We built an app so good, Uber (almost) shut it down
Note: This app has changed significantly since this article was written. Check out the Ride Receipts website for the latest info.
Every year in early January I start thinking about my taxes. I don’t like leaving it until the last minute, so I start getting my documents in order and download any missing receipts from my inbox, online accounts etc. The biggest hassle for me is getting my Uber receipts in order. This is for two reasons:
- I have more invoices/receipts from Uber trips than any other kind of business expense. I often travel to meet clients, give presentations, teach, or meet suppliers. It’s not the largest expense, but it’s definitely the most cumbersome because of the number of invoices. It adds up to over 100 trips per year. Meaning, this is over 100 invoices I have to organize for my bookkeeper and accountant.
- On the current Uber site there’s no easy way to download all invoices/receipts at once, or within a specified period of time. Unfortunately, you have to do it one by one. You can either download them from your email or your Uber account.
A couple of points to note: Uber generates receipts and invoices. The one with the map that gets emailed to you at the end of each trip is the receipt. The one with the additional information is the invoice. Our app downloads both.
Uber allows you to separate your business trips from your personal ones by creating a business profile in your user account. At the end of each month they will email your invoices and a summary of your trips. However, if you’ve used the incorrect profile, it doesn’t look like you can retroactively change it without having to contact Uber support.
The beginning of an idea
I knew I had taken more Uber trips for business last year than ever before. The thought of having to download everything again this year made me cringe; I just wasn’t willing to do it.
I thought there had to be a better way.
Just before the holidays, I reached out my friend and colleague, Meet Godhani, and asked if he knew of an automation app or browser plugin that would download all my Uber receipts and invoices for me. I didn’t care if it would download everything from my email or my Uber account, just as long as I didn’t have to do it manually.
We both searched and couldn’t find anything that worked, but it sparked an idea.
If this is something that we really needed, there must be other people out there struggling with the same thing. Getting my taxes in order is one of my least favourite things to do, so if I had an app that saved me a bit of time, it would make a world of difference.
And just like that, Ride Receipts was born.
Who could benefit from Ride Receipts?
Anyone who uses Uber for business travel, such as:
- Business owners
- Self-employed professionals and freelancers
- Employees who get reimbursed for Uber rides
- Anyone else who wants to keep track of their expenses
There were three objectives that were equally important to us in creating Ride Receipts:
- Build a time-saving tool that actually works.
- Make this tool so simple and easy to use that even our least tech-savvy friends could use it.
- Have no risk of user data getting compromised.
The first iteration of Ride Receipts was a script that runs in your terminal. Although it worked, we decided to turn the prototype into a desktop app to make it user-friendly. We wanted to create a product that was clear, minimal and not intimidating. The rest was about designing the user interface, figuring out the flow, and what options users would need.
Choosing which invoices/receipts you want to download
Ride Receipts gives you the option of downloading invoices/receipts from the previous year, current year, last 3 months, or last month. If you do your taxes once a year, the bulk download of all invoices from the previous year is the best option. The “last 3 months” option is for those of us who do our taxes quarterly. The “last month” option is for people who get reimbursed from employers for business travel or do their bookkeeping on a monthly basis.
Putting your mind at ease
Privacy and security are the foundation of these types of products. Since users have their credit card information stored in their Uber account, we decided the best approach is to build an app that has no database. This means that Ride Receipts doesn’t store any information at all, not even temporarily.
The only downside of using an app that has no database and stores no user information is that it remembers nothing. So, let’s say you get started and enter your Uber login information. If you entered the incorrect password, you will now have to start again because it didn’t store the email address you entered. Fortunately, the app only takes a couple of minutes to get up and running.
How it works
We wanted to have some fun with this, so we wrote custom messages based on the number of trips you have.
Once the app is done, you’ll see it automatically renames your invoices and receipts by the date and time of the trip and organizes them in folders by month.
Ride Receipts also organizes the documents by user account. So, let’s say you were to run the app for a spouse or partner, the app would put those documents in a separate folder.
Time well spent
It feels good to have turned a major pain point in my life into something that’s much less of a hassle. Whether you use Uber for business travel or just want to keep track of your expenses, we hope you’ll try out our app and pass it along to someone who could use it. Let’s make April a much less stressful month for all of us!
1. Since launching the app in December we’ve had hundreds of downloads from Canada and around the world. Thank you! Shortly after the recent spike in downloads, we noticed Uber added a captcha to their website sign in process which shut down our app for a couple of weeks. We have since resolved the issue and our app is working again.
2. The original version of the app was called “Uber Run.” We decided to change the name to “Ride Receipts” because we are expanding to other ride sharing apps.
3. Ride Receipts now has Lyft integration and no longer requires you to download Chromium!
Ride Receipts is a free open-source desktop application that downloads your invoices and receipts from Uber and Lyft. Mac and PC compatible.
*Ride Receipts is not affiliated with Uber Technologies Inc or Lyft, Inc.