Short Answer: State-operated toll booths in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island accept debit cards. Accepted forms of payment at toll booths in other states vary; many toll roads are managed at the state level, but some are operated regionally or even privately. You can usually pay a toll by mail or by funding an electronic transponder using your debit card/checking account. For more details, see below.
Can You Pay Tolls With a Debit Card?
You may be able to pay a toll at a toll booth with a debit card, but accepted forms of payment vary depending on the level at which the toll facility is operated. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 42 states and the District of Columbia currently have some form of tolling facility. Of those:
- 28 states have tolling facilities operated at the state level
- 14 states have regionally operated tolling facilities
- 20 states have tolling facilities that are privately owned and operated
There are only three states that accept debit cards (and credit cards) at all state-operated turnpike and toll booth locations:
- Rhode Island
Accepted forms of payment for regionally- and privately-operated toll booths can vary within the same state. Keep in mind that not all tolling booths accept debit or credit cards, but all facilities with physical toll booths will accept cash.
Most toll facilities do also accept some form of electronic payment, such as pay-by-plate programs or electronic transponders like E-ZPass. Some tolling facilities do not even have booths at which you can stop and pay.
Pay-By-Plate and Electronic Transponder Payment Methods
At toll facilities with pay-by-plate programs, a photo of your license plate will be taken when you drive through the toll without paying, and you’ll receive an invoice in the mail for the amount you owe. Most facilities allow you to pay unpaid tolls with a debit or credit card online, over the phone, or by mail. It’s important to note that some locations charge statement and processing fees for driving through a toll without paying.
If you frequently drive on toll roads and you want to pay by debit card (and potentially avoid lines at toll booths), you might want to consider purchasing an electronic transponder and linking your debit card/checking account for payment. E-ZPass is the most popular transponder and can be used in several states, including Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia. Some states have their own electronic transponder systems, such as Florida’s SunPass and Texas’ TxTag.
High-Occupancy Vehicle Lanes
Some congested areas, such as highways in California and Virginia, offer high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) or high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to promote carpooling and ride-sharing. These lanes are only available to vehicles that are carrying at least two (sometimes three) people, and they are often far less congested than regular traffic lanes. Single-occupancy vehicles can pay a toll to use HOV lanes; this toll is paid either with an electronic transponder or a pay-by-plate system.
Tolls are enforced by police and highway patrol monitoring, as well as by verification points that will split the HOV lane into two and capture the license plates of those declaring single occupancy. There are fines for single-occupancy vehicles caught using HOV lanes without paying the toll; motorcycles are the exception to this and are permitted to use HOV lanes even with only one passenger.
There are no physical toll booth locations for HOV lanes, so tolls (and fines) can be paid using a debit card/checking account, just like other electronic transponder and pay-by-plate toll programs. Some E-ZPass versions can also be set to HOV mode and charge accordingly.
Lists of Tolling Facilities and Accepted Payments
The U.S. Federal Highway Administration regularly updates a series of lists of all tolling facilities in the country, along with information about the operating authority, pricing, and payment options. You can access the lists from the Office of Highway Policy Information’s website in PDF or spreadsheet form.
If a tolling facility on one of the lists has no information in the “Electronic Toll Collection System?” field, this means that the section either:
- Is non-tolled (which will be noted in the “Remarks” column)
- Accepts cash and possibly debit/credit cards, but not electronic payments
If you are planning to travel on a tolled road, bridge, or tunnel and are unsure how to pay, you can contact the operating authority to find out if it accepts debit cards. Privately-owned toll booths are the most likely to be cash-only tolling facilities.
Debit cards are accepted at some toll booths; however, the only states that accept debit cards at all state-operated toll booths are those in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. If you cannot use a debit card at a toll booth, you can usually pay a toll using your debit card via mail, phone, or online, or by loading an electronic transponder. Keep in mind that privately-owned tolling facilities are the most likely only to accept cash.
For information about other transportation services that accept debit cards, see our article about renting a car with a debit card.