What is the Uber fuel card and how does it work? Is it a debit card, credit card or something in between? The Uber fuel card can be a good option for some drivers, but there are some things to be aware of and consider, based on where you live, before you sign up for the Uber fuel card. Today, RSG contributor Curtis Preston covers what the Uber fuel card is, how it works, and what you need to know about gas stations before signing up.
Uber considers its Partner Fuel Card part of its reward program, but is it actually a reward? Can you actually save money on gas with the fuel card, or are there better strategies to save? The short answers to those questions are maybe and probably. But it still might help you.
The fuel card is a charge card that is automatically paid once a week via your Uber balance. It’s not a credit card, as you are not allowed to carry a balance past a week. It’s not a debit card, as the money is not automatically debited from a checking account. In fact, it takes several days for a charge to actually appear on your account. So the most appropriate term to call it is a charge card, like an American Express card that must be paid off every month.
You’re given a weekly credit limit based on your Uber driving habits. For example, my limit was $100 given how much I drive. The balance is deducted from your weekly earnings each week. It allows you to save up to 15% on gas purchases at participating gas stations, and at least 1.5% when buying gas anywhere where MasterCard is accepted, although I did have issues using it in some places.The card only works at gas stations. You can use it to pay for anything they sell there. The only thing Uber is checking is that the purchase is coming from a gas station. Just remember you have a limit each week to how much you can charge on it.
How Do You Get the Uber Fuel Card?
You need to drive at least 100 trips a month to qualify for the fuel card, so the first thing you need to do is make sure you drove 100 trips this month. Once you’ve done that, simply go to partners.uber.com/rewards and request your fuel card.
It took me two tries to do so because I didn’t notice that I had to click the button twice to actually submit the application. After waiting two weeks I contacted support and asked them why it wasn’t here yet. They told me I never requested it.
Looking at the page, I could see where I thought I had submitted when in reality I just started the process. So make sure you continue until the web page says your card is on its way. I received my card about a week later and I followed the instructions to activate it.
How Do You Use the Uber Fuel Card?
Theoretically, you can go to any gas station where MasterCard is accepted.. You simply swipe the card as you would any credit card, making sure to select credit card purchase and not debit card purchase.
It asks you to enter your driver ID, which was included when they sent you the fuel card. After that, you need to enter the current mileage of your car. I have no idea why Uber wants this information, but that’s what they ask for. Perhaps they think of it as a security measure. As long as you have not hit your weekly credit limit, or haven’t done more than three charges in a 24 hour period, the transaction should be approved and you can begin pumping gas like normal.
If you go to this page, you can see all the recent charges on your Fuel Card, although it takes a few days for them to show up. As you can see, it shows you the amount before discount and the amount after.
But unless you buy just one gallon, you’re not sure how much that is per gallon. Having that per-gallon number would be really helpful in figuring out whether you’re saving any money or not. You could also figure this out after the fact if you kept track of how many gallons you bought each time.
This is why you can see me purchasing just one gallon at a time to see what the per-gallon discount was. Please note that G&M is listed as a $.10-$.14 discount on Uber’s website, but I only got $.09 discount on the gallon I bought.
Does it Actually Save You Money?
If you don’t do any research, the Uber fuel card most likely cost you money instead of saving you money. Where I live, most gas stations will charge you one price if you use your debit card or cash, and another price if you use a credit card. The fuel card shows up as a credit card, so you will be paying the credit price for gas. Where I live, the difference between the two is often $.06-$.10 a gallon. So if I pay $.06 a gallon more on a gallon of gas that costs me $2.80, that’s a 2.1% increase in the price, followed by a 1.5% discount. That means I paid more for the gas than if I had used my debit card.
The secret, then, is to find a gas station where the discount is greater than the difference that you’re paying because it’s a credit card transaction. To figure that out, you need to go to drive.uber.com/momentum/fuel-card and enter your zip code. The first thing I did was to filter the results to show me only stations that offer a $.15 per gallon or more discount, but unfortunately none of those gas stations are in Southern California.
As you can see in this map, though, there are some in San Francisco, Washington, and Arizona for some reason. But there are none in San Diego or even Los Angeles.
There are some gas stations that offer a discount from $.10-$.15 a gallon, though, so I looked at a few of those. Unfortunately, most of them were Chevron and Exxon Mobil stations that tend to charge a higher price than I usually pay for gas. I use the GasBuddy app to find the best places to fill up.
Without the fuel card, my gas stations are Costco, Mohsen, G&M, and one 7-Eleven in Leucadia. I can’t use the fuel card at Costco, because they only accept Visa and debit cards.
At Mohsen and the Berri Brothers 7-11 in Leucadia, the card does not work at the pump. However, it is possible to use it inside. If so, your experience will vary depending on the store. One store (Mohsen) was able to run a pre-authorization like you do at the pump. This meant I could fill up as normal, but I had to come back in the store when I was done to get my card back. The upside is a normal fill up, but having to go inside the store twice is a pain.
Another store (Berri Brothers 7-11) had no idea how to run a pre-auth. But I ran it like a regular credit card at their register with no problems. The upside to this method is you only have to go into the store once. The downside is that you have to underestimate how much gas you need.
This left me with one gas station (G&M) that offered inexpensive gas, accepted the fuel card, and where the offered discount was greater than the extra price I would pay for a credit transaction. The good thing is the G&M typically shows up at the top or near the top of cheap gas in Oceanside. In addition, they charge six cents per gallon for a credit purchase, and the website said they offered a $.10-$.14 discount.
I filled up 1 gallon and waited to see it on my statement. Interestingly enough, the discount was actually $.09 (not $.10-14), but I still saved money. There is nowhere I could have purchased gas for less than what I paid at this gas station via the Uber fuel card.
The bad news is that G&M was the only gas station company in the entire County of San Diego where this was the case. Every other gas station that was listed on the website was something like an Exxon Mobil, where the amount they charge for gas was much more than I would pay somewhere else, so any discount would be wiped out by the difference in price.
I never fill up more than once a night, so as long as I remember to fill up before I leave Oceanside I could use the fuel card to save some money – although it wouldn’t be very much. I would save about $.50 on a typical tank of gas. It’s not nothing, but it sure isn’t much.
Also, I did an awful lot of research to save that $.50. I think you’d have to be constantly checking the discount you’re getting at your favorite store to make sure it didn’t change, and you’d have to constantly be checking that there isn’t some cheaper place to get gas.
Is the Uber Fuel Card Worth it for You?
Some users of the card might like the fact that they are never spending any actual money to buy gas, and that it comes out of their Uber earnings. I just hope that, if that is the case for you, you would at least do the research to make sure you’re not paying more money just for the convenience of not having to use your own cash for gas.
What about you, drivers? If you start with what GasBuddy says are the cheapest stations in town when paying cash, have you found a gas station where you pay less than that using the Fuel Card? I’d love to hear it.
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-Curtis @ RSG
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