Uber riders know they can get a free $US20 credit toward future rides by signing up their friends for the on-demand limo and taxi service. But Blake Jareds, who works at a New York-based real estate startup, took this to the extreme recently by signing up so many people he earned $US50,000 in credits.
“Free Uber for life, essentially,” he says.
Unfortunately, his credit was canceled and his account was flagged after he gave one driver a one-star review, he says.
Uber declined to comment on Jareds’ claim, but pointed us to the company’s credit policy, which requires users to actually know the friends they’re signing up for the mobile app. It prohibits giving away your credit code to strangers: “public distribution on sites where you are a contributor but not the primary content owner (e.g., Wikipedia, coupon websites) is not allowed.”
Jareds had posted his Uber credit code on a Reddit site for folks looking for cut-price deals, and many of his 2,500 or so referrals came from there. New Uber members can get a $US45 ride credit of their own, so even strangers are incentivized to use someone else’s referral code to join.
Nonetheless, for eight weeks Jareds was the unofficial King of Uber, riding when and where he wanted for free. Here is how he did it (bear in mind that Uber bans this, so don’t bother trying):
- Step 1: Jareds changed his Uber promo code from a random string of letters code to “uber$20FreeRide.”
- Step 2: Then he sent out a mass email via MailChimp to about 700 people from his email contact lists. It had a 40% open rate and about 5% click rate, the former finance student tells us.
- Step 3: Jareds posted a link to a subreddit where users submit deals for free stuff. “This is where I believe Uber claims I breached their guidelines,” Jareds tells us.
- Step 4: The combination of the “uber$20freeride” promo code and Reddit earned Jareds’ link a high level of search engine optimization. It “propelled my referral link to one of the top links on Google if a person searched for ‘Uber promotion code’ or a variant of such. This is where I would say 90% of the 2,000+ people who signed up came from.”
Jareds rode around via Uber for free for eight straight weeks, until he got one bad ride. He tells us, “Rated a driver one star because he took a terrible route and wasted 30 minutes. That review was probably flagged in the system, which led to a community manager to review the ride, and consequently my account. They noticed how high my credits were and froze my account. I couldn’t log in Monday morning and emailed them about it. They responded that I earned credit inappropriately and my account/credit was suspended.”
An email from Uber to Jareds tells a slightly different story. It says:
Our system has flagged your account indicating you’ve taken advantage of the Uber referral program to earn Uber credit inappropriately. You will no longer earn credit from invite codes associated with these accounts, and we’ve removed the credit earned previously from the primary account associated with this invite code.
Since contacting Business Insider, Uber has relented somewhat and credited Jareds with $US500 to his account.
Better than nothing.