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Connie Prater

Getting a rental car? Watch for toll charges charged to your credit card

Editor's note: See updated story, "Cashless toll roads and rental cars: 6 tips"

I got an expected but still surprising reminder this week of the South Florida vacation I took a month ago. It was a $7 charge on my credit card for tolls on the Homestead Extension of Florida's Turnpike.

I rented a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car while I was in South Florida in July. I made the drive from Hollywood down to Key West -- a trip I've taken many, many times in the years that I lived in Miami.

Automated toll plazas are fast, but...
What was different on that trip was the turnpike, the public toll road that stretches from the Orlando area down to South Miami-Dade County. Sometime between July 2011 and my last South Florida trip in 2009, the Florida State Turnpike Authority removed the toll booths that allow drivers to pay cash for tolls along the southernmost leg of the highway and replaced them with automated cameras. When cars drive past, the camera records the license plate number and drivers who don't have a SunPass sensor are billed for the toll, plus an administrative fee. (Note: The switch began Feb. 19, 2011 -- four months before my trip. I just found the press release on the authority's website.)

It's true that no-cash toll roads, as they are called, speed things up and save money on staffing toll booths. I used to pity the people who had to breathe in the fumes left behind by cars and trucks that stopped to pay tolls.

My problem is that I was a tourist -- oblivious to the fact that the toll collection system had changed. There I was driving along and reading signs. Out of habit, I had my cash -- a wad of quarters -- out and ready to pay. I slowed, confused. I couldn't find the pay booth lane. I'm sure some of the drivers behind me were annoyed at my slow pace. Finally, I saw the cameras overhead and said to myself, "Oops. Somehow I got in the wrong lane. How did I miss the pay lane?" But then it happened again at the next toll several miles down the road.

Where do I pay?
I knew I was in a rental car that had a California license plate. That meant they would bill the rental car company. But I wondered why Enterprise hadn't warned me about the automated tolls. There's probably a disclosure buried in the fine print of the rental agreement, but I thought something like, 'You can't use cash anymore on the Florida Turnpike,' should have been pointed out verbally -- right around the time they are trying to sell me a full tank of gas in advance or asking me if I want to pay more for insurance coverage that I get for free from my own auto insurer.

I kept a mental note of how many $1 toll areas I passed: There were four. When I turned the car in, I told the customer service rep that I had gone through the automated tolls because there was no other alternative for paying. She said, "No problem." When Enterprise gets the bill, they will add a $2.50 processing fee and then charge it to the credit card I used to rent the car. She assured me: "They will call you to make sure that you want to use that card." Wrong. I didn't get a call in advance.

I was checking my Visa credit card account looking for something else and saw that $7 had been billed by Enterprise for "tolls and bridge fees." My trip was July 22-24. The toll was billed to my credit card on Aug. 13.

My bill seemed to be correct. I went through four tolls at $1 each. I'm guessing the Florida Turnpike Authority added a 50 cent administrative fee and Enterprise added its $2.50 fee. But what if something had gone wrong? The automated toll collector gave me no opportunity to get a receipt to prove that I was charged correctly. What if the bill had come in at $25? Mistakes happen.

Warn customers beforehand
Here's my point: Rental car companies should warn customers that automated toll plazas may be encountered in a city and that those charges, plus administrative fees from both the toll collector and the rental car company, will be billed to the credit card. Had I been given a heads up by the car company, I would have taken steps to avoid the toll road. There are alternative routes that take longer but avoid the tolls.

I hope I'm giving other travelers a heads up to ask about automated tolls and what rental car companies add on to your credit card for these charges.

See related: Renting a car? Beware of phantom toll fee charges

28 Comment(s)

cal said:

Wife left Miami Airport - got charged $3.75. No signs - no nothing to indicate there was added charges. She did stop and hand pay 50 cents at one toll booth - I guess that was so she could get her body out of the airport - the $3.75 toll I guess was for the car. What a rip off. Called Budget and asked about extra charge to credit car - since we did not know anything about this extra toll, their answer was more or less - to bad - it is charged to credit card so get over it.


sazaar said:

Driving to Tampa airport in my rental and I guess I passed two e-tolls. Don't recall seeing them at all. Come to later find a charge on my credit card for $52.50. Two toll charges, one for $1 and the other for $1.50, plus two administrative charges for $25 each. Ridiculous.


