By Madeline Klein on April 6, 2020.
Most Americans in 2020 tend to pay everything with a credit card or even a fancy cell phone app. If you’re like the rest of us, tolls can be a real shocker. There’s probably nowhere for you to swipe your card and it’s even less likely the toll booth has Apple Pay. It’s always a good idea to keep some cash in your car for emergencies, whether or not you’re planning to take a toll road. This is something my parents engrained in me from a young age, and despite years of resistance I now know that they are right.
Each state and specific tollway has a different method for obtaining payment and for working with drivers, so it’s a good idea to take some time to research the roads on your journey before venturing into the unknown.
The One-Minute History of Tolls
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the earliest toll roads in the United States began as a result of the increasing importance placed on westward expansion and were marked by the development of turnpike companies. Just so we are all on the same page, these toll roads can be called turnpikes or tollways. While they began as a way to help build roads for movement across the country, they now allow the local, state, and national government to maintain the quality of the roads without raising taxes. The bright side is that only the people utilizing the road have to pay!
Rolling Up Without Money
Lucky for you, most toll booths have processes in place in the event you were to roll up without any cash or spare change.
If attendants are on duty, it’s best to speak with them about your options. Some toll booths might take your credit card or write down your information to mail you a bill. These people-operated booths are pretty rare, so try not to bank on them.
Without an attendant, most tolls now use cameras. This means, if you don’t pay, the camera will capture your license plate information, and you’ll be able to pay a few different ways. Most states send you the bill in the mail, allowing you to mail a check back, pay online, or call them! Several states allow residents to attach a pass to the inside of their windshield and drive through an express lane. If you will be driving a toll road more than a few times a year, it is likely more efficient to purchase a pass. Companies like E-ZPass even cover multiple states and tolls!
If you’re in a rental car and all your spare change is in your personal vehicle, don’t fret. The same process will occur but when the state bills the rental car company, they will just add the fee to your bill. You’ll be squared away without much hassle.
Moral of the story
Don’t panic if you come to a toll and realize you don’t have the cash. There are always options, however, it’s a good idea to keep a few extra dollars in your glove compartment just in case!