Fast-track Your Way to Uber VIP Status with This Expert Move

It takes 100 rides to reach the exalted status. Unless you do this.

They got caught scamming local governments, underpaying employees, and spying on their competition. They got sued by Google and investigated by former Attorney General Eric Holder. And don't even get us started about the sexual harassment allegations. To top it all off, last week, their embattled CEO embarked on "indefinite" leave. (The official word is that Travis Kalanick is taking time to grieve his recently deceased mother.)

Yes, Uber, despite being the most valuable private company in the world, has lately been having a rough time of it. But still, when the "transport company" is working properly, it's a pretty damn good service. And that service gets even better if you qualify for their super-secret, exalted "Uber VIP" status.

It's exactly what it sounds like. Once you achieve Uber VIP status, an additional option shows up on the bottom of your app, right next to "UberBlack," "UberXL," and all of the other selections available in your city. Select "UberVIP" and you'll only receive drivers with a rating of 4.8 or higher. Oh, and they also only drive "nice cars" (though the company is pointedly vague about what that means). Plus, best of all, these upgraded drivers and cars cost no more than the standard UberX service.

Uber VIP harks back to the nascent days of the company, where having a black car pick you up at the press of a button made you truly feel like—as Uber itself put it—a "baller."

The process for unlocking this "baller" status is quite simple, if arduous: you have to complete 100 rides. Unfortunately, Uber VIP is not available in all cities—it's up to regional managers to decide if they want to offer it or not—and Uber HQ has so far been mum about which markets you can unlock the service in. New York, Denver, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., have confirmed VIP service. For other cities, well, try trial and error.

But, as with all things, there's a loophole. If you want to fast-track the process, the trick is to sign up for an American Express Platinum card. As of March, Amex Platinum members receive outsize benefits for linking the card to an Uber account. By doing so, members receive $15 per month in Uber credits—except for December, where they receive $35—and get an automatic upgrade to Uber VIP. Of course, you'll have to dish out a pretty penny; the annual fee for Amex Platinum cards is $550.

A note of warning, however: If you're in a rush, consider sticking with your standard form of transport—since there are fewer drivers on the road with ratings of 4.8 and higher, you may have to wait a few extra minutes for your "baller" status car to show up.

Ah, the good old days.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more