What happened to those sweet Uber deals where the price of getting from here to there beat every other mode of transportation except walking? The pandemic, that’s what happened.
Tales of fares that are at least double of what was being paid last year are all over social media and in news publications. Someone even told the New York Times that his Uber fare from Midtown Manhattan to John F. Kennedy airport was as much as his flight to San Francisco. And he produced the $250 receipt to prove it.
Could an Uber Pass have helped? Possibly. Let’s explore the benefits of membership.
What is Uber Pass and How it Can Help You Save on Rides
The Uber Ride Pass subscription service first emerged in 2018 in select cities. Now, you can subscribe to Uber Pass in more than 200 cities nationwide.
The ride-share company expanded the program last year during the pandemic, though it closed the program in California due to the ongoing battle with the state, which was trying to require Uber to label its drivers as employees, not contractors.
Uber Pass is a monthly subscription that costs $24.99. For me here in Cincinnati, that’s about the cost of a 20-minute Uber ride, give or take. Uber calculates your price based on time of day and distance of a trip, plus any booking fees and surge pricing depending on location (New York City is way more expensive than Cincinnati, for example) and demand.
Assessing the Benefits of Uber Pass
What do you get for $24.99 a month to make Uber Pass worth the cost? Here are four things to consider:
1. Uber Pass Includes Members-Only Discounted Rides
In general, you will save 10% on Economy rides and 15% on Premium rides. Economy includes UberX, UberXL, Uber Green and Uber Comfort rides while Premium includes only Uber Black, Premier and SUV rides.
To recoup your $24.99 monthly fee from this benefit alone, you would need a monthly Uber ride expense of about $250. Spend a cent more, and it’ll have already paid for itself.
But discounted rides are not the only perk of Uber Ride Pass.
2. Uber Pass Protects You Against Surge Pricing
Surge pricing is a frustrating concept for riders: When there are more customers requesting rides than there are drivers to give them, Uber charges riders more because the company offers more to drivers to go to surge areas (like a popular bar right after it closes on a holiday).
This — increased demand and fewer drivers — is happening on a larger scale now. While surge pricing is typically limited to popular destinations, often at open and close, riders are seeing it more and more due to the nationwide shortage of Uber drivers.
Uber Ride Pass protects you from this surge pricing. It’s quite a clever strategy from Uber: Uber ups the prices of its rides, then asks you to pay more for its monthly service that protects you against those rising prices. Either way, Uber wins.
That said, if you Uber frequently, you may win too.
3. Uber Pass Makes Grocery Delivery More Affordable
The global pandemic dramatically increased the number of families who rely on grocery delivery from apps like Instacart. Uber was a little late to the game, introducing grocery delivery in limited markets in July 2020 through its partnership with Cornershop.
If you live in an area with this service, Uber Ride Pass may make even more sense, as the $24.99 monthly subscription gets you free delivery on all grocery orders at eligible stores. And a reminder that a good client and person tips even when the delivery is free.
4. Uber Pass is Linked With Uber Eats
Many fully vaccinated people are returning to their pre-pandemic habits, but whether you were a homebody before COVID-19 or you are still not sure about returning to the outside world, food delivery via Uber Eats is a great solution.
But as someone who has placed a lot of Uber Eats orders (… and Door Dash orders … and Grubhub orders …), I can attest to how much more expensive it is to have your food delivered than to just go pick it up. (And a reminder that you absolutely should tip your food delivery drivers, no matter which app you choose!)
Luckily, Uber Pass gets you free delivery fees on all eligible restaurant orders. In fact, with select restaurants, Uber has brokered a deal to save Uber Ride Pass members 5% on their orders.
Should I Get Uber Pass?
A subscription to Uber Pass gets you a lot of perks, but for most average Uber users, it may not be worth the monthly fee.
However, if you don’t have a car and depend on Uber for regular errands, like groceries (whether buying in person or having delivered), doctor’s appointments and nights out on the town, it could be a worthy investment.
Take a look at your account history in the Uber app. If your usage dipped during the pandemic, analyze your 2019 usage. Were you averaging $250 more a month? If so, you should consider an Uber Ride Pass subscription. If not, it probably makes sense to try to save money some other way, like carpooling or public transportation.
You can save money on Uber rides by using UberPool, where you ride to a shared destination or on a similar route with strangers. Remember to mask up.
If you sign up for Uber Pass and determine it’s not worth the $24.99, Uber lets you cancel anytime; you won’t be locked into a contract.
How Do I Get Uber Pass?
Getting Uber Pass is easy. Just open the Uber app on your phone, click the menu button in the upper left and click on Uber Pass to get started. The rideshare company will automatically charge the credit card you have on file in the Uber app for rides.
Often, Uber will be running some kind of promotion for the Ride Pass. For example, Uber is currently offering me one week free. But because I use Uber maybe once every other month, I think I’ll pass.
Uber Pass vs. Uber Rewards
You may have heard of Uber Rewards, a loyalty program that comes with its own perks, but it’s important to note that this is different from Uber Pass.
Unlike Uber Pass, Uber Rewards is free to join. Open the Uber app to get started; you’ll find the Uber Rewards link right above Uber Pass.
There are four levels of Uber Rewards. You level up by taking more and longer rides.
For every dollar you spend on UberPool, Express Pool or Uber Eats, you’ll earn one point; for every dollar you spend on UberX, UberXL, Uber Green, Uber WAV/Assist, Uber Comfort, Uber Connect, Uber Pet and Uber Select, you’ll earn two points. And for every dollar you spend on Uber Black and Uber Black SUV, you’ll earn three points.
Uber Rewards Levels
- Blue: From 0 to 499 points, you are considered a Blue member. There are no real perks at this level.
- Gold: From 500 to 2,499 points, you are considered a Gold member. You’ll get priority support and flexible cancellations.
- Platinum: From 2,500 to 7,499 points, you are considered a Platinum member. You’ll get all the perks of Gold, plus favorite route point boost (earn 10 reward points for every dollar when you take a specific route, like your commute to the grocery each week) and priority airport pickups.
- Diamond: At 7,500 points, you will top out as a Diamond member. You’ll get all the perks of Platinum, plus premium support, highly rated drivers, premium rides point boost and double points on Uber Eats. Uber also promises complimentary upgrades as available.
Why Did Uber Get So Expensive?
Though unemployment has fallen from the perilous 14.8% at the start of the pandemic (the largest recorded in U.S. history), businesses across the globe and across industries are still facing worker shortages.
Last year, people were stuck at home, wondering if Carole Baskin fed her husband to a tiger. But this year, fully vaccinated individuals are returning to their ways of life, ready for a good meal, a strong drink and a safe ride home.
Research firm Rakuten Intelligence recently reported that the cost of an Uber ride skyrocketed by 37% year-over-year in April 2021. May was even worse at a 40% increase.
The only problem? The continued employee shortage means companies are not ready to meet the demand, from fast food chains to amusement parks to ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft.
This has created quite the surprise for Uber customers who, before the pandemic, likely grew accustomed to fast pickups and low fares. Now, customers everywhere are facing longer wait times and higher prices for an Uber ride.
For city dwellers who Uber frequently, this can become unmanageable. The same goes for folks who use Uber to get them safely home from parties or bars.
Timothy Moore is a managing editor for WDW Magazine and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like Codetic, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor, Aol and The News Wheel.