E-ZPass Tips for Car Travelers

Pay Your Travel Tolls Automatically With E-ZPass®

Cars at E-ZPass Tollbooth Lanes
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

What is an E-ZPass®?

An E-ZPass® is an electronic transponder that you can use to pay your tolls automatically. The transponder is a flat, rectangular device that attaches to the inside of your windshield with adhesive Velcro strips. Some E-ZPasses® have a switch you can use if you want to travel in a HOT (Express) lane as part of a carpool. If your transponder does not have a switch, you can still use it in a HOT lane, but you will pay the HOT lane toll unless you have the correct number of people in your car and have a transponder that can be switched into carpool mode.

How Does the E-ZPass® Work?

When you sign up for E-ZPass®, you make an initial deposit into your E-ZPass® account, using either cash or a credit card. This allows you to use your transponder to pay tolls. As you drive through a toll lane, the E-ZPass® sends toll data from the transponder to the main computer system, which deducts the toll amount from your account balance. When the account balance drops below a pre-established level, you will see the "low balance" yellow light signal as you pass through a toll lane, rather than the typical "toll paid" green light.

This lets you know that you need to replenish your account.

A camera records your license plate number as you pass through the toll booth. If your transponder cannot be read properly, the E-ZPass® system will use your license plate number to track and record your toll payments.

You can replenish your account by going to an E-ZPass® office and paying in person, or you can set up your E-ZPass® account so that pre-set replenishment amounts are charged to a credit card or deducted from your bank account.

Where Can I Use My E-ZPass®?

You can use your E-ZPass® on Canada's Peace Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (NEXUS card required) and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and in the following US states:

  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

How Much Does an E-ZPass® Cost?

Some states require you to purchase your transponder, while others charge you a per-transponder deposit. Charges vary by state. Many states offer toll discounts to frequent E-ZPass® users; check your state's E-ZPass® website for toll plan information.

I Don't Commute. How Can an E-ZPass® Help Me?

If you travel through the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern US, using an E-ZPass® to pay your tolls can save you time. Most large toll plazas (and many small ones) have dedicated E-ZPass® lanes, so you will not have to wait behind drivers who are paying cash. Also, you do not need to stop your car when you drive through an E-ZPass® toll lane. Instead, you slow down to a specific speed so the toll booth's computer can read your transponder.

Your E-ZPass® can also save you money, because some toll systems give E-ZPass® users an automatic discount.

Will My E-ZPass® Work in Canada?

Your E-ZPass® will work on Canada's Peace Bridge, which connects Buffalo, New York, with Fort Erie, Ontario. It will also work on the Rainbow Bridge, Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (NEXUS card required) and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

I Rent Cars When I Travel. Can I Use My Personal E-ZPass®?

Yes, if you are willing to take a few extra steps. When you pick up your rental car, you will need to add that vehicle's registration information to your E-ZPass® account. It is easier to do this online, but you can also visit an E-ZPass® office and add the vehicle information to your account in person. Two days after you complete your trip and return your rental car, you will need to go back into your account maintenance page or visit an E-ZPass® office and delete that vehicle's information.

Some car rental companies offer customers use of their E-ZPasses®, but you will be charged about $4 per day for this privilege. If you have your own E-ZPass®, use it instead.

How Do I Get an E-ZPass®?

Go to an E-ZPass® customer service center in your state to sign up or fill out an online application form. If you apply online, you will need to pay for your transponder and establish your account balance with a credit card.

What Else Do I Need to Know About Using an E-ZPass®?

Use your E-ZPass® every so often to keep your account active. Time periods vary by state.

If, for some reason, you do not want to use your E-ZPass® at a particular toll plaza, you will need to wrap your transponder in aluminum foil to prevent the toll booth computer from reading it.

You won't get a receipt when you pay with an E-ZPass®. Your account statement will reflect your driving activity.

If you use your E-ZPass® on a weekend, it may take a few days for transactions to appear on your account.