Uber is no longer selling gift credit (for now)

A few people have reached out to me on Twitter to tell me that Uber is no longer selling gift cards. Sure enough, my account (in which I had asked them to re-enable the "Gifts" option after it mysteriously disappeared) no longer showed the option of buying gifts, and this cached version of an Uber help page reads: "Please note that we are no longer offering gift cards for purchase on the Uber system."

As a reminder, Uber gift credit was useful because an individual Uber ride is often cheaper than the $25 minimum redemption of the Barclaycard Arrival+ MasterCard. Buying Uber credit in bulk got around that restriction, and I probably would have continued to buy it $100 at a time even after today's Arrival+ devaluation.

Why the change?

It's always fun to speculate on why companies make sudden, unannounced changes like this. I have two pet theories to explain why Uber stopped selling gift credit.

The first theory is based on the possibility that whichever Uber city you originally sign up in is persistently linked to your account, even if you move. That being the case, it's possible that Uber gift credits were being improperly assigned as revenue to your home city, rather than the city you actually take your rides in, which may have been messing up some internal profit metric Uber uses.

The second theory is that since Uber is currently running an American Express Offer for $10 off $20 in rides, the last thing they want is for customers to buy thousands of dollars in Uber credit for 50% off! If this theory is true, gift credit may return after the American Express Offer expires on December 31, 2015.

Alternate Uber payment schemes

If you have an American Express card enrolled in Membership Rewards, you can use your Membership Rewards points for 1 cent each against Uber rides, or earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar. Since Membership Rewards points are relatively easy to earn and difficult to monetize, this is a straightforward way to redeem them for 1 cent per point.

You should be able to redeem Bank of America Travel Rewards points or Capital One Venture miles against Uber rides starting at $25, although I don't have either card so I don't know for sure.

While not exactly a payment scheme, also remember to link your Starwood Preferred Guest and Uber accounts, so you can earn 1 Starpoint per dollar spent on Uber rides (up to $10,000 per year, and only after your first qualifying Starwood Preferred Guest stay each calendar year).