Eva V said:

Well, I got charged for 7 infractions (?). AND a total of 25.00 admin.fees for each for a total of 175.00 plus around 5.00 in tolls not paid, which added up to .25, 25, 50, 75. and so on, each having a 25.00 fee attached to it. The bad thing was the times were listed as 7:33am, 7:29am, 7:30am and so on. How can you get 3 infractions in 4 seconds? The rest were listed in the pm at like 2:41p, 2;43p, 2:42p, just like the am charges. I really resent taking a 3 day trip to FLA from GA and paying 300.00 for the car and 200.00 in toll charges and fines I was not able to pay due to the lack of toll booths. And... the Thrifty crew did not warn me at all. But they did sell me their extra insurance in case of accident or whatever, and my extra driver charge, Oh, yes, the tank of gas. But no mention of these hidden, sneaky charges. STAY AWAY FROM THRIFTY CAR RENTAL. I DID SOME RESEARCH AND NATIONAL ONLY CHARGES 4.00 FOR EACH INFRACTION. THIS WHOLE THING WILL CHANGE MY VACATION PLANS FOR THE FUTURE.


Connie said:

Eva, Since these were charges on your credit card, you can go through the credit card company to dispute them. The merchant -- in this case the rental car company -- won't be paid while the dispute is investigated or the charges will be reversed if they have already gone through. This gives the rental car company an incentive to figure out what happened. You seem to have a valid case in that it would be impossible to incur toll charges at those time intervals. Let us know what becomes of the dispute.
It's sad because your memory of your vacation will be tainted by the hassle of fixing these after-the-fact charges to your credit card. If will likely require you to write letters and make a lot of phone calls. If you're like the rest of us, you don't have time to devote to following a dispute. But based on the amount of money they charged you, I think it's worth it to challenge it.


Based on your comments about problems with these e-toll charges on your credit cards, we assigned a reporter to look into how common this was. You'll be interested to know what he found: http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/phantom-toll-fees-rental-cars-toll-roads-credit-card-1264.php
You're not alone. Around the country folks are being hit with these "phantom" charges and paying large administrative fees.


jim said:

The agencies that set up this 'automated' system have avoided the cost of intalling a coin drop by passing the responsibility on to the rental car agencey to collect their bill. The rental car company bears the brunt of the ill-will by trying to recover the cost of accounting, cash flow and documentation of these instances. I think that the onus of responsibility should go back to the tolling authority that sets up system like this that is fraught with problems.


JKT said:

Only $7? I rented from Enterprise in Delaware and drove to Washington. I took my EZPass (the auto-pay system in the NorthEast) transponder with me and it worked...on all but one tollbooth. Somehow that one didn't register. I alerted Enterprise the very next morning that there would be a charge on their license plate that I was willing to pay. In spite of this I received a letter not from Maryland but from Enterprise, where they assessed me the $2.50 toll and $18 "Admin. Fee". There was no way to explain that I did have a transponder and it was the toll booth malfunction. They just paid the toll and then slammed me. This fee is NOT spelled out in their contract; it merely says that the customer is liable for any fees associated with any violations. That text implies the fees are from the authorities, not Enterprise, and it certainly doesn't say how exorbitant they are.


Thanks for sharing your experience, JKT.
You describe yet another potential problem with phantom toll charges for rental cars. Malfunctioning transponders and/or toll booths can cause expensive mistakes. And because you were not the car owner (but rather a third party renter), it is difficult to contest the error. However, since it was billed to your credit card, there is a merchant dispute resolution provision. You can notify the card issuer that you dispute the charge and see if Enterprise is motivated to reduce your bill.
Try it and see and let us know the results you get.


Socorro Gomez said:

I was in Florida from June 14th - 20th. I too rented a car. They were quick to point out about the extra insurance and if I wanted a full tank of gas but failed to mentioned about the car rental toll fee that was going to appear on my credit card. I paid my car rental when it appeared on my credit card then a week later I got hit for $15.75 for toll. I called the company which is Advantage Car Rental which is under Hertz Rental to ask about it. After they explained that I used toll roads which I also wasn't aware of because there was no toll booth, I told the lady that I felt that it was kind of sneaky that they didn't mention it when I first rented the car. Her response was, "in a perfect world everything would be explained but that is impossible because the contract has so much in it." Well, I think this is unfair and is a rip off to all tourists especially since most of the tolls are about a buck and the rest of the fee is for administration fees. There should be a law preventing this scam!!!!


