I grew up in the outer end of Brooklyn, and as I got older and started to work in Manhattan, long subway rides became a way of life. I spent many years of my life taking the F train from what felt like the beginning of the line to the end, and I didn’t even imagine an alternative because, well, there weren’t any.
After I graduated from college and got my first full-time job, I did ultimately move to a part of Brooklyn closer to the city, and a better subway line (Q train for life, baby!) But when the pandemic began, I became extra careful and limited my crowded commutes — essentially, when I went somewhere, I did it via rideshare. But like many Americans, with inflation and covid concerns, my budget is now tighter than ever. Unfortunately, these rides are also more expensive than ever, so along the way, I’ve found some ways to save where I can. Here’s a look at what I learned — and how you can save on rideshares, too.
First, Always Compare Costs
I have a variety of apps, from Uber and Lyft to Via and at one point, Juno, downloaded to my phone. I open and check them all for the cheapest ride every time I am about to book a ride somewhere. “Sure, Uber was cheaper yesterday, but you may save more with Lyft today,” says Erica Seppala, a Financial Analyst at MerchantMaverick.com. There are even apps like RideGuru that make it easy to compare pricing across rideshare companies, as well as limo and taxi services.
Got a birthday coming up? Uber and Lyft gift cards are a great gift idea, and it’s always the first thing I ask for when clients or friends ask me what I want for an occasion. But it’s also a good idea to buy gift cards yourself, for yourself. Why? Sometimes gift cards are sold for as much as 10% off face value, which means — you guessed it — a ride that’s 10% cheaper.
Use your rewards credit card
We’ve long used our rewards cards to build up miles to book flights, but the same skill set can be very useful with rideshare apps, too. Rewards cards can help you earn points, app credit or “miles,” but sometimes there are also lesser-known bonus rewards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card lets you earn 3 points for every dollar spent on any travel, including these apps. Also, if you’re a Hilton Honors member, Lyft lets you link your account in order to earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Lyft rides and 2 Points per $1 spent on shared Lyft rides. Also, if you use your Delta Skymiles card to pay for your Uber, you earn future miles. And with the American Express Platinum card, users get $15 monthly credits, plus access to VIP drivers. And no matter what kind of credit card you have, most rewards cards let you cash in your “cashback” points on whatever you’d like — and this includes rideshare.
Be Flexible With Timing
During the busiest times of the day, pricing for rideshare services can increase significantly – think double the price of regular fares, sometimes more. Even if you rarely use rideshare apps, you might have seen something pop up on screen that says “surge pricing in effect” or something similar — this means that an increase in demand for drivers has pushed prices higher. But paying more isn’t inevitable. “Try to schedule your plans around these busier prime times to see significant savings. Even waiting an extra ten or fifteen minutes can help you save money on fares, so be flexible with your plans and timing whenever possible,” says Seppala. If your schedule is flexible, take advantage of this, and try to travel an hour before or after this busier time. And avoid popular intersections — believe it or not, walking a few blocks in either direction on both ends of your ride can sometimes help your price go down significantly. (Editor’s note: I recently walked from 6th Ave. to 3rd Ave. in Midtown Manhattan and watched my Uber drop in price from $34 to $14.)
Use coupon codes
Rideshare services frequently offer promotions, so make sure to look online for coupon codes before booking. Yes, it takes a couple of extra seconds to Google, but it’s well worth it, since one-day-only promotions often pop up when you least expect them. “While a few dollars doesn’t seem like much, this can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings over the course of a year,” says Seppala. Also, don’t forget to look for in-app details for current promos, and check out sites like Honey or Rakuten. (They aren’t just good for tangible purchases, they’re good for travel, too!)
Sign up for subscriptions
Depending on where you live, you may be able to lock in lower rideshare prices by signing up for a ride package or subscription. For example, Lyft has “Lyft Pink” and Uber has “Uber One.” However: “This option should only be used if you are a frequent rideshare user. If you only use these services occasionally, the subscription fee or package pricing may be an unnecessary expense,” says Seppala. Make sure though that the expense of the membership makes sense based on what you are actually spending and saving. If a monthly membership fee for a rideshare is $25 a month, but in having that membership, you save 15%, that only works out in your favor if you’re spending a few hundred a month on rides. (Which, some of us are, and TBH it’s still cheaper than a car payment. Just make sure you do the math first.)
Know when it may be time to hail a taxi
Often, rideshare services are less expensive than hailing a taxi cab. There are, however, a few exceptions. “Surge pricing can drive up the cost of ridesharing during peak times, so getting a taxi may be the cheaper option,” says Seppala, who explains that taking a taxi in congested areas may be the less expensive choice, while going longer distances (with less traffic) is better with rideshare services. “No matter what you choose, always remember to compare costs before hailing a ride.”
More from HerMoney:
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- Why You’re Paying More for Uber, Lime and So Much More
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