Texas is a big state with plenty of roads. However, if you’re flying there and renting a car, you’ll probably be near one of the big cities. Unfortunately, many toll roads in Texas are located around Dallas, Houston and Austin. If you want to avoid paying rental car fees to use their toll payment service (here’s what they’re charging nowadays) or the penalty fees rental companies charge for a toll citation, there are two options.
You can avoid toll roads altogether (here’s how to set some of the most popular map apps to do that) or you can enroll in one of Texas’ toll payment programs.
There are three different programs that offer electronic toll payment programs.
- TxTag – Texas Dept of Transportation (statewide)
- EZ Tag – Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) (Houston)
- Toll Tag – North Texas Tollway Authority (Dallas)
Fortunately, all of the programs are compatible so you only need to sign up for one.
Unfortunately, most of the programs work by using a single-use sticker applied to your windshield. This makes it unreasonable for a visitor to use the services with a rental car.
All is not lost, as one program offers an alternate option that is perfect for visitors to use with rental cars.
HCTRA offers an app-based solution to pay tolls throughout Texas called EZ Tag Express. After downloading the app to your iPhone or Android device, you’ll make an account.
You need to prepay $20 on your account and $20 will be added when your account balance falls below $5.
While you might want to set things up in advance, you can’t fund your account until you know your license plate number. I waited until we were in the car and I added the license plate and the duration of our trip.
Even though everything looked fine, I was a little nervous driving down toll roads and depending on the cameras to pick up the plate number and bill our account correctly.
It did take a few days but the tolls from around Dallas eventually showed up on the account. I’m not worried because the statement says it can take up to 60 days for charges from outside Houston to post to your account.
HCTRA toll transactions typically post within a few business days. Toll transactions from other agencies may take up to 60 days to post to your EZ TAG Account.
Shortly after I returned the rental car, I received an email reminding me that the car was no longer registered for toll payment and that any additional tolls may result in violations plus fees.
One big drawback of EZ Tag Express is that you do not get a discounted rate and are charged the cash price.
While I wish I was able to enroll before knowing the license plate number of my rental car, the process to add that information only took a few minutes. Now that I have an account, I just need to add the plate number each time I plan on using Texas toll roads.
As long as the rest of the tolls post to the account, I’d say this is a successful hack to keep from paying rental car companies for overpriced toll payment services.
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