Tag Archives: uber

The cheapskate’s guide to getting around New York

New York is an expensive place, as you might expect. A basic lunchtime set meal starts upwards of US$15, a weekly pass on the subway costs US$31 (A single ride on the subway will cost you $2.75, regardless of how far you’re going), and if you’re not into NY tapwater (which regularly wins awards for being the ‘champagne of tapwater’), a 330ml bottle will set you back US$1.60 every time you chug.

That doesn’t mean the seasoned travel hacker can’t find ways and means of saving money though, especially on transport.

I’m assuming everyone here uses Uber already so I’m going to skip that because whatever sign up bonus you’d have must have been used already. But the US is the land of competition, and there are numerous other ridesharing services, each keen to offer you some sign up credit for free.

Protip: If you’re going into Manhattan from JFK/EWR, you can get $35 flat fare Uberpool rides. That’s a good deal in my book, and cheaper than a yellow cab.

If you know how to use Uber, there’s no reason why you can’t figure out the following


Lyft is available in pretty much every major US city including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Portland and Seattle.

If you use my code AARON761045 you get $20 in credit when you take your first ride.

But…depending on your travel patterns you may be more interested in the generic Lyft offer of $5 off each of your first 10 rides.

If you’re taking a single long trip, my code makes more sense. If you’re taking several short trips (like I did in NY), then use Lyft’s generic offer to maximize your value.  Decide what makes more sense for you and go with that

I maximised my $5 off 10 rides in NY by using Lyft Line, Lyft’s equivalent of Uberpool. Trips in NY are generally short in distance but long in time (Due to traffic). I was able to hop around distances of 20-30 blocks without spending more than $2-3 of my own money. Take that, public transportation!

I also found Lyft Line extremely useful in DC, where fares are a lot lower than New York.


I can’t think of more than a handful of times when I had to share my Lyft Line with anyone else. Drivers were uniformly excellent. I had one who simply wouldn’t believe me when I told him the Toyota Camery he was driving would cost about $100,000 in Singapore. I told him I couldn’t believe his country was about to elect either Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton. “Touche”, he said.

I struggle to think of a single difference between Lyft and Uber, except that after your ride Lyft prompts you to select a tip amount for your driver, along with the rating. Everything else works the same way.


Via is yet another ridesharing startup that is going to change the way we travel yada yada yada.

Here’s the hook: All rides within Manhattan (South of 125th street) are just $5, regardless of distance. That’s right, $5. I got $10 of free Via credit when I signed up, and you can too with the code: aaron5g5

I’m sure this is promotional pricing and it’s not sustainable in the long run, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.Via operates in Manhattan south of 125th Street, as well as the JFK + LGA airports.

Via works like this- you enter where you are and where you want to go.


The system will match you with a passing by Via. You’ll see here that I’ve been given a routing that sees me get picked up in 3 minutes. Via quotes expire about 30 seconds after they’ve been made, after which you’ll need to get a new one.


To improve efficiency, Via will pick you up and drop you off within 2 blocks of where you need to go. This involves some walking on your part, but if you’re the only passenger in the car the drivers gladly drop you at the door.

Here’s the other catch about Via- there are operating hours. Presumably, its $5 pricing model means it’s only economical to offer Via when it can fill up those vehicles with as many passengers as possible, so they operate during periods when that’s most likely to happen.

Via operates weekdays, 6am to midnight, Saturdays 10am to midnight, and Sundays 10am to 9pm. 

The full pricing model can be found here, if you’re interested.

Via was a lifesaver when I wanted to get to JFK upon leaving NY. I left the hotel at 4pm for an 8.55pm departure (so I could enjoy more of that lovely Virgin Clubhouse, more on that to follow!) on a Friday. 4pm seems like a good time to avoid the evening rush! I told myself confidently.

The usual UberX fare to JFK is about US$55. If you opt for UberPool it will be about US$47. So when I see this…


US$102.93? Methinks surge pricing has gone a little bit crazy right now.

