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Updated on Tuesday, January 21, 2020
You may have more options than you think when it comes to getting your employer to foot the bill for your commute. Some commuter benefits packages include ride-share options, and both Lyft and Uber have hopped on board the trend.
Lyft and Uber commuter benefits can be used when riders select a shared Lyft ride or uberPOOL, the apps’ carpooling options. If you’re curious about this benefit and whether or not it’s worth linking your Uber or Lyft account to your commuter benefit account, we’ve got you covered.
What are commuter benefits?
Commuter benefits are an employer-provided benefits program that lets you set aside pre-tax dollars in an account to be used for your commute costs. Employees can use these benefits to pay for public transportation — trains, subways, buses, even parking passes — used on their daily commute with pre-tax dollars. The amount of money you set aside to pay for your commute doesn’t count as income, so you’re not taxed on it.
Which benefits programs are included for Uber and Lyft?
Each ride-hailing service has partnered with select benefits programs; there is significant overlap, though Lyft has a slightly more robust list of partners.
For example, if your company’s benefits package is with Zenefits, Wageworks, Igoe or Pension Dynamics, you can use your commuter benefits with Lyft as well as with Uber. On the other hand, if you use the Benny Prepaid Benefits Card, the Discovery Benefits Visa Prepaid Debit Card or the EBPA Benefits Debit MasterCard, you can only use Lyft.
How do I sign up for commuter benefits?
Workers have to sign up for commuter benefits in order to receive them. When you sign up, you will be asked to select how much money you want to set aside from your paycheck each month to cover your transportation costs.
Once you’re enrolled, you may receive a benefits card (it can be used like a regular debit or credit card) to make transportation purchases. Otherwise, you may be able to cover transportation expenses using your regular credit or debit card and then submit a claim to be reimbursed through your benefit provider.
Reach out to your employer’s human resources department to find out how to take advantage of your commuter benefits program.
How much can I really save?
Depending on your current tax bracket, you could save as much as 37% on your commute by using commuter benefits. For example, if you’re in the 35% tax bracket and contribute $200 each month to your commuter benefits account, you’re getting an extra $70 to spend on your commute each month. That’s an extra $840 per year.
But here’s the catch: Commuter benefits contributions are capped at $270 per month. So if you are already relying on your benefits to finance your monthly subway pass or parking garage expenses, you may not have much left over for Uber or Lyft commuter benefits.
What are Lyft’s shared rides and uberPOOL?
To use commuter benefits to pay for Lyft or Uber rides, you have to select the apps’ carpooling options — either Lyft’s shared rides or uberPOOL.
Carpool vehicles seat six or more passengers, whether you’re using Lyft or Uber. Both Uber and Lyft use algorithms to place riders going toward the same area in the car together. Because you’re carpooling, however, you may or may not have a longer commute, depending on traffic in your city and how many other riders get picked up or dropped off during your trip.
Where are these benefits available?
Whether Lyft or Uber commuter benefits are available in your location depends on which rideshare option you want to use.
If you prefer Lyft, you’re in luck: As long as the company offers shared rides in your area, you can use your commuter benefits to fund your rides, assuming, of course, your company uses a partner benefits program. Here is a full list of cities where Lyft offers shared rides.
Uber users, on the other hand, can use the commuter benefits everywhere that uberPOOL is available, with the exception of Nashville, Tenn. and Portland, Ore.
How to use commuter benefits on Lyft
If you’re interested in using commuter benefits on Lyft, here’s how to set it up:
- First, you need to add your commuter benefits card to your profile. When you open the Lyft app, tap “Payment” in the left-hand side menu to see your payment options.
- Select “Add card,” enter your commuter benefits card information and press save.
- Next, set the card as your default payment method. There are two ways to do this:
- Select the card as your default payment method for your personal profile under the “payment defaults” section in the “Payment” menu.
- When you open the app, set your location and destination. You’ll then see the last four digits of the card that’s being used to pay for the trip. Tap the numbers to change your payment method to your commuter benefits card. You should see a rectangular icon with a diamond in its center when using your benefits card.
- To use your commuter benefits on a ride, select “Shared.” You can only use your benefits to pay for carpools under the “Shared” ride option, located under the “Economy” tab.
How to use commuter benefits on Uber
Prefer to use Uber? Here’s how you can set up Uber commuter benefits:
- Add your commuter benefits card to your profile by going to the left-hand menu and adding your commuter benefits card under “Payment” (it may also be listed as “Wallet.”) You can also add the card after setting your location and destination under uberPOOL, shown below.
- Tap on your card information to set or add your commuter card as a payment option.
- Your benefits can only be used to pay for carpools under uberPOOL. Select the pooling option to be matched with a car with six or more seats, and you’ll be good to go.
Pros of using Uber and Lyft commuter benefits
- Use pre-tax dollars to save: The most obvious perk of using your commuter benefit is that you’re using pre-tax dollars, so your dollar can go up to 37% further. If you’re already paying out of pocket for your commute, this could be a huge benefit, freeing you up to use that cash on something else.
- Cut back on driving: According to the latest available five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute takes about 27 minutes — though if you live outside of a larger, more congested city, it could be significantly longer. If it’s more affordable for you to use a ride-sharing app, you can use that time to read, catch up on work or take a nap while you ride, instead of letting the stress of navigating from point A to point B get the best of you.
- Reduce your carbon footprint: Since these benefits are restricted to carpooling with at least six or more passengers, taking advantage of it means contributing to a smaller carbon footprint, and that’s especially true if you usually drive to work solo. Using a ride-sharing app takes the hassle out of organizing a carpool.
Cons of using Uber and Lyft commuter benefits
- Only shared rides are eligible: You may want to put your pre-tax dollars elsewhere if you’re not into making new friends each morning. You’ll be placed in a vehicle that seats six or more people when you use your benefits card, and other riders may have various personality types that may not mesh so well with yours, if, for example, you tend to be in zombie-mode before your coffee kicks in and prefer to sit in silence.
- Contributions are limited: Your contribution is limited to $270 a month, which may or may not be a month’s worth of commuting, depending on how much your commute costs. For example, an analysis by LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney, found the average monthly cost of commuting with Uber’s non-pool service UberX in New York City is more than $700. Still, $270 pre-tax will help cut down on your monthly spending for the trip to work.