This story is from my personal experience, and it’s a good example how it is possible to hack (life hack) even complex systems using only mobile phone.

I had Debit Cards only!

In US most of the people using Credit Cards which don’t have specific balance in it, which means you have your credit line, and even if you don’t have that match of amount in your bank account you still can spend money and pay for them later.

Outside of US most of the people like me, don’t have Credit Cards, it is simple Plastic Debit Card (example Visa or MatserCard), where you are spending your real money on bank account. So if you don’t have a money on your bank account, obviously you don’t have money at all :)

The Beginning in Los Angeles

I came to Los Angeles from San Francisco for a business meetings, and planned my calendar for 3 days from May 23–26. I had to travel to Tustin City LA to by a special Dell laptop for my friend.

But a day later on May 24 I saw that actually my return ticket is not on May 26 but it is on the same day at 10:30pm !! My meetings have been ending on 5pm, so I had just 4.5 hours to make 3.5 hour ride to Tustin, buy a laptop and pass all LAX Airport checkpoints. This seems impossible right? :)

**Here is the horrible part of my trip, **I had only 1390$ on my Debit Card account, unfortunately I haven’t checked that, and I thought my friend sent his laptop price amount (1300$) to my Debit Card account. But it turns out my friend sent that money to my banks checking account and transferring money for my checking to Debit Card account usually takes 2 hour (this is horrible in terms of service).

Spending last money

After finishing my meetings, I took Uber ride from LA Union Station to Tustin which costs 58$ and took about 1.5 hour ride, so that I’ve been there on 7:10 pm and I had less than 3 Hours to buy a laptop, take a ride to LAX airport and pass all checkpoints .

Google Maps, From Union Station LA to MicroCenter Store Tustin LA Google Maps, From Union Station LA to MicroCenter Store Tustin LA

I got a laptop, paid 1300$ with my Debit Card and I’ve been happy with that because I thought I’m reaching my destination on time. But when I tried to order an Uber from Tustin to LAX airport, Uber told You don’t have enough money on your card . The ride Price was 78$ but it turned out that I had only 32$ !

Life Hacking

For a few minutes I had panic attack and tried to find out how to get to LAX airport before 10pm, having only 32$.

I checked the possibility of riding with public transportation, but it turns out it will take about 3.5 hours to get to airport, which is not an option for me, because it is 7:30pm already. So I had only option by taking a taxi.

**Suddenly I got an idea 💡!! **Using my software development experience I realized that Uber actually just checking my debit card account balance and if it’s more than the ride price it allows me to put an order, but the actual money being charged only if you are ending the trip :)

So I checked Uber ride price somewhere in the middle of my location and airport location, Lakewood LA. Uber estimated price of 29$ and I ordered a ride.

Google Maps, From MicroCenter Tustin LA to Lakewood Center Lakewood LA Google Maps, From MicroCenter Tustin LA to Lakewood Center Lakewood LA

It turns out that Uber not allowing to make another order if you are already in ride mode, which is obviously right. But in my case I needed to make another order before reaching my destination.

Thanks to competitive environment ! I downloaded Lyft mobile application, which is the biggest competition for Uber in US. I created an account with my debit card which still have 32$ on account.

Right 2 min before reaching Lakewood Center Uber’s ride destination I ordered Lyft to the same location with LAX airport destination, and because Uber haven’t charged me yet Lyft checked that I have 31$ in my debit card account and allowed me to put an order :) This was the amazing moment for me. It looks like I hacked the logic of payment processing API !!

Google Maps, From Lakewood Center Lakewood LA to LAX Terminal 7 departures Google Maps, From Lakewood Center Lakewood LA to LAX Terminal 7 departures

After ending the ride with Lyft it couldn’t charge from me 31$ because Uber already charged 29$ after ending the ride, but at that time it doesn’t matter for me, I got the ride!

I reached to LAX Airport at 9:45pm and thanks to airport employee who allowed me to pass using fast track, so that I could pass all checkpoints in 12 minutes, and even had time to grab some coffee :)

Don’t worry a day after I filled my debit card and Lyft charged ride amount. There is no illegal things here


After having this critical experience I learned 2 important things for me

  1. Your brain can actually find a solution if you will stop panicking. You can’t even realize how creative is people becoming in critical situations.

  2. It is possible to hack something without coding, but at least you need to understand how system works.

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