Wow. That's some customer service! I agree that more disclosure and warning on this needs to be given to potential renters. The toll authorities need to be aware that out-of-state visitors aren't likely to know that e-toll roads are on their route. There should be better signage on the toll roads, too, warning people that you can't pay in cash. I hope more people continue to post their experiences here. It will help warn others about hidden toll booth charges that land on their credit cards with hefty administrative fees attached.


Yuri Popov said:

I travel often and when I saw this charge I had no idea what it was. I called the credit card and of course got endless machines directing me to dead ends. Only from here did I figure out that last summer, when I was in Texas, my GPS warned me of a toll road ahead but when I didn't encounter a booth, I just thought I got lucky... wrong. I agree with the concept of toll roads, but I not hidden charges. I should know in advance what I am paying so I can choose. I shouldn't have to have an expensive GPS on board to warn me, but I do. In the future, I listen to it more trustingly. Enterprise adding hidden administrative charges is just plain insult to injury, if not highway robbery. Easy fix, goodbye Enterprise... long story short, that was way more than three strikes, so you're out.


Tim Pearse said:

I am driving from New Orleans through Florida and down to the Keys before flying out of Miami. They have pre charged me for the tolls saying it will work out cheaper even thoughi will be travelling on minor roads. Are these Tolls all over Florida? I feel I am being ripped off!


Richard L said:

This toll system is a mess. They must have literally tens of thousands of people who have not, can not or will not make the payments. Then there is me who did not even know I had wracked up hundreds of dollars in charges and fines because the person driving a (sold) vehicle had not put the title in their name. What the heck am I supposed to do. I cannot fight it from thousands of miles away. When you try calling the Pay by Toll number there must be hundreds of other people waiting on line - you can never get through to talk to someone. This is an almost farcical situation. Like I say, there must be thousands of people contesting these outrageous charges, late charges and fines with no way of getting them resolved. I am not sure if they have started a program like this anywhere else in the country but from all the negative chatter on line I cannot imagine people are happy.


I was mystified by this on a recent business trip, too, but figured I would wait and see. The toll just came through on my credit card (no, I didn't get a call either, but I wasn't promised one) but what I didn't have was a BILL to submit to my company for reimbursement!

Through some googling, apparently, you can go to the Highway Toll Administration (who knew!?) and request a copy of your invoice for the tolls. You'll need your own last name and either some of the digits from the credit card used, or your rental-car contract number.

Seemed easy enough. Printed the receipt and submitted for reimbursement.

This was not published ANYWHERE or documented any place I could find from Enterprise. An email would have been nice saying "Hey, we charged you. Here's an invoice, fyi) Or, if anything else, a copy of the invoice in my account.

Anyway, hope this might help some other pool soul. lol!


Brandon said:

I just got charged $250 in Newport, CA for using 4 tolls stations while obliviously following my GPS unit. I received an $18 bill from Enterpise two weeks later. Just when I thought it was all said and done, I got a bill from FastTrak for $250. For every toll I went through they added an additional $57.50 penalty. I am blown away! Emailed to dispute the charges, still haven't heard back.


Tracey said:

I was in Florida 2 months ago and I paid all my tolls and Thrifty Car Rental took $15.25 out of my account. When I mention it to them. They told me I need proof I paid my tolls. What make me so mad is that 3 days prior I had just rip up my papers. I didn't realize they hold your credit card information that long after you paid your bills. I think it's a scam in Florida and just think of all the paper who don't look at their purchases on their card.


c leininger said:

Credit card charged 2 months later for $16.00. $1.00 toll and $15.00 service charge. Thrifty is making allot of money off people by this scam. Talked to their - Violations Dept - they said should have used a non-toll road to get out of airport. I informed the idiot there wasn't any non-toll road. Would have to fly the car out to avoid a toll. Customer service and their Corp Headquarters very unfriendly.


Matt Szczepkowski said:

Same thing happened to me on a recent business trip. Had two tolls, 11 minutes apart charged against the credit card I rented the car with. Admin fee was 15.00 each "violation" LOL. What a racket this is! Next time I go to the job site I am renting my car on my Corporate card to expose them to this fiasco. Maybe when companies start having to pay these ridiculous charges on their employees rental car bills they will start screaming at South Florida about this ripoff.


