By Julian, author of Devil’s Advocate…
Every time I rent a car, it happens.
A day or two after I’ve returned the vehicle, the rental charge appears on my credit card bill. It’s roughly the expected amount, give or take a few bucks that aren’t enough to either complain or get excited about.
But then a week or two later, I get that “other” charge…
Somewhere in the thousands of words of rental contract fine print, I agreed to pay a fee for the use of an electronic toll transponder. A few of the more responsible car rental agents will verbally inform you of this beforehand, but most conveniently neglect to mention it. Massive consumer complaints and several class action lawsuits are starting to force some transparency from the car rental companies on this issue, but it’s often still standard procedure to not be told.
So when the charge appears, the first question is usually…
What the heck is that amount?
Every car rental company has a different policy on electronic tolls, and those policies change regularly. Some charge a flat daily fee that includes all tolls, but gets billed whether you used any tolls that day or not. Others charge a smaller daily fee and then add the actual cost of the tolls on top of that. The least reputable companies charge ridiculous “administrative fees” for each toll that can increase the cost of the toll by hundreds of times over, so that a $2 toll becomes a $27 toll.
Of course, when your credit card is billed for the tolls, it appears as just one overall charge with no indication as to how they arrived at that amount. Calling the rental company is generally not helpful on this front, as in most cases the rental companies have outsourced their toll charge work to third-party companies.
But with most rental car companies, there is in fact a way to retrieve the complete breakdown of the charge. You can even do it online without having to call anyone.
Which vendor handled your tolls?
There are two separate third-party vendors that handle most rental car tolls. One of them is the Highway Toll Administration (yes, that’s really their name) whose systems are known as E-Toll and TollPass. They partner with Alamo, Enterprise, National, Avis, Budget, Payless, and several smaller rental companies.
Their receipt portal is at https://www.htallc.com/ReceiptRequestAgencies.aspx. Choose the button associated with your rental company and you can look up your tolls and fees either by entering the contract number or credit card.
With this set of rental car companies, you’re automatically opted into the toll program when you rent the vehicle. Congratulations! No, wait, that’s not the phrase I was looking for. I meant to say “tough luck!”
The rest of the majors.
Hertz, Firefly, Advantage, Dollar, and Thrifty contract with an outfit called American Traffic Solutions under a toll system named PlatePass. PlatePass provides an online webpage to retrieve your toll charge breakdown if you’ve rented from any of these companies. You can find it at https://bill.platepass.com/receipt/receipt.aspx.
Once you’ve chosen your company from the drop down menu, you’ll get similar options to look up your tolls and fees either by entering the rental agreement number and return date, or by entering portions of your credit card number and a broad range of rental dates.
While this second option sounds rather clunky, in my experience it actually works better than expected, and I was able to retrieve the breakdown of charges for the transaction you saw at the beginning of this post, even as much as 6 months after the charge posted…
With PlatePass, the rules for opting in are different depending on the car company. For Hertz, Firefly, and Advantage, you’ll be automatically opted into the system the first time you use an electronic toll road during the rental. However, with Dollar and Thrifty, if you don’t opt into the PlatePass system at the time of rental and then use an electronic toll road anyway, you’ll be lumped in with…
The worst of them all.
Fox Rental Car uses ATS Processing Services, which is basically another name for American Traffic Solutions. But in this case, ATS considers tolls to be “citations” and charges them along with hefty administrative fees.
If you’ve rented with Fox (or rented with Dollar or Thrifty but used an electronic toll without opting into the PlatePass program mentioned above) you’re likely to have gotten socked with a considerable bill. You can look up exactly what they’re charging you for by going to https://www.rentalcarticket.com/Login.aspx and entering your info in the widget on the right of the screen.
So how can you avoid these charges?
The advent of electronic toll booths has given rental car companies yet another way to pilfer even more money from customers while making it exceedingly difficult to opt out. A number of jurisdictions don’t even provide a way to pay tolls in cash anymore, which means you’re stuck with electronic tolls in some form.
The best bet, though inconvenient, is to have your own personal toll transponder and inform the rental company that you’ll be using it instead of theirs. For the moment that means you’ll need a transponder that matches the region you’re traveling to, but Congress has required varying toll roads to standardize their formats by July 2016. That timetable will undoubtedly slip, but eventually you’ll be able to use one transponder anywhere you go in the country.
And if you do bring your own transponder but still find an unexpected charge on your credit card bill after your next rental, now you’ll know how to look up your charges and dispute them. If you’re like me, you’ll probably do it angrily. Very angrily.
