Free Money · Frugality

Sticking It To The Middle Man: Uber Eats Deal

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When I read about Earning an Easy $250+ with Uber Eats, I pretty much ignored it. While I’m generally on board with overcomplicating my life, chasing bank bonuses and sticking it to The Man, usually it involves larger sums of money and requires talking to no one. Oh, and doing no work. Getting in my car and driving around just wasn’t appealing to me.

Then, out of the blue, my daughter in college texts me asking if I thought it was legit. I’m still not sure how she found out about it. After looking at it more closely, I signed off on its legitimacy. So she signed up and completed her one delivery for Uber Eats in December while she was visiting us for the holidays. I checked in periodically to learn more about the reward process. End of story, right?

Wrong. Somehow she talked my wife into doing it. And after seeing it working, I thought I might as well try it too. I consider Uber in the same, if not worse, “The Man” category as brick-and-mortar banks. And hey, it would be a great blog post.

Ready Driver Number Three!

Step 1: To qualify for the offer, you need to create an account at MyPoints.com. If you decide to try this deal and  use my referral code, we both get about $3 of points. I honestly don’t know who’s referral code I used.

Step 2: After creating your MyPoints.com account, click the “Earn Points” button at this link: Uber Eats Driver. Currently, the offer is good for 40,000 points. I don’t know how long that offer will last.

Step 3: After completing Step 2, you’ll be sent to Uber Eats Driver, where you’ll sign up to be an Uber Eats delivery. This includes putting in sensitive information like your SSN and a background check, just FYI.

Step 4: After completing the background check (I took two days for me), you have 30 days to complete your first delivery.

Step 5: Shortly after completing your first delivery, a “purchase” for “Uber Eats Delivery Person” will show up in your Pending Activity. In my experience, it took about 7 days to move from Pending to Completed.

Step 6: Once the points land, you can start redeeming points for gift cards. Not all gift card denominations are worth the same points. Math is involved.

Step 7: Spend the gift cards, reply STOP to Uber’s incessant texts, unsubscribe from MyPoints obnoxious marketing emails, and sanitize your computer with bleach.

The Drive

I naively thought I would switch my Uber Driver app into “Online” mode at dinner time and immediately get a delivery request. I don’t live in the boonies, but it’s also not super urban. Comfortable single-family dwelling in a residential neighborhood. It took about 10-15 minutes until my first delivery request came in. The request was to pickup a meal for “fabio” from a Chipotle about 5 minutes away, and drop it off 2.5 miles in the other direction. It took almost exactly 14 minutes to pick up the food and drop it off. The estimated fare was $10.22.

“fabio” met me at the door and although the instructions where to leave it on the doorstep, I instead handed it to him. I felt uncomfortable taking a picture of “fabio” holding his food, and instead took a picture of his townhouse after he’d gone in side. Close enough, I figured. I then returned to my car, switched the Uber Driver app into “Offline” and counted my earnings.

The Earnings

My earnings from my first/last delivery: $2.21

What?!?

It turns out that the “estimate” factored in a tip that wouldn’t be credited until an hour after the trip. But I didn’t know that initially and was dismayed. The $250+ bonus was sounding like the only good thing about this trip. I also noticed that Uber’s cut of the $7.58 delivery charge was $5.37. Not just The Man, but The Middle Man.

Later, I noticed that my earnings jumped to $10.59 because of a $8.38 tip that “fabio” gave me. Thanks “fabio”. Including my time waiting for the delivery (~10 minutes) and the time it took to actually do the delivery (14 minutes), I was earning $26/hour, ignoring the bonus.

Yep, I’ll keep the day job.

I still can’t understand why “fabio” would rather pay nearly $16 to avoid driving 5 miles round trip to pick up his own meal.

My first/last drive for Uber Eats

The Points

From the day I signed up and started the background check (January 15th) to receiving the first gift card (January 29th) was exactly two weeks. The vast majority of that has been waiting on MyPoints to deliver the goods. Uber Eats immediately recorded the day I took my first/last drive (January 18th) but it wasn’t until the 25th that I could start redeeming the points. And it took an additional four days for the virtual gift cards to start coming.

Why do MyPoints drag their heels? Dunno.

The points can be redeemed into gift cards ranging from Amazon to Zappos, from AMC Theatres to Starbucks. You can even redeem them for Uber, in an ouroboros-like nightmare. 

