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How to Avoid VDOT SmartTag Fees: Get an Out of State EZ Pass Account

The Virginia Department of Transportation is not exactly considered the brightest department in the Commonwealth and their plan to soak Virginians even more by charging fees to use SmartTags, also called EZ Pass, is a case in point.

When the devices first came out, there were a number of reasons to open an account that made a lot of sense. Mostly, there was a considerable discount on the tolls we must pay to use roads that, for the most part, have already been paid for by tax dollars. But as more and more people obtained SmartTags, the discounts began evaporating to feed the Pig of State. Now, there is very little savings involved at all and it has simply come to be a means to get through the toll booths faster.

So, essentially, the Commonwealth lured you into using the EZ Pass by charging more to use cash, and now wants to sock it to you. That is a bit dishonest. And if this fee causes occasional users to turn in their device and move back to coins, VDOT will see their coin processing costs go up as a result. It costs to sort, count and roll all those coins!

Paying a monthly fee, which is really a tax, will negate the value of the device for the occasional user, and actually end up costing more when you add in the fees. Many of us fall into that category.

And the fees will diminish the value for the daily toll road commuter.

In the end, many will now be paying more for the added convenience of paying the state your money faster.

Just as in the early days of the ATM machine, banks were eager to persuade customers to use the machines. They claimed that ATM’s will actually increase customer service and save the bank money by allowing them to serve more customers with longer hours without adding more tellers. So it was a win – win.

Until they got us all hooked. And along came the fees. ATM’s were no longer a way to add customer service and save the bank money. They became a major cash cow.

So, VDOT is following the same game plan as the banks. Get customers hooked and then sock it to them with fees.

Their explanation has moved from the original benefits to the environment and the driver. They no longer care about the added pollution and wasted gas, not to mention the wear and tear on our vehicles. Nor do they use the savings on tolls as a selling feature because they have already taken that away.

And they are no longer interested in bragging about the ability to get more travelers through the tolls faster and not needing as many manual toll collectors, a major savings that has made the SmartTags a financial boon for VDOT.

No, they now want to ignore the savings the devices have brought them and have the already overburdened commuters pay even more, taking yet another bite out of the private sector’s expendable income.

And they don’t seem to add in the interest they make (or should be making) from the money that sits in your account. There are no figures available on this and it is irresponsible at best not to let taxpayers know that they are already making money from us by requiring a balance sit in our accounts at all times.

But the fact is, if Virginia moves to a fee for the SmartTags, you can simply move your account to another state. If enough people start doing that, perhaps VDOT will notice the loss of interest revenue and realize that this was a mistake.

Several states actually have offers to move your account. Simply provide the unit ID number and a credit card and close your Virginia account. The problem with that is that Virginia charges $25 if you do not return it. So it is probably better to get one from out of state.

There are a number of positive reviews from people who ordered their devices from Massachusetts. You can get up to 4 units with no set up charges, no monthly fees and no charge for the unit. And all work off of the same account, so you can put one in each car and never have to move them from vehicle to vehicle.

The chart below shows the fees charged by various states if using a credit card for replenishment. New York and New Jersey are also free, but MassDot has the best deal, which is where I plan to do business if VDOT adds a fee.

And yes, they work in all of the EZ-Pass states!

StateSet Up FeeMonthly FeeWeb SignupPhone
New Hampshire$8.90$0
New Jersey$0$0
New York$0$0
Rhode Island$20.95$0
West Virginia$0$0.42

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog. Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

30 Responses to “How to Avoid VDOT SmartTag Fees: Get an Out of State EZ Pass Account”

  1. Geo says:

    Another scam these States are pulling is, if your EZ Pass device is from another State they do not extend a discount to the toll. Not sure where it started but Gov Crisco in NJ started doing it.

    So if your device is from any other State and your traveling through NJ, expect to pay the FULL price on the tolls you travel through. If the move to other States become effective, watch VDOT to pull that next.

    • Tom White says:

      The discounts have pretty much disappeared anyway. EZ Pass users in Va pay full tolls most everywhere except the Coleman Bridge in Yorktown. The toll is $2 Northbound only and $.85 if you are a commuter, which means you have to take at least 3 trips across North Bound per month. When I got the EZ Pass, the discounts were for using EZ Pass, commuter or not. You got a break on pretty much all of the tolls. Not anymore. And since I do not commute regularly through a toll road, my device is simply a convenience. I use it once or twice a week max. Downtown Expressway and Powhite mostly. If they tack on a fee, I will order 3 of them from Massachusetts. One for each vehicle. Now I only have the one.