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Thank you for the article. Helped to find a receipt
Check out https://www.vroomdrive.com/vroom/ui/index.html
According to Enterprise I’m not supposed to change my plate info when I rent a car but now EZ Pass is charging me for plate/transponder not matching. I’m told by Enterprise that if I change my plate # each time I may get charged for the next person that rents. I’m told by EZPass that I should pay toll gates in cash each time I rent a car. Then Enterprise tells me that I shouldn’t pay in cash because I may still get charged for the toll later via a bill to Enterprise. Whats the point of having EZPass if they tell me to use cash instead? Whats the point of paying a toll if they’re going to send me a bill anyway?
Screwed either way!
Only in Uncle Sam’s land.
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I’ll echo what some others stated above – some toll roads allow you to pay the toll within a specific time period (usually 7 days) before it goes to the rental company. For example, in Chicago you can simply go online and pay the toll within 7 days, but make sure you know your plate # and keep track of the date+time+toll plaza number because you will need this info to pay the toll. Someone was asking about Australia…in Queensland, there are toll roads that you’ll want to use around Brisbane. We rented from Hertz and they were nice enough to tell me that I could purchase a “casual” toll pass online from the tolling authority for the duration of my rental period to avoid the admin fees. The site was https://www.govia.com.au/web/ssp/sign-up-for-go-viaroad-pass-with-a-statement . There are also similar “casual pass” arrangements that can be made for the toll roads around Sydney and Melbourne, just google it. In Queensland, I setup my pass from my mobile phone before I left the airport rental lot.
[…] column titled “Bet you didn’t know that” is posted. This time it was about the receipts from rental cars for tolls. Another “great” practice by […]
Great post. Bookmarked.
[…] Bet You Didn’t Know: Retrieving Online Itemized Receipts For Rental Car Tolls by Frequent Miler. One of the many reasons why I hate rental car companies, how about you just charge me whatever the toll was? […]
Is this for international (e.g. Dubai, etc.) tolls? I am assuming this is only for tolls in the USA?
Happened to me in Colorado with Hertz. I called PlatePass and issued a “formal” complaint since I was charged one toll somehow leaving the airport right after picking up the car (and they charge you a toll fee each day for max of 4 days or something ridiculous). I told them this was absurd and the CSR said she filed my claim and I would hear back via email. Several days later, email saying they are “graciously waiving the extra fees as a one time favor”
When I rent a car I use the Tollsmart iPhone app to track the tolls as I drive through them so I have a good idea what the charges are in advance and then can match them up with the bill when I get charged by the rental company. It also lets me expense them alot sooner as sometime it takes over a month to see these charges in my credit card bill.
In my experience, most Avis cars allow you to turn the transponder on or off, and only charge you if you actually incur a toll charge. But, unlike National, Avis charges the admin fee for every day of the rental even if you just incur one toll.
The Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t have toll takers. All Tolls are charged electronically, and will be billed by plate number if an electronic toll transponder is not used. However, you can avoid the rental car toll fees by paying the toll online (based on the plate number) either in advance or within 48 hrs after going thru the toll plaza. http://goldengate.org/tolls/tollpaymentchoices.php
There are often temporary pay-by-plate arrangements that you can get from a tolling company.
For example, in Texas, you call up NTTA and provide the right information and it’ll go to that before platepass: https://www.ntta.org/custinfo/rentalout-of-state
For the NTTA one, you basically fund a temporary account that’s later refunded.
Here’s a post idea for you. Someone should point out that National is the only company that plays fair with regards to per-day administrative charges. Most companies charge for EVERY day of the rental, even days you don’t use the device. National charges just for the days you use. National national national all the way. At least in Florida:
I agree. National is great. If you’re an Executive Elite, there’s a 100% chance you’ll get your admin fees removed when you call.
I rented from Fox in Miami and got socked with toll administrative fees of $90. Searching online got me to an email for Fox with a Yelp domain. I got a timely response from my email and would up getting my administrative fee reduced by 50%.
Nice try but… having your own transponder does not help on any road that is Toll By Plate Only. There are many in Florida.
None that I’m aware of. Toll By Plate is backup billing, that’s only activated when a car has no transponder.
How timely! I JUST got a receipt from Avis from my rental last week where I had to take a toll road to get to the airport. A $1 toll charge resulted in a $13 total — that’s 1300% up-charge. How did you dispute?
i’m glad silvercar chooses not to pull these shenanigans.
Awesome stuff, I would love to see a similar analysis for rentals in Europe, Asia and Australia.
Maybe I’m missing the point of the post, but it looks to me like I’m screwed either way. The only difference being, if i carry my own transponder I can look forward to a long phone call with a rep from one of those third parties. Is that really the ONLY way to avoid these charges? Ugh.
If you carry your own transponder, just make sure the rental-provided one is closed (not activated). They will not charge you and you avoid the whole ordeal.