Not all points-to-dollars conversions are equal, but they’re generally pretty close. For example, Paypal’s conversion is roughly 159 points/dollar, while Visa is 150/dollar. After doing the math, I settled on:

  • Qty 1, $200 Visa (30,000 points)
  • Qty 1, $50 Visa (7,500 points)
  • Qty 1, $10 Visa (1,500 points)
  • Qty 1, $5 Amazon (790 points)

Leaving me 210 points left over, too small to buy any card. My total reward was $265.

Or, that was the plan, until I received the mostly unexpected 450 point bonus. With these additional points, I switch my plan to:

  • Qty 1, $200 Visa (30,000 points)
  • Qty 1, $50 Visa (7,500 points)
  • Qty 1, $10 Visa (1,500 points)
  • Qty 3, $3 Amazon (1,440 points total)

Now my total reward was $269 and I had 10 points to spare, roughly 7 cents. As I write this, I just completed converting the $200 and $50 cards into Amazon gift cards which is easier than trying to spend them as “virtual” credit cards somewhere else. I’ll do the same conversion with the $10 Visa when I get it and the $3 cards will be dealt with trivially.

The final scoreboard – I win!

My whole impression of MyPoints can be summed up in one word: scammy. 

Why?

  • Limiting gift card redemptions to only two-per-day? Scammy
  • Taking forever to credit points and redeem cards? Scammy
  • Asking a customer to sign-up for four separate offers when redeeming a card, all while using dark patterns? Scammy
  • Automatically signing up users to receive offer emails that can be unsubscribed from individually? Scammy
  • Making it difficult to compare points across gift cards? Scammy
Two per day? Really?
Offer 1 – Nope
Offer 2 – Nope, again.
Offer 3 – Still nope.
Offer 4 – Maybe… NOPE!

Externalized Costs

Having driven Uber Eats for less than half-an-hour, I believe I’m fully qualified to make broad generalizations and opine about the gig economy. The whole model seems built on trying to externalize as many costs as possibly, including:

  • Health insurance of the driver
  • Wear and tear on the driver’s vehicle
  • Social security and Medicare taxes
  • Liability and safety
  • Probably a billion others that I’m not considering

Not only does Uber externalize these costs, but I also experienced them trying to upsell me with “optional injury protection” insurance. I didn’t peek under the cover, so I can’t report on that.

I think the biggest thing that should cause anyone considering converting their life energy into money by being a driver is what you could be doing with your time instead. Leaving my family for just 24 minutes during peak family time was not a tradeoff I’d be making if I could help it. Die With Zero, anyone? 

Conclusion

Including both my earnings and my one-time bonus, I made nearly $700/hour. True, that ignores the time I’ve spent babysitting the process, but that’s not terrible. I don’t have to keep the money in an account for six months, nor does it get reported on a 1099-INT. I will have to report the $10.59 of earnings on Schedule C, but I don’t think I’ll have to report the gift cards.

Would I recommend it? It wasn’t a terrible experience and gave me a peek into the life of an Uber driver and the gig economy. If the hassle seems too much for you, no need to follow my lead. Instead, you can enjoy a chuckle at my expense as I’ll stoop to pick up spare change from The Man.

Hasta luego!

6 thoughts on “Sticking It To The Middle Man: Uber Eats Deal

  1. I was going to do this same thing but didn’t go through with it for one of the reasons you mentioned–MyPoints felt too scammy! I even downloaded the Uber Driver app and was in position to make a delivery, but ultimately decided against this free money. After reading your tale maybe I’ll reconsider after all…

  2. I have actually been a MyPoints member for well over a decade. I usually just click on the emails that earn me 5 points and then every 6 months or so cash out for Amazon.com gift cards. However, I have started taking advantage of some of the larger bonuses, specifically related to bank accounts. Recently I got 20k points by making a $30 deposit to open a new bank account. The day those points hit I redeemed them for Amazon GCs. I do agree that some of the emails and promos seem spammy, but I haven’t had any noticable issues. The Uber Eats promo does intrigue me. I saw the GCC post and have been thinking about trying it myself — problem is I am lazy so not sure if it will happen!

    Dragon Guy

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I hear you on the lazy problem. I wasn’t aware of the larger bonuses for bank accounts. I’ll have to check them out.

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