      It's only a buck a month, but I just changed my refuse collection company for about the same difference. And a couple of other small changes – moving from Vonage to Magic Jack, etc. and the savings add up to a few hundred dollars a year. Not a lot of money, but if I can get the same or acceptable service elsewhere for less money, that's what I am going to do.

      For me, the $1 per month EZ Pass fee will cost me more than paying in cash. When they first got us all "hooked" on them, there was a pretty good savings. Not any more.

      It's all about fiscal conservatism. How could I justify not saving where I can and still call myself a fiscal conservative?

      • Geo says:

        I agree wholeheartedly Tom.

        My EZ Pass is from NY, where they are still providing some discounts, though they reduced the amount of the discount and "jacked up" the tolls. So they got us anyway. Taking away the discount on the NJ Turnpike [traveling from end to end] was a substantial price hike. It's only worth it now for the convenience getting through the Toll Booth without having to stop. As you already stated.

        It's only a matter of time before the dopey libs in other states, like Deval in MA eliminate the bennies also. They all think alike. I don't think they are going to last in NY with Cuomo for very long either. They are already jacking up the Tolls on the NY Thruway to outrageous amounts [for now trucks] trying to generate revenue for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.

  2. Areaem says:

    Tom, FYI, You are being too nice to NJ – NJ does have a monthly fee. It is called “Membership Fee” – $1 and if you need statements monthly by email or mail, it is another $1. See

  3. Liz says:

    Upcoming changes for the VA E-Zpass

    Standard Transponder: For each Standard transponder, a Standard Account Maintenance Fee of $0.50 will be charged to your account each month.
    Flex Transponders: Starting January 1, 2013, for E-ZPass Flex transponder, a Flex Account Maintenance Fee of $1.00 will be charged to your account each month. Prior to January 1, 2013, each E-ZPass Flex will be charged the Standard Transponder rate of $0.50.
    HOV Only Flex Fee Waiver: The Flex Account Maintenance Fee will be waived for any month where the Flex transponder is used exclusively for Free HOV transactions.

    I have heard that the IPass has no monthly fees.

    • RogerD says:

      Well, yeah, if you only drive on the new 495 express lanes, then you are not charged if you have a Flex transponder. Just do not go anywhere else that month, or you will get hit with a $1 extra. Also nice of them to cut you a break on the fee, since the freaking lanes won’t even be open until 2013 (or late Dec 2012…)

      Supposedly I am grandfathered at no charge, at least until I do something to my account, like trade in an old-stylre transponder for a Flex.

      Massachusttes, sounds like I will be visiting you online!

  4. John Kinney says:

    I have my ezpass from the Massachusetts Turnpike. No charge for the transponder up front and no monthly fee.

  5. dave says:

    When you go to the MA website, it asks what state you live in, and if you pick VA, then it redirects to the VA ezpass website. How do you sign up as a VA resident and not get forced back to VA’s operation? Also don’t you have to pay shipping to get the ezpass to you, and later if you have to return it? Doesn’t that sort of cancel out the savings from no monthly fees, since it’s only $6 a year?

  6. NJ Driver says:

    please update this because most EzPass states are not FREE anymore… if there is one, i’d like to know

    • Tim says:

      Massachusetts is still 100% free. When it asks what state you live in click Mass, then when you sign up put your actual address. Everything is online. It’s the perfect 100% free EZ-Pass. No fees and they don’t charge you for the transponder like most states do.

  7. NJ Driver says:

    please update your database

    i don’t see any EZ PASS state that are free anymore

    if so, i’d like to know where they don’t charge a monthly membership fee

  8. NE driver

    Right now as of nov 2014 (depending on your situation I suppose) the best Fast pass to get is from NC. It is good from FL all the way to PA. (Works at all fast pass, ez pass etc toll lanes). It is $20 (or $5 for a sticker) for hard case transponder. Replenish fee is only $20 where as some other states are $35-40. That seems to tie up alot of money. Also they do not charge monthly non use charge of $1 per month until after a yr. some were after 30 days, some 90. A yr seemed the most reasonable if only traveling the east coast for Holidays which is why we needed it. Having to pull over to go through tolls during holiday weeks added way too much time on our trips! I am in VA and easily applied online for an NC pass.

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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