E-ZPass Tips for Car Travelers

Cars Drive on the New Jersey Turnpike
Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

What Is It?

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 It 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 It?

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 It 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.

Commuting

If you travel through the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic and the 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.

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.

Rental Cars

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 To Get One

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 to Know

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. 

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