You will imperatively need a FASTag for your car if you are on the road and are crossing any tolls through the national highways in India, from January 1st. This confirmation comes from the Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and MSME Nitin Gadkari who said that FASTags would be mandatory for toll payment and would allow contactless and electronic payments for toll payments. We have seen a push from the government which also attempted to make it mandatory late last year and then pushed that deadline to early 2020. Right now, FASTags are being issued by multiple banks, including HDFCs. Bank, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Bank, Paytm Payments Bank and IDFC First Bank, just to name a few. It is also worth noting that the FASTag payment option is enabled at more than 720 national highway toll booths across India.
But what exactly is a FASTag? NETC, or National Electronic Toll Collection FASTag, works with electronic payment 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 have to pay Cash. A FASTag is a sticker that is attached to your car’s windshield from the inside. This is radio frequency identification (RFID) enabled via barcode and is linked to the vehicle registration details. This information is stored in the barcode itself. As you drive into any toll on any national highway in India, there will be dedicated lanes with FASTag readers installed overhead and as your vehicle passes under them, the RFID code is detected for your vehicle, processed and the required toll amount it is deducted from the prepaid balance. All this without having to stop, interact with a human being at a toll booth and have to pay cash.
What is the advantage of a FASTag? According to the 2008 National Highways Fee Regulations (Determination of tariffs and collection), there are lanes at toll booths reserved exclusively for FASTag users. You drive in that lane, the FASTag is detected by the readers installed above, the payment is done smoothly and you are on your way. The process is so fast that you don’t have to stop. The government’s push for automated digital payments at highway toll booths across India is multi-pronged. An advantage is the reduction of cash management by the concessionaire and the authorities managing the toll booths to allow for better transparency of the system. It is also expected to reduce rush and waiting times at toll booths, often due to cash collections, people trying to find the exact change or sometimes even arguments about the exact toll amount. And finally, the less time you spend in a toll booth, you waste less fuel just sitting in the queue and this also reduces pollution.
How can I buy a FASTag? You have more options here. If you need to purchase a FASTag for your car, you can purchase one at a few toll booths across India, bringing your identification and vehicle registration documents with you. This is a mandatory KYC process. Or, and maybe even this could be simpler: you could buy one on Amazon.in or contact some banks, including payment banks, for these FASTags. Banks currently offering FASTag include HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, Kotak Bank, Axis Bank, and Paytm Payments Bank, just to name a few.
What is the cost to buy a FASTag? The cost of purchasing a FASTag depends on two things. First, the class of vehicle you are buying it for: a car, jeep or van, bus or truck, light commercial vehicle, construction machinery etc. Secondly, the bank you are purchasing the FASTag from will have its own policies regarding issuing commissions and security deposits. Right now, for example, you can buy a FASTag for a car from Paytm for Rs 500, which includes Rs 250 of refundable security deposit and the minimum balance threshold of Rs 150 that must be maintained. If you buy it from ICICI Bank, you will pay a tag issuing fee of Rs 99.12 plus Rs 200 as the deposit amount and Rs 200 as the minimum balance threshold. There are small price differences, but in most cases banks also bundle some offers or refunds with the purchase of a new FASTag.
How can I top up a FASTag? Simple enough, there are two options for you. The first is to use the FASTag wallet created by the issuing bank and top it up via internet banking, credit or debit cards or UPI, depending on the options offered by the bank. Second, you have mobile wallet apps like Paytm and PhonePe that allow you to top up virtually any issuing bank’s FASTag. The latter option is much simpler and more intuitive, because the quality of the portfolio options currently offered by most banks is not really up to par.
What is the validity of the FASTag? A FASTag is valid for a period of 5 years from the date of issue. The top-up you make for the FASTag account is not valid and can remain active in the wallet for the entire duration of the FASTag validity.