This App Will Give You Reward Miles for Your Morning Commute
This App Will Give You Reward Miles for Your Morning Commute. Earn gift cards and discounts for your time in the car, on public transport or even walking.
Frequent-flyer miles are a wonderful invention, if you fly often enough to reap the benefits. Even the jet-setters among us log far more time in ground transit on a day-to-day basis, but there’s never been a rewards program for sitting on the freeway — until now.
Miles a New Startup?
This week, a startup called Miles released a free app of the same name (currently for iOS, with Android coming soon) that will reward you for any travel: by car, bus, rideshare, ferry, bicycle and even on foot. It incentivizes greener modes of travel more heavily, and major companies from Starbucks to Audi are onboard as partners. Here’s what you need to know.
How does it work?
One mile in a car nets you one reward mile, while one mile in a rideshare is worth two, a mile of biking is worth five, and one mile of walking or running is worth 10 reward miles. Flying isn’t out of the question, but each air mile is worth just 0.1 reward miles.
What kind of rewards are available?
Trade in your pile of miles for rewards from $5 gift cards at Starbucks, Amazon or Target to $42 off your first order from meal service Hello Fresh or even a complimentary rental on Audi’s Silvercar service. Other launch partners include Canon, Whole Foods, Bath & Body Works and Cole Haan. The app gives you 2,000 miles for signing up, which is enough to snag your first $5 gift card.
Miles is also working on deals with a number of cities as well, and it features a partnership with Contra Costa, California’s transportation authority. While cities can’t reward you with gift cards and car rentals, they’re working to partner with businesses to help you unlock rewards by completing “challenges” that promote greener travel and reward the use of public transport where ridership is low.
Will Miles share my information with its partners?
Miles CEO Jigar Shah says your information will not be shared with any of these partners. By determining how you interact with the world around you based on your destinations throughout the day, Miles can predict what its users like — at least in an abstract sense — and match them with deals. Shah says it’s about trends, and partner businesses won’t receive anything more specific.
“Once you earn miles, and we understand some of this data, then we start predicting some of the near-future demand. Once we understand that, we share some of this aggregated information anonymously. Nothing of users’ data leaves the system,” Shah told The Verge. “Demand simply means ‘There are 14 people in Palo Alto who are going to drink coffee in the next four hours.’ And that’s the information that acts as a triggering point for Starbucks to make a reward.”
What’s the catch?
Of course, to track your daily travel, you must allow it to be your shadow. Miles will track your location everywhere. You do have the option to only let Miles track your movement while the app is open, but you’d have to remember to open the app when you’re on the move and close it when you arrive.
Data breaches are an unfortunate reality of our tech world, which is increasingly synonymous with our personal worlds. If you’re someone who leaves your Location Services on anyway and regularly uses a GPS app, then it may not hurt to give Miles a try. But if you meticulously shut off location tracking options, Miles is probably not up your alley.
While the app’s team seems committed to handling your data responsibly and dealing in aggregates and anonymized trends, it’s always a gamble.
What’s the verdict?
If there’s anything that can soothe a person’s worry about Miles looking over your shoulder, it’s a good discount. So if the company can continue to cultivate good corporate partnerships and make the miles worth our while, it may be on to something big. As hard as it is to willingly hand over your personal information, it’s also hard to turn down cash back for driving to work every day.
Miles is also more polished than many apps are in their early phase, which was enough to attract the attention of the companies offering deals. It looks like something released by major established tech company — partly because its creators have been working on it for years — and that inspires some confidence. That said, Miles just launched this week, so perhaps give it a few weeks to work out the bugs any new software will face.
Screenshots courtesy of Miles app