By Eli Blumenthal, usatoday.com
Uber is upping its perks for drivers, introducing a new Pro rewards program for its top drivers.
First being piloted in eight cities in the U.S., the rewards program will give eligible drivers up to 25 percent off “standard car maintenance at 20,000 shops nationwide” and up to 5 percent cash back on gas purchases made with the company’s Uber Visa debit card.
Uber is also partnering with Arizona State University to offer free college tuition for the school’s undergraduate ASU Online program. The ride-sharing company says it will completely cover tuition costs and the perk can be transferred to cover the cost of tuition for a “spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling, parent, legal guardian or dependent.”
To put the perk into perspective, using ASU’s online estimate tool, full-time tuition and fees for a Business Administration undergraduate degree at 12 hours per semester (assuming you are a non-resident) would cost $15,078 for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Uber says drivers can choose from over 80 undergraduate degrees, noting in its announcement that since the school is online, the courses can be done on whatever schedule the driver wants.
The new program follows Uber’s “180 days of change” initiative that the company started last year to improve its relationship with its drivers and prevent them from fleeing to other apps such as Lyft or Via. This program added tipping to the app, phone support and notifications for drivers on whether a trip would be long.
Keeping drivers pleased will be key for Uber heading into 2019, when the company is rumored to be looking to go public.
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As part of the Pro program, the company will be dishing out points to drivers for completed trips that will put them into various categories: partner (all drivers), gold (300 or 600 points), platinum (600 or 1,200 points) and diamond (1,200 or 1,800 points). Each ride will receive one point, though certain ride periods will be worth three points per ride.
Users can track points, which are based on fixed three-month periods (for example, November 1 through January 31), in Uber’s app for drivers. The number of points you get during one of those periods will determine what rewards you are eligible for the next quarter. Point accumulation resets every month.
To be eligible for the free tuition and the maximum perks Uber requires drivers to keep a rating of at least 4.85 stars with a “low cancellation rate,” which will help place you in the eligible platinum or diamond tiers assuming you are driving often enough to accrue the required points.
Drivers in those top two tiers can also earn extra money on time and distance rates (a three percent bonus for platinum drivers and a six percent bonus for diamond).
In addition to seeing a driver’s rating, Uber riders will also be able to see their driver’s Uber Pro level in their app.
The ride-sharing company will begin rolling out the program in beta to drivers in Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix, Orlando, Tampa, Denver and New Jersey, with more people getting access to the program “in the months ahead.”