It is all over the news again. After giving ample of extensions, government finally seems to have had enough of your procrastination. Therefore, 15th February it is. Get a FASTag or get ready to pay twice the toll amount in cash. But what is FASTag? How to apply for a FASTag online? How to recharge a FASTag online (or some may say Fast Tag recharging)? I am an early adopter of most of the technology, so change management is not an issue with me personally. But, in case of FASTags , I tried to rebel for a long time. Only until I had to pay Rs. 140 instead of Rs. 70 at a Bandra-Worli Sea Link, I realized that I have to invest in this one.
So what next? Like every purchase that has been imposed on you, I had to find a way to get the best possible deal. So I looked up for so many questions that I had in my mind regarding FASTag. Today, I decide to help you out in case you are wondering the same. This post can be a one stop answer to all your questions related to FASTag (or Fast Tag?). Let’s get started:
What is FASTag? How does it work?
FASTag is an RFID or Radio Frequency Identification technology introduced by Government of India in October of 2017. The decision was taken by Ministry of Road Transport and Highway under the leadership of Mr. Nitin Gadkari.
Physically, it is just a sticker that has a bar code printed on it. You need to paste it in the top-middle of the windshield, so that it can be ‘scanned’ or ‘read’ by a RFID gun or reader which is (or will be) set up on a toll plaza.
When you pass a Fast tag enabled toll plaza, you may not need to stop at a typical counter and pay the toll. Rather, you can just pass it after slowing down a bit and the tech will take care of the rest.
FASTag readers are enabled to scan the FASTag card while it is in motion; wherein it emits a signal to the FASTag card to request toll fee payment, and the card reverts with confirmation of the payment.Tweet
It is essential that a FASTag card is linked with a digital wallet or savings account to enable toll fee payment (more on it in a while).
Benefits of FASTag?
So one may argue that status quo is just fine. Agreed that tolls are bad, but we are kind of used to it now. Why do we want to put our citizens through all this pain of collecting, activating and recharging something they aren’t even aware of. Well, turns out that there are many benefits of switching to a tech based solution like FASTag. Benefits not only to you as a consumer but to our government as well. Let’s dip in:
1. No Waiting:
You know what’s that thing about waiting? You don’t feel perturbed when you are going for a vacation. But, when you are coming back, every minute feels like ages. You are exhausted because of all the fun you had, tired of driving back to home, may be hungover too, sad because you have to get back to your normal routine from the next day and in the middle of all this, you ask me to wait in a queue for 30 minutes? Barbaric.
So one obvious benefit of FASTag is that you don’t have to wait. Since there is no physical transaction involved, process is bound to complete in a trice. No more irresponsible drivers who would start searching for the money right at the moment when they reach the counter. No more fights for change.
2. Good for Environment:
And since you don’t have to wait in queues for such durations, you end up curtailing a lot of pollution. India is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to air quality. We have 14 cities listed in top 100 cities with worst AQI globally. Since toll plazas were identified as primary contributors to those pollution levels, it was one of the key agenda for implementation of this program.
3. Fuel Saving:
Yes, I know petrol is going to breach Rs. 100 mark shortly. But let us take a moment to appreciate the saving opportunity this is going to create when it comes to a fast depleting source like fuel. It is assumed that an approximate saving of 12,000 crores per year can be attributed to this alone. Massive!
4. Human Resources:
Because of automation, government tends to save a lot on the salaries of resources that collect the tolls 24×7. Manpower can now be reduced and there is a substantial cost saving involved here.
5. No Leakage:
I don’t know about you, but I have observed this a lot. Especially, in the toll plazas of Haryana and UP. You try to enter the line, a toll executive hands over an older receipt to you at half the price. He doesn’t do any entry in the system. All this leakage goes directly in his pocket and state takes the direct hit. This could very well observe a diminishing trend to a great extent with FASTag coming into the picture.
With offline mechanism, it is very difficult to maintain an end to end tracking of the vehicles. However, with FASTag kicking in, you can now track the journey of a vehicle. So toll plazas now become landmarks of sorts and you get a clearer picture in case you are a fleet owner.
This also comes in handy if administrative authorities are trying catch hold of a vehicle or a suspect. They may not have to manually deploy armed personnel at a toll booth, scrutinizing each passerby.
Apart from the big ticket items mentioned above, there are some small benefits like cashbacks at every payment, leveraging schemes run by your payment banks. Needless to say, it will give India a much needed leap in digital payments. In a nutshell, it is indeed a win win deal for government and citizens both.
How to Get a FAStag?
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has authorized 22 banks in India to provide FASTag cards to individuals. These 22 banks, along with NHAI plazas, common service centres, petrol pumps, and transport hubs have set up more than 28000 point-of-sale terminals across India.
