Uber or Lyft, No Money on Card: What Happens?

Here’s what happens when you get a Uber or Lyft without any money on your card:

Generally speaking, you cannot complete a ride request with Uber or Lyft if you have no money on your card.

You can use a different card that does contain adequate funds, but the apps are designed to decline ride requests unless payment can be confirmed.

If this fails, then you might face overdraft fees.

So if you want to learn all about what happens when you get a Uber or Lyft but your card is out of funds, then this is the right article for you.

Let’s get started!

Uber or Lyft, No Money on Card: What Happens? (All the Info)

How Does Payment Work With Ride Sharing Apps?

In order to understand what happens if you don’t have money on the card, the starting point is knowing how payment works in general with these apps.

There are multiple ride-sharing apps out there, but I’m going to focus on Uber and Lyft, as they are by far the biggest.

When you try to order a ride with one of these apps, you first have to sign into your account, and you should already have a verified payment method on file.

That step is necessary when you first use the app, and until you complete that step, you won’t be able to order a ride.

So, you make a request for a ride, and then the app kicks into gear.

From your perspective, you get some options for different rides, usually with different prices.

You pick the one you want, and then you wait for the ride to get there.

While you’re waiting, the app does things behind the scenes.

One of the important things it does is test your payment.

The app won’t formally charge you for the ride until it is complete (especially because you have the option to tip the driver via the app).

As a matter of fact, Lyft won’t charge you until the end of the day so that the app can bundle all of your rides into a single payment.

Despite that, the apps still make sure that you can pay, even if they don’t charge you.

They use what is called a hold.

They place a hold on your card for the price of the ride.

Technically, this money doesn’t come out of your account, but it does involve contacting the credit card company. 

When Uber or Lyft requests the hold, the credit card company checks your account to make sure there are enough funds available for the requested hold.

If not, the hold is declined, and the app knows that you don’t have enough money.

Because of this part of the system, you actually can’t order a ride when you don’t have enough money on the card.

It’s not a thing that normally happens.

If you’re determined to get a ride, you’ll need to provide another form of payment.

What if the Ride Order Goes Through Even When You Don’t Have Enough Money? (5 Scenarios)

The thing is, apps don’t always work the way they are supposed to.

Surely you’ve tried to use an app and it crashed or behaved in some unusual way.

This is the nature of software.

It’s complicated stuff, and sometimes, things go wrong.

So, what if an error occurs and Lyft or Uber orders the ride even though your card can’t cover the cost?

There are a number of possibilities, and I’ll cover each in detail.

Before all of that, I want to clarify.

Even though Uber and Lyft are separate companies with different apps and their own policies, you’ll find that this situation is virtually identical regardless of which app you are using.

So, even though we’re going over different scenarios, I’m going to continue lumping Uber and Lyft into the same category.

#1 You Overdraft

There’s one reason you might be in this situation that is more likely than all of the rest.

Sometimes, your account won’t update quickly enough, and the credit card company will think you have more money available than you actually do. 

This might happen because you have multiple holds on the account.

It might be that a deposit or refund is processing slowly.

It might be an error on the card’s side of things.

The problem is that when this happens, you take the blame.

What I mean by this is when the card company thinks you have more funds than you actually do, then it will approve payment requests that you actually can’t fund.

In the case of ride-sharing, the credit card company will approve the hold, even though it will ultimately put your account in negative territory.

That means your ride request will go through.

You’ll take the ride, and then you’ll be charged. 

If you are using a credit card, this is far less likely, but if it does happen, you have a little more debt added to your balance.

If you have a debit card, then things are more complicated and more unfortunate.

Because the debit card ties directly to a bank account, it’s possible for the ride share to overdraft your account.

When that happens, the bank will still pay Uber or Lyft for the ride, but they’ll hold you accountable for that money.

So, you’ll owe the bank whatever the ride cost is beyond what was in your account.

And, that’s not the end of it.

In most cases, you will also be hit with overdraft fees.

Banks put these fees into account contracts, so if they have to cover costs for you in this way, you owe them the difference plus the fee amount.

The craziest part is that a single overdraft event can trigger multiple fees.

Ultimately, it means that your ride can get a lot more expensive than you expected.

#2 You Change the Payment Method

We’ve covered the most common scenario.

Everything else you read will be a lot less likely, but none of these scenarios are completely impossible.

So, the next one to cover is you changing your payment method.

Perhaps you order the ride and the hold goes through, but then you realize that you are going to be hit with major overdraft fees.

Well, you can try to cancel the ride, or you can try another payment method.

If you cancel the ride, that’s the end of it.

As long as the driver wasn’t too committed, you can usually have the whole thing dropped.

But, there is a point where the apps will charge you even if you try to cancel, so keep that in mind.

If canceling isn’t a viable choice, you can actually try to change the payment method before the charges go through.

You can try to switch it right there in the app.

It will only go quickly and smoothly if the payment method has already been verified.

Otherwise, you’re unlikely to get the switch off before the ride charges go through.

But, if you can switch the payment to a card that has enough funds, then everything is easy.

You pay with the good card, and that’s the end of the story.

#3 You Talk to the Driver

If you know your payment will fail and a driver shows up anyway, then it’s worth having a conversation with the driver.

If you can pay another way, they might be willing to drop the fair and let you pay them directly.

It’s usually better for them anyway.

That also means that cash is a viable option.

If the driver is willing to take cash, then you can do that even though the ride cancels.

You get where you want to go.

The app doesn’t charge you.

Everyone wins.

Naturally, there are no guarantees here.

The driver might not want to accommodate you in any way, and that’s entirely up to them.

I can’t make promises on their behalf.

But, if you have a friendly conversation, one way or another, you’ll come to a conclusion.

#4 You Contact Customer Support

If you can’t solve this issue on your own, you have professional help available.

Uber and Lyft both have customer support resources, and you can reach out to customer support to get some help.

Contact them and explain the problem.

If you can find an alternative payment, they can cancel the charge on the current card and just use the new payment.

If you can’t pay at all, they might be able to cancel the ride and the charges.

They might even be willing to waive any cancellation fees (obviously, this is up to their discretion and I can’t promise anything).

The overall outcome will depend on the situation, but customer service exists for a reason.

They will at least try to work with you to find an adequate solution.

#5 You Get a Free Ride

This is definitely the most unlikely outcome, but we’re discussing moments when the app doesn’t work as intended.

There’s always a remote possibility that the errors will actually break in your favor, so let’s explore that idea.

It’s possible that the app will fail to charge your card correctly, and that’s why your payment isn’t declined.

The app thinks that you paid, so the ride goes through.

You get to your destination, and there are no problems.

The app completes the charges that it thinks are correct, and you either get a discount or a free ride.

Even if this happens, remember this one thing.

Someone has to pay for the ride in some way, and if you end up with a free ride, you might be putting your driver in a bad spot, and it could be coming out of their pocket.

After all, they’re the ones paying for the gas and the car maintenance.

So, if Uber or Lyft fails to pay them, they’re the ones on the hook.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

    View all posts