You will mandatorily need a FASTag for your car if you are on a road trip and crossing any toll plazas across national highways in India, from February 15. This is an extension of the previous deadline of January 1, which was earlier confirmed by the Union minister for road transport, highways and MSMEs Nitin Gadkari. FASTags would be mandatory for paying at toll plazas and enable contactless as well as electronic payments for toll payments. We have been seeing a push by the government who also attempted to make this mandatory late last year and then pushed that deadline to the beginning of the year 2020. At this time, FASTags are being issued by multiple banks, including HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Bank, Paytm Payments Bank and IDFC First Bank, to name a few.
Also worth noting, the FASTag payments option is enabled at more than 720 toll plazas on national highways across India.
But what exactly is a FASTag? The NETC, or National Electronic Toll Collection FASTag, works with the electronic payments systems that have been developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and uses RFID technology to automatically collect payments without the vehicle having to stop or you needing to pay in cash. A FASTag is a sticker that is attached to the windshield of your car, from the inside. This is Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) enabled via the barcode and is linked with the registration details of your vehicle. That information is stored in the barcode itself. As you drive though any toll plaza on any national highway in India, there will be dedicated lanes that have FASTag readers installed overhead—and as your vehicle passes beneath them, the RFID code is detected for your vehicle, processed and the necessary toll amount is deducted from the prepaid balance. All this without you having to stop, interact with a human being at a toll plaza and having to pay cash.
What is the advantage of a FASTag? According to the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules 2008, there are lanes at toll plazas reserved exclusively for FASTag users. You drive into that lane, the FASTag is detected by the readers installed overhead, the payment is made seamlessly, and you are on your way. The process is so quick, you don’t need to stop. The government push towards automated digital payments at toll plazas across India is multi-pronged. One advantage is reduced cash handling by the concessionaire as well as the authorities running toll plazas to allow for better transparency in the system. It is also expected to reduce the rush and waiting times at toll plazas, which is often because of cash collections, people trying to find the exact change or sometimes even arguments about the exact toll amount. And finally, the lesser time you spend at a toll plaza, you waste less fuel just sitting there in a queue and that also reduces pollution.
How can I buy a FASTag? You have multiple options here. If you need to buy a FASTag for your car, you can buy one at certain toll plazas across India, by carrying your identification as well as the vehicle registration documents with you. This is a mandatory KYC process. Or, and this could perhaps be simpler as well—you could buy one on Amazon.in or approach certain banks, including payments banks, for these FASTags. The banks that currently offer FASTags include HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, Kotak Bank, Axis Bank as well as Paytm Payments Bank, to name a few.
What is the cost of buying a FASTag? The cost of buying a FASTag depends on two things. First, the class of vehicle you are buying it for—a car, jeep or van, or a bus or truck, light commercial vehicles, construction machines etc. Secondly, the bank you are buying the FASTag from will have their own policies regarding issuance fees and security deposits. At this time, for instance, you can buy a FASTag for a car from Paytm for Rs 500—this includes Rs 250 refundable security deposit and the Rs 150 minimum balance threshold that needs to be maintained. If you buy it from ICICI Bank, you will pay a tag issuance fee of Rs 99.12 plus Rs 200 as deposit amount and Rs 200 as the minimum threshold balance. There are minor pricing differences, but at most times, banks also bundle some offers or cashbacks with the purchase of a new FASTag.
How can I recharge a FASTag? Quite simple, there are two options for you. First is to use the FASTag wallet created by the issuing bank, and recharge it using internet banking, credit or debit cards or UPI, depending on the options the bank offers. Secondly, you have mobile wallet apps such as Paytm and PhonePe that let you recharge pretty much any issuing bank’s FASTag. The latter option is much simpler and intuitive, because the quality of wallet options currently offered by most banks isn’t really up to the mark.
What is the validity of the FASTag? A FASTag is valid for a period of 5 years from the date of issuance. The recharge that you do for the FASTag account does not have any validity and can remain active in the wallet for the entire duration of the FASTag validity.