Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to authorised accounts
Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to authorised accounts © PA

Uber announced on Monday it was launching a series of financial services under the name Uber Money, part of a new payments push intended to help its 4m drivers manage their finances while positioning the ride-hailing company as an emergent player in the payments space.

Announcing the new initiatives, which include a digital wallet and no-fee $100 overdraft protection, the ride-hailing group said it would begin to give drivers “real-time payouts” after every trip through their Uber Debit account, rather than their being paid just once a week, as is currently the case.

An expansion of its Uber Cash service will give drivers the ability to digitally settle cash payments within the app, while new Uber credit and debit cards are also being rolled out.

The news follows years of criticism that Uber has been too focused on its riders at the expense of its drivers. But as the company aims to develop its payments offering, fuelling speculation that it is looking to develop a consumer-facing payments service in the style of “super-apps” such as Alipay and WeChat, it is establishing ways for drivers to manage money, save and earn rewards points.

Payments head Peter Hazlehurst told the Financial Times that the result of Uber Money’s new services will be to provide drivers with “cash right away”, but in digital form.

Mr Hazlehurst made the announcement, which forms part of the company’s efforts to expand its services for the unbanked in markets such as Mexico and Brazil, at the Money 20/20 fintech conference in Las Vegas on Monday.

Forty per cent of Uber’s ride payments worldwide are settled in cash, something that can prove difficult when riders lack funds or drivers do not have the correct change. But now Uber will in effect cover the difference, enabling the driver to take part of the payment in cash and settling the rest digitally later.

“Drivers don’t generally want to carry change,” Mr Hazlehurst said. “They don’t want to be accumulating a bunch of cash that’s sitting in their physical hand while they’re driving around. And it’s slower, so they can’t go on to their next trip.”

Uber Debit, which launched last year, provided drivers with an account into which they were paid and from which they could withdraw funds. Now, Uber drivers will be able to manage their earnings within the Uber app, without any need for a second personal bank account.

Meanwhile the no-fee $100 overdraft protection shields drivers from the $34 penalty charged by the likes of Chase Bank, which earned more than $2bn in such fees in 2017.

“Everything that we launch will be either fee-free, or as low fees as we possibly can,” said Mr Hazlehurst. “Best price, best value for a customer, full stop.”

The Uber Money service is rolling out in the US initially, followed by Mexico.

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