No problem. I’ll use Lyft Line!

Wait, what?


$94.74. Hmmm….

The alternative was to get a yellow taxi and pay $52 + tolls and tip, which would bring it closer to $65. But I get stressed out when tipping and besides there wasn’t a yellow taxi in sight.

Then I remembered- Via has flat $39.95 rides to JFK. Plus, I had $10 of credit I could use, bringing down the price to $29.95. Horrary!


I ended up sharing my ride with a very stressed Australian lady who had a 6pm flight. We ended up getting to the airport at about 5.45pm, meaning she missed her plane. I suppose there’s a teachable moment here about overbudgeting travel time.


Gett offers new riders $10 of free credit. I never actually used this when I was there but if you’ve exhausted your Via and Lyft credits here’s another $10 to get you around (sign up code: GTUADGI)




Juno is a competing rideshare app to Uber that is currently still in its beta phase. 

I didn’t actually try Juno while I was there, but it’s still in beta mode and has a 25% off fares which puts it cheaper than Uber. It also does not have surge pricing.  You can read about Juno here. No free credit for sign ups, but 25% off and no surge pricing will save you a pretty penny on your trips if you don’t fancy using the subway.


The NY subway is great and all, but assuming you’re staying for one of those awkward periods that makes the unlimited 7 day $31 pass not economical and buying individual $2.75 passes each time you ride not a good deal either, then you can leverage all this free rideshare credit to save money on your transport.

Of course the advice here can be applied to pretty much any big US city where these ridesharing services operate, but I find that a lot of them launch in NY before diffusing elsewhere.

One last shoutout: you can also consider using an app called Bandwagon if you’re taking a cab from JFK. This is a taxi share service that lets you split the cost with someone heading the same way. Haven’t tested it, but might come in handy if you’ve exhausted all your credit with other apps.

Standard Chartered 20% off Uber and $150 signup credit- what’s the catch?

The headline is certainly catchy.  For the next one year (1 October 2016- 30 Sept 2017), Uber and Standard Chartered are partnering up to offer 20% cashback on all your Uber rides, at home or overseas. All you need to do is charge your Uber ride to a Standard Chartered credit card. What’s more, new Standard Chartered Manhattan cardholders can get S$150 of Uber credits.

Of course, we know promotions are never as simple as the headline would like us to believe. So let’s look closely at the fine print of these 2 promotions

20% Uber rebate for all Standard Chartered cardholders

Image result for uber singapore

A 20% rebate is amazing, unprecedented and ultimately too high to be sustainable in and of itself. There needs to be a catch, and there is-

  1. You need to spend a min of $600 on your SCB card each month to qualify
  2. The total cashback per month is capped at $50 (meaning a maximum Uber spend of $250 per month)

Now remember, every POV I take on this blog is with the view towards earning the greatest number of miles. There may be people who are not interested in miles at all, and to them the below doesn’t really apply.

SCB lacks a true, accessible, general miles earning workhorse. DBS has the Altitude ($30K income requirement), Citibank has the Premiermiles ($50K) and UOB the PRVI ($80K).

Image result for standard chartered visa infinite

Standard Chartered’s best miles offering comes in the form of the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite card, which at an income requirement of $150K per annum is not exactly main street material.

So assuming you don’t have an SCB Visa Infinite card, you’re looking at forgoing the miles you’d have earned from $600 of spending. This could be anywhere between 840-2,400 miles, depending on what type of spending that was.