Haywood Jablome said:

DFW has a nice cashless tolling system in place but the only toll tag you can get is a decal that must adhere flush to the wind shield. You should also register your rental car license plate online with NTTA otherwise something will go wrong and you will get fined. The car rental agencies will gladly sell you toll coverage for $10 a day, but in a typical business trip you will likely only accrue $10 in tolls in the entire week. Dollar/Thrifty is the worst - my tag did not get picked up and the one time I did not register the plate I incurred $2.25 in tolls in under eight minutes. Each "gate" (literally a mile marker on the toll road) counts as an infraction and although Thrifty receives a single bill from NTTA for $2.25, they somehow feel obliged to declare that I owe them $15 x 6 in admin fees. Yes, 4000% in admin fees. If you call and raise hell they will refund the fees but be prepared to spend about 40 minutes on the phone. The better decision is to simply not use Thrifty or Dollar.


Alyssa Trane said:

BEWARE OF HERTZ: Similar situation happened to me with my rental from Hertz. Traveled to Houston for a business trip, paid the tolls the the clerks in the booths but still received a $30 fee on my AMEX entitled " PLATEPASS HERTZ TOLLSCOTTSDALE AZ, doing business as AMERICAN TRAFFIC SOLUTION". I tried to dispute the charges w/ AMEX but was informed I signed an agreement allowing these charges when I picked up the car. Hertz is obviously receiving kick-backs from "American Traffic Solution". I will NEVER rent from HERTZ again due to its deceptive practices.


Steven Ray said:

Had $15 stolen from my debit card by dollar / thrity rental. It was for a $1.02 phantom toll booth apparently caught by cameras by a company / criminal organization out of scottsdale arizona. No way to appeal or find out what happened prior to the $15 theft.


sylvain desjardins said:

rented a car for 9 days in Fort Lauderdale airport from Firefly rent-a-car....never drove through a toll road then a month later they charge my visa $30.89....(RENTAL CAR TOLLS SCOTTSDALE AZ US) some fraud....


matthias weth said:

I just got charged 31,75 USD on my credit card from (RENTAL CAR TOLLS SCOTTSDALE AZ US) just 2 weeks after I rented a car from HERTZ in Califronia - not Arizona - .... I immediately called my credit card company because (not being American) I had no clue why on earth Arizona charges me for some toll issues just because I rented a car 2 weeks ago in California. I still don't get it ....


Freida S. said:

I was in Fort Lauderdale & Miami in April 2014, I rented a car from Ritz Carlton, just to get back to Fort Lauderdale airport. I just look in my account I have a $11.00 charge from Rental Car Tolls Scottsdale, AZ US. WHAT IN THE WORLD!! THIS IS A MESS. I have to delay a bill payment because of this!! Looking at the responses that's it for me no rentals in Florida!!


Derrick F. said:

Two toll booths in Chicago, paid them online via the website. Two months later, Enterprise is requesting $3.80. I kept my receipts, but,,, try getting a hold of enterprise. No Fax provided, only phone number. Message says:
We will return your call within three business days, please do not call and leave multiple messages, this will not speed up your wait time/transaction.. Three days, really, no fax, no courtesy phone call. The real kicker is they added $140.00 in fees for insurance which I can prove I did not sign up for, initialed-waived. and now here is another $19.00. Sickening... Once you turn the car back in, your at their mercy... Even if you catch their scrupulous/intential error,there system is designed to make it nearly impossible to dispute.


Maria said:

I put 3 quarters because the sign said the charge was for .75 cents in the toll station located at the Florida Avenue station and 570 west. I then noticed that the light did not change to green. I then pulled to the side to check why because a car was behind me. I walked back to the coin collector. The driver of the car following me said that there is nothing I can do because apicture of my license plate had been taken. It was then that I noticed that I was only credited for.25 cents.
What do I do?



Badoo said:

I had a similar experience after renting a car from Hertz. I drove from Houston to and from Dallas and around Dallas without seeing any tolls. I was charged after about 1 month of renting the car. Out of fear of having a compromised card because I was not familiar with the charge (rental car tolls scottsdale), I immediately cancelled my card and online bank access. This is a definitely a fraud!


Mr.G said:

Get billed $72.90 by Dollar Rent a car. The invoice said $12.90 to go back and forth to Denver-Cheyenne, plus $60 admin fees.



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