Lyft Falls Flat On Driver Referral Bonus Promotion

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When I’m reading a mystery novel, I hate when I can guess then ending within the first few pages.  No matter how crazy the plot twists and turns, I’m always disappointed when I am right in the end.  Sadly, that is how my Lyft driver referral bonus saga has played out.

If you are just catching up, you may want to read my first few chapters of this novel in full.

Here’s the short summary of my journey:

Thursday, February 26:  Lyft offered an AMAZING driver sign up/driver referral bonus.  New drivers could sign up and complete their first ride by Thursday March 5 and receive $1,000.  Better yet, if they were referred by an existing driver, that driver would also receive $1,000.  I signed up under my friend Jason’s referral code, excited to help him score a bonus.  The bonus was a nice enticement as I had been kicking around the idea of signing up for Lyft for about six months.

Friday, February 27:  Demand apparently far exceeded expectations from Lyft’s team.  By noon, the bonus offer was dialed back considerably and many additional restrictions were put in place.  Speculation began in driver chat rooms and forums about whether Lyft would find a way to disqualify or restrict those of us who had already signed up.

Saturday, February 28:  I complete my mentor ride, risking my own safety on a very icy day in Fort Worth, as I don’t want to make one misstep in the process.  For Lyft, the mentor ride serves as quality assurance and an opportunity to collect driver and vehicle photos for the app.  I had an experienced driver/mentor who said he had been bombarded with requests to mentor, apparently because no other mentors were available in the market.  (He was removed from Lyft’s mentor program the following week for completing “too many mentor rides” in proportion to his Lyft ride requests although he was paid for the numerous mentor sessions he conducted.)

Sunday, March 1 – Tuesday, March 3:  When I go to Lyft’s online “check my application status” window, I’m told I’m at step 5 “background check”.  Lyft reports that background checks and DMV checks have been “down” so a large backlog exists.


Wednesday, March 4:  I independently verify that my background check has been completed by Sterling, the company Lyft contracts with.  They report that as of that date, Lyft has everything.

Thursday, March 5:  Today is the deadline for drivers to drive their first ride by midnight.  It comes and goes without any word.  Oddly, I can now request hours to drive on the website which is something that was not previously present during the process.

Friday, March 6:  Lyft’s CEO gets out in front and reports that those who passed a background check by March 5 would get a one week extension to complete their first ride by March 12 at midnight.  Applicants would be notified whether or not their application was still eligible.

Saturday, March 7:  I’m notified that I passed my background check BUT my mentor ride did not meet Lyft’s standards so I have to repeat it.  I find a mentor that afternoon and repeat the process.  I may have annoyed my mentor because I triple checked every step of the process, including photos, to be sure there would be no more issues.  I also pass this round.

I later chat with drivers in other cities who had the same mentor issue.  Ironically, some of the mentor rides completed by my first mentor did get approved without having to complete a second ride which further complicates the matter.

Sunday, March 8 – Tuesday, March 10:  Radio silence, other than a request to rate my mentor ride.  A steering wheel appears in the right corner of my Lyft app however, something only drivers have.  But when I toggle to select “drive”, I am still not approved.

Wednesday, March 11:  Lyft sends me a text in the afternoon to tell me I am “almost” approved but that my photo taken by my mentor did not meet “standards”.  I am asked to submit another through their website.  Now I’m just angry.


I send them five.  They reject all of them.  I send more.  I also talk to both my mentors who had shown me the photos taken on their phones – Lyft even gives them a guide as to how to line up the shoulders and head in the frame – basically its like a passport photo – and they tell me my photo definitely conformed.  Another bogus Lyft excuse in my book.

In frustration I reach out to that department – they need a headshot that cannot be a selfie.  In other words, both shoulders must be fully visible and level.  I have a hotel concierge snap one as I’m not near home.

A new photo.

A new photo.

I confirm with Lyft that the photo meets standards.





Thursday, March 12:  It’s down to the wire.  I’m headed home from my business trip and ready to drive.  I even have been approved for hours for tonight.  I’m excited as I’m sure I’m going to make it.


I check with Lyft on the status of my application and I’m told it might take 1-2 days to get my photo edited.  I reiterate the time sensitivity of my request – I applied 14 days earlier, completed two successful mentor rides, drive a like-new interior late model low mileage upscale SUV, have a clean driving record and background, and have quickly responded to every request they have made.  I stay up until midnight as I’m hopeful I’ll make the 11:59 pm deadline.

At this point, I know how the story ends, but I turn the page anyway.

Friday, March 13:  I wake up at 5 am to discover that I was approved to drive at 12:44 am.  45 minutes too late to qualify for the bonus.


The steering wheel in the upper corner is now active.  And it’s funny to see the photo “edit” that took so long – all that time to add astroturf to the back of it.



The strangest part of the entire process has been what has been revealed in conversations with other driver applicans.  There appears to be no sequential flow to how drivers were approved.

