EZ-Pass Massachusetts credit card replenishment stupidity

By | October 6, 2014

I’ve had my share of run-ins with the incompetent bureaucracy of EZ-Pass Massachusetts (née “MTA Fastlane”), but somehow they’ve avoided being deservedly mocked on my blog. Well, the free ride is over.

Several months ago, I had to change the credit-card number associated with my EZ-Pass account, because of a lost credit card. Unfortunately, EZ-Pass tried to charge the card in the interval between when the old card was cancelled and when we received the replacements, and the charge was denied. Therefore, as expected and designed, they ran the charge onto the “secondary” credit card associated with the account. So far, all was well.

Shortly after the replacement card arrived, I went to the EZ-Pass web site and entered the new number and expiration date. The next time EZ-Pass had to charge our card… they charged the secondary credit card again.

I shrugged my shoulders and figured either there had been a propagation delay with the change, or I had typed the card number wrong, so I went back to the EZ-Pass web site and entered the new number and expiration date a second time. The next time EZ-Pass had to charge our card… they charged the secondary credit card again.

I contacted EZ-Pass through their customer service web form and asked what was going on. They responded as follows:

If your primary credit card has declined payment for any reason, your secondary credit card will automatically be charged. To review your account history in detail, you may contact the Call Center at 1-877-627-7745 and select option 3 to speak with a representative. You may also stop into a Service Center located in Auburn, Natick, East Boston and Saugus.

I responded:

Your answer, while entirely accurate, was also entirely useless.

I am, of course, already aware that the secondary card gets charged when the primary card is declined. That’s the whole point of having a secondary card on file. I’m not an idiot.

What I’m asking you is why the primary card was declined. There’s no reason why it would have been. It has been working just fine for me the entire time; as far as I can tell from looking at the web site, the data for the card (number, expiration date, etc.) is correct; I have not come anywhere near maxing out the card at any point; and it has worked for EZ-Pass in the past.

Can you please check for me if my card was, indeed, declined, and if so, tell me why, so I can fix the problem?

I got no response.

Today, after they charged the wrong credit card again I called them on the phone. After navigating a convoluted maze of telephone menus and waiting on hold for several minutes (which is why I was trying to do it by email instead of phone in the first place), I finally got through to a human being, who explained what was going on:

Once an account’s primary credit card is declined for any reason, the system switches over to the account’s secondary credit card, and it stays there until the secondary credit card is itself declined for some reason.

I thanked the guy on the phone for finally solving the mystery, and said to him, “I’d appreciate it if you’d pass on the following feedback to the people there who run things. The way this works is incredibly stupid. And totally undocumented. And I wouldn’t have had to waste my time calling you today if the person who answered my email had given me this information months ago.”

He commiserated.

I am sure his sympathy is the only thing I’ll get in response to my complaint, because I surely don’t expect EZ-Pass to actually fix the stupidity.


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