You need not mandatorily be a customer of a bank to avail fast tag from them. Platforms like Amazon and PayTM are also offering FASTag online.
Whatever the mode of application is, you would need basic KYC documents like ID Proof, residential proof. Also, you’d also need a copy of your RC. I personally applied for fast tag through PayTM and it was a smooth experience for me. The type and number of documents is issuer specific. PayTM just asked for my RC and car number during the entire process (probably because they have my KYC documents already)
There are three kinds of fees charges one can expect while getting a fast tag issued.
A. Issuance Fee:
This fee depends from one issuer to the other. Government has capped this fee to not exceed Rs. 200 in any case. In case of PayTM, this was Rs. 100.
B. Refundable Security Deposit:
This is again dependent on the issuing authority of fast tag. PayTM didn’t charge me anything for this.
C. Minimum Balance in Digital Wallet
If you plan to take the PayTM/Amazon route, this used to be one of the key charges. For PayTM it was Rs. 250 at the time of issuance. However, as per the latest guidelines for Government of India, there is no need to maintain a minimum balance in FASTags now. Therefore, we’ll have to wait and watch how that works out.
Activation of FAStag:
Activation means linking your card to your car and an account from where all the debits will be done. In case you purchase a card from authorized banks or POS terminals, there is no need for activation. On a similar note, PayTM also offers a pre activated card. However, in case of Amazon you may have to do this manually.
The process is quite simple wherein you download the “My FASTag” app from Google’s play store or Apple’s app store. Application has a tab that says “Activate FASTag”. All you have to do is scan your card using your phone camera, enter your vehicle details, link your payment method with your card and Voila!
Fast Tag Recharging:
How to recharge your FASTag? Well, if you have linked it to a bank account, there is no requirement of recharge per se. Amount would be directly debited from your account.
Incase you have linked it to a digital wallet (in case of PayTM), you can recharge it in the exact way you would add money to the PayTM wallet. You can use UPI, net banking, NEFT for the same. The process is really fast and the amount reflects immediately. I have been in some situations, where I recharged my card while I was in the queue. Could fast tag recharging get any faster? I think not.
In case you are wondering, upper limit of Fast tag recharging is also at par with your KYC status in the digital wallets. So if you are a fleet owner and planning to do away with the hassle of recharging multiple times for your vehicles, you might consider depositing a bulk amount using KYC.
Shortcomings of FASTag:
While the benefits outweigh the effort and shortcomings of the entire system by a huge margin, I still feel that there are some areas where FASTag has some disdvantages:
1. Lack of Infrastructure:
Government is pushing everyone to buy a fast tag but I still feel there need to be more FASTag enabled lanes on the tolls. There is no point of having a FASTag if only two lanes are equipped with RFID scanners. My daily commute involves crossing Mulund Thane Toll plaza. From one end, there are just two lines that have this facility and from the other, there is a person who manually holds the RFID gun and scans when you ask him to. I understand that this is a chicken and egg situation for the government and steps will be taken soon enough to ramp this up rapidly.
2. Technical Know How:
Despite keeping the process pretty simple, I saw my grandfather struggling with the idea of fast tag. Till date, all people of that age group and even younger at times, will call their children for getting mobile phone recharges done online. We cannot expect them to to handle fast tag recharging by themselves. So, a massive training drive is required in my opinion to tackle this problem.
If there is some glitch in the system while I cross the toll plaza, who knows if my amount will get deducted once or may be multiple times. And if you are a daily commuter, I don’t think you will cross check each time. Therefore, I would prefer a digital payment wallet as the only way for my FASTag. This way, I can at least track the payments easily once a month. Bank statements would have other charges as well. Fast tag recharging, tracking, debits should be from the same platform.
Bonus FAQ which is not so frequent:
While everyone’s talking about FASTags, did anyone wonder what happens in case of a return journey using the FASTag? For example, one way toll may cost you Rs. 50 and a return ticket might cost you Rs. 80 at the same toll. How does FASTag handle this? Well, they have incorporated such data for each toll. You will be charged for one way travel if you cross the toll once. However, if you return back in the stipulated time (24 hours for most tolls), you will only be charged the balance amount for a return journey. So, Rs. 30 if we consider the above example. So next time you are budgeting for fast tag recharging for your monthly commute, remember to account for this.
I think it is a welcome move by Government of India. With so many benefits and leveraging tech for betterment of the society, its a win-win for everyone involved here. As of 31st December 2019, government had issued 1.1 Crore cards. However, I think the real boom came much after that. FASTag transactions crossed 86mn in July 2020 despite the lockdown. Similarly, PayTM also reported a splurge in Fast Tag Recharging lately.
So, have you got one yet? Planning to apply? Digital or Offline?
Until Next Time. . .