone automatically gets an account, but more on why later.
Oh, and don’t forget to add a promo code. Of Uber’s 75 million users, you’re bound to know one of them who, in turn, can get you a discounted first ride (up to $20). Your promo-sharing friend will receive a $5 bonus as well. Keep in mind that these promos expire 60 days after being issued.
How Much for How Far?
Before requesting a ride, you can calculate a fare estimate via the website or app. Just plug in your “from” and “to” locations. You don’t even have to log in to receive an estimate on the website.
Both the app and website will show you real-time pricing, which will vary by location, time, traffic, and demand. The latter is infamously known as “surge pricing,” and occurs when there are more riders than available drivers. This generally happens during special events, rush hour, and inclement weather.
UberX (economy), UberXL (economy for groups up to 6), and Select (premium cars) are the most common services. Other available options may include:
- UberPOOL – low-cost option that splits fares with strangers traveling along the same route
- UberTAXI – just like it sounds
- Black – livery car that isn’t a limo
- ASSIST – for riders with limited physical mobility
- SUV – like UberXL but not a van
- WAV – wheelchair accessible
Clicking on each option will also provide details on seating capacity, estimated arrival time, and per-minute wait-time fee (if applicable). Because Uber is an on-demand service, a wait-time fee will begin a few minutes after a driver arrives and continue until the rider shows up and the trip begins. This doesn’t apply to airports, though, and should you cancel, a fee will be charged in lieu of wait-time fees.
Pick Me Up
Once you decide what vehicle you’d like and how many seats you need (sidebar: UberPOOL limits seat reservations to two), confirm your pick-up location and wait. Right there. Unless your driver’s ETA is 20 minutes, don’t pop into the corner bodega for a breakfast roll or a coffee shop for a latte. Wait-time fees, remember?
Don’t jump into a random vehicle with an Uber sign, either. Once you confirm your ride, you’ll receive information about your driver, such as their name, photo, customer rating, and vehicle specifications including make, model, color, and license plate. Although a driver will always confirm your name, it’s best you also confirm their identity.
Upon arrival, by habit most passengers will opt for the back seat, but you’re more than welcome to sit in the front, too. Unlike a taxi, Uber drivers use their personal vehicles. But confirm with the driver first as they might have a preference as well or their personal effects may already be occupying the front seat.
During your trip, you can follow along the route, update your payment method, add a stop or change your destination (additional charges apply), split the fare with a fellow Uber rider, share your status, rate your driver, and leave a tip – all within the app.
Enjoy the Ride
Still, not everything will run smoothly 100% of the time. Check out these additional tips to help you navigate the Uber-sphere for a pleasant and safe experience.
- Add a photo so your driver and other riders can identify you.
- Double-check the vehicle’s license plate. There are a lot of silver Toyota Camrys in the world. A lot.
- If you’re meeting someone(s), share your trip status so they know your current location and when to expect you.
At your destination
- Leave a tip. Not initially offered, you can now reward your driver for their service.
- Give a rating. And leave a comment – good or bad – regarding your trip. Driver ratings are important as too much negative feedback will warrant a review and possible loss of driving privileges. As a rider, you are also rated.
Ways to save
- Avoid surge pricing by avoiding the scrum. At a concert? Grab a post-show snack until the crowds settle. Bad weather? Leave for your destination earlier.
- Opt in for Visa Local Offers. If you use an Uber-paired credit/debit card at a partner retailer or restaurant, a cash-back bonus is automatically added to your Uber Cash stash. (This is partly why every Uber account is automatically linked to Uber Cash.)
- Take advantage of Uber Cash’s purchase bonus of 2-5% if you use the ride-sharing app regularly.
- An über fan of Uber? Sign up for their co-branded Visa credit card. Purchase points can be converted into cash back, gift cards, or Uber Cash.
- Create payment profiles if you’re keeping track of expenses. You can designate payment types as personal and business as well as attach specific emails for e-receipts.
- Add frequently traveled places, like work, into the address book to save time.