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Lyft introduces a rewards program for drivers

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The news comes as Lyft could be forced to classify drivers as employees in California

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Lyft is setting up a rewards program for its drivers, offering perks like cash bonuses, discounts on gas, phone bills, and tax services, and free roadside assistance. The announcement comes as both Uber and Lyft are feuding with the state of California over whether to classify drivers as employees rather than contractors.

Both full-time and part-time drivers can participate in Lyft’s rewards program, which is based on earnings and not trips during peak hours. According to Lyft:

Drivers get points for every eligible dollar earned during busy hours and can redeem them for credit to take Lyft rides — or cash. Points also unlock Lyft Rewards Tiers: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The tiers provide access to a robust suite of driving-related perks. To reach the Gold and Platinum Tiers, a driver will need a rating of 4.90+

In addition to cash bonuses drivers can put toward all the expenses they accrue while driving for Lyft, drivers who qualify for gold and platinum tiers also get access to an “exclusive in-app feature” that lets them see how long a trip will take and which direction it will take them before accepting a ride request.

Lyft Rewards for Drivers won’t be available nationwide. The company is rolling it out in 11 markets to start out: Nashville, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Austin, and New Jersey.

Lyft’s rewards program is similar in many ways to Uber’s, right down to the precious metal-themed tiers. The larger ride-hailing company introduced its loyalty program late last year, with free college tuition as one of the most sought-after perks.

Both Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors who lack many of the benefits and protections of salaried employment. The companies argue this gives drivers the flexibility to work at their leisure and be their own boss, but some drivers feel as if they’re at the mercy of Uber and Lyft’s respective algorithms.

In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that would make it much harder for companies like Uber and Lyft to classify its workers as freelancers. The ride-hailing companies, realizing their entire business model could be put at risk, have vowed to spend tens of millions of dollars to support a ballot initiative that would create a new labor category for drivers.