It’s also important to note the following types of transactions are expressly excluded under the T&C

  • Insurance premiums, including premiums for investment-linked policies, charged to the Card;
  • Bill payments (Examples of bill payment merchants include but are not limited to Telecommunications and utilities providers such as Starhub, Singtel and M1, Singapore Power);
  • Any payment via AXS network;
  • Any payment via SAM network;
  • Payments to government agencies which include but not limited to Land Transport Authority, Housing Development Board, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, Public Utilities Board, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority and the Ministry of Manpower;
  • Income tax payments;
  • EZ Link cards transactions;
  • Transit Link transactions;
  • Any transactions pertaining to Merchant Category Codes 6211 (Security Brokers/Dealers) and 7995 (Gambling/Lotto)
  • Balance transfers, cash advances from the Card, purchases via NETS and ongoing installment payments;
  • Any fees and charges (including annual fees, interest charges, cheque processing fees, administrative fees, cash advance fees, finance charges and/or late payment charges and other miscellaneous fees and charges) charged to the Card;
  •  Any amount charged to the Card during the Promotion Period that is subsequently cancelled, voided or reversed;
  • Balance owing on the Card account from other months

The long and the short of it is that SCB wants to reward your discretionary spend, not the spend you’d have been making anyway on your bills and routine payments. The express exclusion of AXS and income tax payments is going to be a dealbreaker to some. That said, the $600 minimum spending requirement includes spending on Uber and Ubereats.

Regarding the cap, unless you’re riding Uber daily it’s quite unlikely you’ll max out the $250 limit (although given Uber’s nasty new practice of hiding surge pricing, you still might…). So this wouldn’t be my main objection, it would be the having to forgo miles on $600 of spending.

Other relevant pointers to note- this 20% cashback promotion is only valid for SCB Credit Card holders, so linking a debit card won’t work. AIA co-branded SCB credit cards and corporate cards are also not eligible.

Also, the caps and terms apply on a card basis. So if you had 2 Standard Chartered cards and spent $600 on each, you could get your a total of a $100 of Uber rebates in a month.

Uber credits for new SCB credit card applicants

It seems there are two types of promotion ongoing- one for new SCB credit card holders and another for new holders of the Manhattan World Mastercard specifically.

Promotion A: $30 Uber Credits for New SCB Credit Card holders (and new Uber users)

New SCB credit card holders are eligible for a $30 Uber credit provided they are new Uber users. At this point in time I’d struggle to think of any of my friends who haven’t already tried Uber so this already eliminates a large swath of people.

The $30 Uber credit comes in the form of 3 X $10 credits that can be used on any form of Uber except Uber Taxi. Only a maximum of one $10 credit can be used per ride, and if the value of the ride is <$10 no excess is rolled over. You can read the full T&C for this promotion here. The promotion runs the same duration as the 20% Uber rebate one, that is, 1 October 2016- 30 Sept 2017.

Promotion B: $150 Uber Credits for New Manhattan World Mastercard holders

This promotion is applicable to those who sign up for the Manhattan World Mastercard only.

To qualify for the $150 in Uber credits, you must be a first time SCB principal cardholder (I knew that $500 limit Manhattan card I applied for in uni was going to come back to haunt me. If you’ve held an SCB credit card before as a principal cardholder, you get a $20 cashback on the Manhattan card) and apply for the Manhattan World Mastercard via www.sc.com/sg/uber

These $150 in Uber credits come in the form of 15X $10 Uber credits which must be used for consecutive Uber rides in Singapore. These must be consumed within 6 months. Unlike promotion A, these credits can be used for any type of Uber including Uber Taxi. Unlike Promotion A, you do not need to be a new Uber user.

The annoying part is that if you’ve got this promo on your Uber App, you’re going to want to be very careful that all your 15 rides exceed $10. If you’re going below that you’d be better off taking Grab/regular taxi. You cannot pick and choose which Uber rides to apply your credit to.

The full T&C can be found here.  This promotion runs for a shorter period, from 1 Oct 2016 to 31 Dec 2016.

My take

I do love my miles, so the absence of a good miles earning card from Standard Chartered stops me from taking advantage of this. But if you’re more of a cashback person, I see no reason why you shouldn’t jump on. 20% is a generous rebate, and assuming you don’t spend enough to hit the $50 cap then this could be a good deal for you.

