Uber launches in Sydney, and why I’m finding it awesome

Uber has officially launched in Sydney in the last couple of weeks, after a several week trial. If you’re unaware, Uber is an on-demand premium car service, aiming to gain marketshare through innovation in service levels and technology, and rides in nice limos instead of taxis.

First up – just for you guys, I’ve had a word to Uber and have scored $20 credits for your first ride – just use the promo code pointhacks when first signing up, and be quick as this is limited to 500 sign ups only.

Here’s how it works – you install the Uber iPhone or Android app, or use their mobile site and get registered (but see the promo code offer above).

You link up your credit card to your account, and you’re ready to request your first ride – which is as straightforward as selecting your pick up location on the map, and tapping a couple of buttons.

The nearest driver available picks up your request, and the app then shows the name, make and registration of the drivers car, making it easy to flag them down. You tell the driver where you’re going, and you get charged according to time and distance rates as below (with some flat fees for reliability thrown in).

In practice, I’ve taken Ubers on the same run home from work 3 times now. This run would normally cost somewhere between $45 and $55 in a hailed cab. Uber has come in cheapest at $60, most expensive about $68. Yes, there’s a premium. Whether it’s worth the extra is up to you – at this point, I like it. It turns that original $50 spend into a nice, pleasant experience (=Business Class) rather than something you just put up with (=Economy).

At the end of the ride, you simply jump out the car with no additional paperwork, signing of receipts – just walk away. The driver ends the ride on his Uber app and you get instantly emailed a receipt with the details of your journey and the cost, which is awesome for your own accounting – less awesome if you are used to just using Cabcharges for your company-funded taxi journeys.

I’ve used it several times in the last few weeks, and I’m impressed. Each ride has arrived in under 7 minutes, all the drivers have been super-professional, and I’ve enjoyed the minimal-hassle experience.

So, other than the ‘premium’ nature of Uber, what about it makes it useful for points collectors?

  1. Uber’s account management makes it really easy to register multiple credit cards for payment, and with no surcharges (unlike Cabcharge). You can pick and choose what card (including Amex) you want to pay with via the app for each ride, making it easy to even use a card that’s not in your wallet for payment.
  2. This ease of payment and lack of friction makes it way more appealing to use a card, and thus collect credit card points. The ability to simply get out of a car and walk away at the end of your journey is really liberating, a massive timesaver. This makes it way more likely you’ll use a card (and earn points) for your journeys.
  3. Uber cars welcome short journeys, according to the drivers I’ve asked. They would prefer to be picking up frequent small chunks of revenue rather than just hanging around waiting for longer rides. Using Uber cars for short journeys seems like an easy way to frictionlessly use a credit card vs cash for a short ride, assuming you book a car from the CBD with 5-10m notice.

It’s not bulletproof unfortunately, and there are several occasions where I can see myself not wanting to, or not able to use Uber – in areas with limited or no coverage, or for when I REALLY want a confirmed car waiting at the other end of a flight. But on that point, every time I’ve checked the app there seems to be an available car near the airport, so maybe that’s not really an issue.

If you are interested in a premium car service to take you to/from the airport, I’ve had decent service from Penguin Limo, who take Cabcharges and bookings for collection outside of the current Uber coverage area.

Anyway – give them a try with the promo code above, even if just for short ride. You can’t really go wrong, and I’m 100% likely to use Uber in any other available city globally given the great experiences I have had in Sydney.

Uber launches in Sydney, and why I’m finding it awesome was last modified: December 6th, 2012 by Keith