Airlines and to a lesser extent hotels nickel and dime travelers. The Biden administration has made a campaign issue of these fees. However the greatest offender in travel, which skates by mostly free of criticism, is rental cars.
You may pay tourism fees; concession recovery fees; customer transportation fees; parking recovery fees; vehicle license fees; energy surcharges; and even tire fees. Junk fees often add 50% – 100% to the cost of a car rental. Car rental companies employ the most creative people in the world at developing scam fees and naming them euphemistically.
Toll tracking is one of the more annoying fees that rental car companies impose. The car usually comes with a transponder, and they charge you not just the actual toll charges but a daily administrative fee for each day you incur tolls. The administrative fee is usually more than the tolls in most jurisdictions.
Hertz offers PlatePass All-Inclusive which covers administrative fees and unlimited tolls. The cost varies by location but in the Northeast can run $26 or per day whether you use any tolls or not. (Hertz has a maximum charge of $139.95 per week.)
In most places this is an opt-in service, but there are numerous reports that in the New York-New Jersey area it’s opt-out, in fact if you use the transponder even once you’re charged the all-inclusive rate for every day of your trip. Here’s a reader who used their transponder twice and got charged $140 for the week:
If you want to avoid these fees, you may need to be proactive and bring your own EZ Pass. You may even want to purchase one from a state, like California or Pennsylvania, that allows you to enter a specific vehicle’s license plate and add the one from your rental car, though this isn’t strictly speaking necessary. None of this is foolproof – if the transponder doesn’t get read, the charge may still track back to the rental car triggering fees. Also, in some states the license plate is what’s used rather than the transponder so you’ll still trigger fees.
- EZ Pass NY has a free, pay as you go plan. They withdraw funds from your account as you incur charges, and they send you a free transponder. (Some out of state accounts could get assigned to the New Jersey $1 per month
- AAA has offers, here’s one from AAA Northeast, offering $30 for a transponder with $30 credit.
- Massachusetts EZPass doesn’t have a deposit or monthly charge.
You might try photographing yourself with your personal transponder in front of the rental vehicle with license plate showing, so that you can demonstrate to PlatePass that you were using your own transponder (and thus that they are double charging you).
Something uniquely annoying even apart from the fee is that these PlatePass fees do not generally post with return of the rental, especially for short rentals. So you’re given a receipt that is incomplete. For business travel, then, you’ll be submitting only a portion of your actual expense.
And even if you manage to avoid getting dinged with this, watch out for the Hertz toll tracking scam where you’re charged for use of a stolen transponder.