Not-So-Thrifty Car Rental

We took a trip to San Francisco and decided to rent a car from Thrifty. The price was decent and everything about our experience from pickup to dropoff was fairly smooth. But there’s one thing to be careful of especially around the Bay Area: tolls.

If you don’t choose Thrifty’s toll plan, then you’re on the hook for tolls plus a $15 surcharge per toll if Thrifty is charged. The agent may tell you that it’s easy to pay tolls online through the Bay Area’s FasTrak program, but it’s not so straightforward.

Our agent told us we’d have no problem paying our final tolls to the airport within 24 hours of returning our car, but it was more complicated than that. When we flew back home after our trip, I immediately logged on to FasTrak’s website and attempted to make a one-time payment, but the website wouldn’t allow me to. Why? I later found out (after waiting for an hour on the customer service line) that after I returned my rental car, the next person who rented my car registered the plate with FasTrak, thereby preventing me from making my one-time payment! The FastTrak agent assisted me in making a payment and I even received a confirmation email. But FastTrak ended up charging Thrifty anyway, so I received a bill from Thrifty with its $15 surcharge tacked on.

So if you are renting from Thrifty at SFO, do not listen to the agent if they say you can pay for tolls after the fact. As soon as you pick up your car, register on FasTrak at the start of your trip. And confirm that your credit card is being charged during your trip so that the charges don’t end up at Thrifty. If they do, Thrifty will make you pay those hefty surcharges.

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