Everyone should still be aware that Uber’s new upfront pricing model effectively hides surge pricing from you. Uber tries to spin upfront pricing as providing greater transparency, but really how hard is it for them to tell you both the price beforehand and the surge in place? They’re not mutually exclusive pieces of information, you know.

Why Uber’s new upfront fares are the opposite of transparency

I received an email from Uber on Wednesday informing me that they were moving to “upfront pricing”. What this means is that you’ll see how much your Uber ride will cost before you book it.

Now, Singapore will start enjoying upfront fares when they request their uberX rides! Simply enter your destination and get the actual trip fare before you request a ride, just like you already do with uberPOOL. This way, you’ll know your fare before you go; letting you decide what’s best for you and your budget.

Upfront fares are calculated using the expected time and distance of the trip and local traffic, as well as how many riders and nearby drivers are using Uber at that moment. When fares go up due to increased demand, instead of surge lightning bolts and pop-up screens, riders are given the actual fare before they request their ride.

There’s no complicated math and no surprises: just sit back and enjoy the ride!

No math! No surprises!

Uber may bill this as transparency and clarity. In reality it is anything but.

Uber now does not clearly disclose when there is a surge in place. 

Consider this example, going from my home (approximate locations used, sorry fangirls) to my office in Collyer Quay. This route is normally $13-$17, according to Uber’s official price estimate.

Wonderful. I’ll take Uber to work today. And look, no scary surge symbols! Looks like a great day to take an Uber


Wait, what?


The trip today costs more than 3.0X the regular price!

Clearly there is a surge going on around my area, but you’d be hard pressed to tell that given the total lack of surge symbols.

Why is Uber doing this?

Consider the example of John. John wants to go from Point A to Point B. He gets a quote on Uber- $15.

“Ok,” says John. “That’s fine. I’m willing to pay $15 to get from A to B.”

What John doesn’t know is that the usual fare is $10, and he is paying a 1.5X surcharge. Now, if John knew this, he might be willing to wait a while for the surge to go lower.  But because John isn’t informed there’s a surge, he may assume this is as good as it gets. Uber therefore captures $5 of value it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Uber knows that the lightning surge symbols are a surefire way to scare off customers. So by removing them and not telling you what the “regular price” should be, it is removing that psychological barrier.

Uber makes sure that it is the price, and not the presence of a surge, that is the deciding factor in whether or not someone hails an Uber. Put it another way- if you think that Uber doesn’t fit into your budget, fair enough, Uber gets that. But if you think Uber could fit into your budget, you’re not comfortable about paying that additional 20, 30 or whatever % surge, Uber removes that barrier from your mind by not telling you about the surge. And that, to me, is what is so insidious about this move.

What makes me more riled up about this is Uber’s disingenuous way of passing this off as some sort of convenience to its riders.

See these gems from the FAQ’s (highlights in red are mine)

Q: Dynamic pricing icons no longer appear for upfront pricing product – why?

A: This new way of showing prices accounts for surge, but provides the rider with more precise information up front. For example, instead of seeing that a fare will cost 1.5x, you will see that the trip will cost $10. This is aimed at getting riders like yourself more information upfront, so you can choose the product that best meets your needs and budget.

Q: But does dynamic pricing still exist?

A: Dynamic pricing still very much exists, just as it does for POOL. The upfront fare takes into account all the factors that typically affect a fare, including demand at that moment in time in that part of the city, traffic, the length of the journey and tolls. However, since a rider is given a price upfront, the rider actually has more information about the cost. For example saying a trip will cost $10 provides more precise info to the rider than saying the trip fare is surging by 1.5x.

Except it doesn’t. Because before you used to do both- disclose the surge and provide the fare estimate in light of the surge.  This reminds me of how airlines try and pass off devaluations as “enhancements” to their customers.

So please take heed of this new sneaky move by Uber. I’ve got the fare charged for my usual routes more or less memorized so I should be able to tell when there is a surge, but when I’m dealing with places I don’t regularly frequent it’s a lot more guesswork for me.

Pitchforks and torches, people.