Pennsylvania Turnpike adds retail network for customers to pay mailed toll bills
In an effort to make it easier for customers to pay bills they receive by mail, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is linking with a national network that will accept cash at hundreds of convenience stores, drug stores and other outlets.
The turnpike is partnering with the KUBRA Cash Payment Network to allow motorists to pay tolls or other turnpike fees at places such as 7-Eleven, CVS, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Sheetz and Walgreens, among others. The program — which includes a $1.50 surcharge for each transaction — is an attempt to make it easier for customers to pay and reduce the amount of money the agency loses to deadbeats who ignore bills by mail.
The service comes at no cost to the turnpike.
Two years ago, at the start of the pandemic, the turnpike moved up the elimination of toll collectors and cash payments by about 18 months to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus by eliminating contact between staff and customers. Motorists could either pay by using an E-ZPass transponder linked to a credit card or have a photo taken of their license plate and receive a bill in the mail.
About 85% use E-ZPass, but the rest use Toll By Plate, which historically has had a payment rate of about 67%. When cash payments were eliminated, that greatly increased the number of motorists receiving bills in the mail, and the amount of uncollected tolls increased by about $24 million, from about $81 million in 2019 to just under $105 million in 2020.
Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said the cash payment network is designed to provide an opportunity for customers who want to pay in cash or need to because they don't have a bank account. The KUBRA network is most widely known for collecting payments for utility bills.
"We wanted to make sure those people have options," DeFebo said. "We think the network of payment options fits into what PA drivers need pretty neatly with a variety of urban, suburban and rural outlets."
The turnpike had a soft launch for the new program a few weeks ago. To use the new system, motorists must go to their account on the turnpike website, print a pay slip for the invoice they want to pay and take it to the payment center.
The $1.50 fee that motorists will pay for using cash is in addition to the 45% toll surcharge the turnpike adds for Toll By Plate customers to cover the cost of processing photos and sending bills.
The easiest way to avoid those extra costs is through E-ZPass, which automatically charges a customer's account each time they pass through a turnpike toll point. The transponder usually is linked with a credit card to guarantee payment.
Motorists who don't want a transponder can reduce the Toll By Plate surcharge by 15% by using PA Toll Pay. That cellphone app allows motorists to pay directly for a 30% surcharge above E-ZPass payments.
Motorists who pay for their E-ZPass account manually rather than by credit card also can add money to their account by cash through the new network. That requires a similar process of going to the turnpike website and printing out a pay slip to take to the payment center and also includes a $1.50 surcharge.
The turnpike also is in the process of reviewing new proposals for collection options. The agency's contract with the current collection services provider, TransCore, is expiring and the agency is reviewing proposals for a new deal that would expand payment options.
DeFebo said the commission likely will award a new contract by the end of the year.
For a complete list of retailers that will accept cash payments, go the turnpike website at paturnpike.com/pay-a-bill.