Lyft is unfairly throttling referral credits in their rewards program

Lyft is up to something funky with their referral program.


I’ve been a big Lyft proponent for over four years now; making a conscious decision to use their service over Uber after seeing some of the scumbag tactics they pulled early on. So I freely gave Lyft a lot of free promotion in the form of blog posts, word of mouth and referring friends and strangers — singing their praises.

Before I get too deep into my issue with Lyft, let me first say that I am still 100% using their service over Uber. I just have a problem with how they seem to be throttling my referral credits. It was all fine and dandy as I earned a $20 free ride for every new user I referred. That was up until about four months ago when something clearly changed. Lyft started adjusting the “payout” of my referral code STUART12.

For a week, my referrals dropped from $20 free rides to a shitty $5 free ride. Then it would go up to $10. Then it would be $20 again (but divided into four $5 rides as opposed to one free $20 ride). Then it would be $10 ($5 x 2) for a couple days, drop again to $5 again, then back up to $15 (3 rides worth $5 each).

It wasn’t day to day, sometimes my reward credits were different on the same day! On November 4th, 2016, I received two credits from Lyft — the first for $20 and 8 hours later, a second credit came through for $5. Ugh. Take a look:

During that same time, they turned off my referral code for what seemed like a week or so, so any new riders I referred wouldn’t result in any free rides for me. And yes, I have evidence: I know for sure that they didn’t award me at least two referrals. Those two are just the ones I know about for certain.

To add fuel to the fire, when my referral code was lowered to $5, I checked three of my friend’s referral codes and they were all receiving $20 referrals for bringing in new passengers. Why would they penalize someone that is building their business?

Looking for Fairness and Transparency in Lyft’s Referral Program

With all the Trump hoopla this week, one of my blog posts when slightly viral. I immediately got two referral credits ($15 = $5×3 rides) from that post and then it abruptly stopped even though I received more traffic to the post.

After this latest episode, I’m pretty sure Lyft is throttling their referrals and I’m finally getting around to calling them out on it publicly after having several back and forths about it when it started 3-4 months ago.

Complaining to their customer service did little good on this issue I asked them for some sort of explanation as to why my credits were up and down; calling them out for unfair practices.

I have to say I’m really bothered. I saw that I am only receiving $5 credit for referring a new passenger. Seems low so I checked three of my friend’s referral codes and they receive $20 referrals when new users sign up. Why am I only receiving $5!?

Of course, all I got was some vague form email about how their reward program worked:

Our referral bonus program was constructed to reward community members who utilize the provided channels. For passengers, referral information is communicated on the Help Center with specific breakdowns of cities, amounts, and requirements. You can check them out at Just let me know if you have any further questions.

When I pushed them on the specifics of the difference in referral credits, they tried to pay me off with a $10 credit:

As an additional and as a one-time courtesy, I’ve granted a $10 credit on your account that will expire on Nov 23, 2016. 11:59 PM. For passengers, referral information is communicated on the Help Center with specific breakdowns of cities, amounts, and requirements. You can check them out at

I thanked them, but kept pushing. I asked them to treat my code fairly. I eventually got a little more detail about how their rewards program works:

I’ve checked your account and can see that a referral promotion has already been added to your account. We appreciate the valuable time and effort that you dedicate to Lyft. As it turns out ,all ride credits and promos offered to passengers are dynamic and for a limited number of users only, meaning not all users in any given region will receive the same credits or qualify for the same promotions.

All promo coupons are system generated and our system sends notifications to random users. Lyft sends out promos and discounts from time to time through email or text messages, you might want to keep an eye on it.

For more information, you can check our Help Center at

I hope it clears things up. If you have additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Surely, we’ll be always happy to help you. Take care and have an awesome day ahead, Stuart.

So that reply gives us a little more information as to how Lyft doles out referral credits. If it’s to believed, it is done dynamically through an algorithm that seemingly takes into consideration the referrer’s location, region, how often you refer, and other promotions.

My question is why would they want to throttle or create barriers to users that are actively giving them new business in their battle for marketshare with Uber? Essentially, you have a group of sales people not on your payroll selling your product for referral credits — why alienate a community that is bringing in new business by making the process frustrating and less rewarding?

Yes, it costs money to give out free rides, but isn’t that the cost of having a referral program? Isn’t a new user more likely to use your service and over time, Lyft should easily recoup that referral credit. Obviously I have a vested interest in Lyft discontinuing their credit throttling, but as objectively as I can see, it’s shortsighted to save some dollars and sacrificing their long-term future and battle with market leader Uber.

Have you experienced the same? Let us know in the comments.

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