For example, the driver who completed her mentor ride after me (on March 7 – the second one) with the same mentor was approved to drive a couple days later.  She supposedly applied after I did and completed her first mentor ride after mine as well.  There is not a logical explanation in my mind for how she jumped the queue unless her bonus payout liability was lower.

I’ve also heard of many later (higher qualification threshold) applicants being approved earlier.  And there are still some rumbles from mentors about friends of Lyft employees being rushed through the process.

Did Lyft scam me – and thousands of other applicants – out of a promised sign on bonus by purposely delaying our applications?  What role did those applications play in helping to secure the latest round of VC funding and the exclusive Austin airport deal that were both oddly completed this week?

I’m curious to know what you – the readers – think…

  • Did Lyft act in good faith?
  • Did they deliberately engineer the process to minimize bonus liabilities?
  • Or are they so mismanaged that bungling this deal was inevitable?
  • And most of all… should I drive for them at all at this point or just stick with UberX if I feel like I need to earn extra pocket money put excess miles on my car get out of the house?

At the end of it all, I may let small claims court decide this one for me.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

More articles by Jennifer Moody »


  1. What a scam this is…as you have said before, this is just so wrong in so many ways…especially for people who were counting on this bonus to pay bills. I wonder how they are on actually paying their drivers?

  2. Sorry to hear about your experience. I was suspicious during the timeline that they were purposely delaying, but I was able to successfully complete and receive the $1k promotion.

    I applied and completed my mentor ride on Saturday 2/28. I received an e-mail on 3/5 at 11:47am that my photo needed to be re-submitted, I quickly sent a new one, and was an approved driver at 4pm that same day. I did my drive that night and received an e-mail confirmation a few days later that I received the $1k bonus.

  3. Hi, I was hoping you were still in DFW and had a driver referral code I could use because right now they are running a $500 promotion. I know they screwed you, but I figure whats the harm in trying. Thanks

  4. My experience almost identically models yours. I was irritated, but planned to drive for Lyft anyway, so I accepted and began driving for them. Then, weekend before last, they offered a guarantee that was greater than Ubers, so I decided Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun to drive exclusively for Lyft to hit the guarantee requirements.

    Guess what? That’s right, they didn’t pay.

    They tell me I didn’t accept 90% of the ride requests. Not true. I accepted 100% of them. I stayed on longer and avoided bathroom breaks etc, to make absolutely certain. When I angrily voiced my disappointment, they told me the time period of the rides I missed and (wouldn’t you know it?) I missed 4 rides, when missing only 3 would still have left me eligible? Gosh darn.

    I then received an email outlining how to avoid missing ride requests including staying off bluetooth, not running other programs on my phone, etc. And how other drivers had had similar problems, but that these solutions solved them.

    Mad? Oh, you better believe it. Four scathing emails later, no results other than my total lack of faith in all things Lyft. Uber has faults. No question. But they have yet to shaft me twice. Lyft will not get a third opportunity. No way. No how. It cost me more than $400. Add that to the $1,000 for the sign up fiasco and the $1,000 for my friend who went out of his way to get me my mentor ride by the deadline….

    Ugh. Still steamed. You can probably tell. Anyway, thanks for the vent space. Good luck!

  5. Lyft has done the same to me. They rejected the mentor photo and I’ve sent them 3 others. All rejected because of bogus reasons like the faintest shadow and they say I’m too dark (I am a light complected African American). One shot was just a tint from my prescription glasses. These are the clearest pictures possible. They certainly seem to be deliberately running out the clock on their approval process. I’m regretting not going with Uber.

  6. November 2015 they are still screwing drivers.I guess they will continue as long as there are no consequences for lyft.
    I did everything i was supposed to do in order to receive the signup bonus in chichiI,two weeks later they tell i am not eligible because i left the promo code line empty(100% lie)
    Any sugestions?
    I am sad for myself and also for the hundreds of people that will go through what i experienced.

  7. I was stiffed out of a driver sign up bonus with Lyft. My friend used my link to sign up to drive with Lyft but when she was approved it said that someone named Sean referred her. We both contacted Lfyt to let them know something happened and my referral bonus was being logged under someone else and I received a rather uncaring response from Lyft support.

    I was told my friend did not use my code and there is nothing they can do because they do not retroactive referrals. I asked why would someone named Sean be listed on her referral and was told she must know a Sean if the name is there. I was like WTF how can you tell me I know Sean if I don’t?

    Needless to say I think Lyft Driver Bonus Program is a scam as well and Lyft Support SUCKS!

  8. Same thing happened to me I was referred from another person did all the rides did everything perfect got denied the payment because they said the promo code wasn’t put in correctly they could care less. uber has always done what they said they’re going to do lyft are thieves somebody has to put these guys out of business or make them pay for screwing people over

  9. Not only did they get you good but they made sure that you would never again be eligible for a sign-up bonus from them.

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