Paying for toll roads and bridges/tunnels has become more complicated in recent years. More and more locations are depending on toll-by-plate systems to send you a bill or otherwise use a transponder in your car to keep track of how much you owe. If you go through a toll in a rental car, the bill for the toll goes to the rental car company and eventually gets charged to your credit card. Rental car companies have turned this into another way for them to
rip you off augment their revenue stream and often add huge surcharges to rentals even if you only go through one toll during your rental. We’ve written about how you can try to avoid these charges by renting from a company who charges a fair rate for their toll payment services. But what if the car rental company sends you a bill after your rental for tolls you know you didn’t go through?
Steve, our friend and reader of YMMV recently wrote about how he received a charge of $141.50 on his credit card several months after he rented a car from Hertz at Philadelphia Airport. Upon seeing the charge hit his Citi credit card, he called the bank to put the charge into dispute, as he knew he hadn’t go through tolls that would equal that amount during the rental. Citi researched the claim but responded by reinstating the charges claiming that Hertz proved he was the one who made the charges and the bill was valid.
Here’s where it becomes difficult. How can you prove to a bank that the company that charged you is wrong? I had a similar instance with a rental car company when they insisted that I was responsible for returning a car with a full tank of gas when I only rented it with half of a tank. Steve did a smart thing and requested a copy of the itemized bill from Plate Pass, the company used by Hertz to process toll payments. He also kept a copy of his rental statement from Hertz.
Quite clearly on the rental car bill, it says that his rental in Philadelphia started at 1:24PM and the first toll on the Plate Pass statement was for the George Washington Bridge at 2:03 PM. That’s a 112 mile trip in 40 minutes, without going through any tolls before hitting the GWB. Anyone who’s ever driven through New Jersey in the middle of the afternoon knows that is pretty much impossible to do.
Steve also supposedly managed to rack up this toll bill over 4 days and still managed to return the car to Philadelphia with only 178 miles on the speedometer.
Even with this mounting evidence in his favor, the companies were not able solve the problem easily. At first he called Citi and they told him he’d have to resolve it with Hertz. When calling Hertz, they told him he’d have to resolve this issue with Plate Pass. Eventually Plate Pass agreed the toll charges on his rental didn’t add up and they would issue him a credit. This was in November 2017. He still didn’t receive a credit on his charge card so he called Citi again to put the charge back in dispute claiming that Plate Pass agreed the charge was incorrect. It remained that way until the beginning of January 2018, when Steve finally received a check in the mail with a refund in the amount of the total charges of the tolls from the rental. There was no explanation given, just a check in an envelope.
While this story eventually was resolved in Steve’s favor, you can see how difficult it was to prove he was in the right. What if he had driven the car for more miles, or even worse, actually drove it to New York? How would he have proven those weren’t tolls he had gone through?
Steve has other rentals from Hertz coming up in in the future that had already been prepaid. After going through all of this, he asked Hertz if he could cancel the rentals for a refund because he was fearful they would charge him extraordinary toll charges again. They refused. However they did say that it’s possible to deactivate the Plate Pass system when renting the car, which is his intention when picking up another rental.
I shared this story to show that it’s possible to win when arguing with banks and travel companies. It may take more time and much more effort than should be required to prove you’re right, but persistence pays off in the end.
A tip of the hat and a huge thank-you to Steve C. for sharing his story.
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