Launched in Westboro, PayByCar uses E-ZPass transponders to shave time at gas pump
By Brian Lee
Telegram & Gazette Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2019 at 7:48 PM Updated Apr 30, 2019 at 9:20 PM
WESTBORO — As customers pulled in to Alltown Mobil on Route 9 Tuesday, they were told that they could enroll in a first-in-the-nation option that would allow them to pay for fuel through their E-ZPass vehicle transponders, according to two people responsible for the new technology. They said the payment method eliminates eight of the 12 steps at the pump, shaving 80 seconds from the average four-minute transaction.
“It’s not an insignificant amount of time,” said Kevin Condon, founder and chief executive officer of Boston-based PayByCar.
The in-car payment technology system became available to the general public on Monday, Mr. Condon said.
Anyone who has an E-ZPass toll transponder was invited to register for PayByCar through a two-step process at www.mypaybycar.com. Enrollment requires entering the E-ZPass transponder number and a credit card or other form of payment. The PayByCar account is separate from customers’ toll accounts.
Mr. Condon and PayByCar President Anand Raman stood in front of the 10-pump gas station at Route 9 and Lyman Street handing people cards about the program, and answering questions.
Mr. Condon estimated about 100 people registered Monday.
Antennas on the gas-station canopy read the transponders, and when an enrolled customer pulls in, he or she will receive a text message asking if they want gas, and if so, at which pump.
By the time the customer gets out of the car, the pump has been activated, Mr. Condon said.
I don’t have to swipe a card or worry about someone looking at the PIN number, or skimming,” the founder said.
The customer takes the dispenser nozzle, makes her fuel choice, fills up, returns the nozzle and the transaction is done. The customer gets a receipt, and the transaction is recorded via email and on the PayByCar account page.
“It’s really seamless,” Mr. Condon said.
Mr. Raman said the company chose Westboro to launch the technology because it’s close to Interstate 495 and the Massachusetts Turnpike, which has a lot of daily commuters with E-ZPass transponders.
“PayByCar gives them use of a proven and familiar technology in a completely new way,” he said.
Global Partners, the parent company of Alltown convenience stores, which has a portfolio of about 1,000 gas stations, is set to expand the offering to other stores in the coming months, it said in a statement.
Mark Cosenza, senior vice president of Global Partners, said, “PayByCar aligns with our strategy of being first to market with innovative solutions that enhance the overall experience for our guests. PayByCar is easy to use and allows commuters to get in and out of the family of Global locations faster.”
PayByCar’s agreement with the E-ZPass network of 15 states — from Maine to Illinois to the west, excluding Vermont, and from Maine to North Carolina to the south, excepting Connecticut — includes about 35 million vehicles with E-Z Pass transponders, Mr. Condon said.
When a reporter approached Donna Fulginiti about the new offering as she put gas in her vehicle, the customer initially expressed skepticism.
“It’s run by the government; I don’t know about that,” she said with a laugh.
But given additional details, she said she could envision it working out well.
“I think it would be easy. Convenient. Different.”
A reporter then asked Mr. Condon if he had fielded questions concerning Big Brother watching.
“We tell people it’s unlike all of the GPS-based ones that track you,” Mr. Condon said. “We don’t do that. You just come in, and then we know you’re in ... It’s Big Brother to the extent the credit card company knows you’re here, or the gas station does. But it’s not like one of those apps that are tracking you down the street. We don’t know that you’re on Smith Street at 2 a.m. or any of that.”
He noted that any credit card company would be aware of a user’s whereabouts at the time of a transaction.
Damon Magnuski, a customer who had already been using PayByCar but was not at the Westboro station Tuesday, was complimentary about the technology.
In an email, Mr. Magnuski said he used it for the second time last Wednesday in Westboro, when it was in test mode, and “loved it.”
“The first time (about a month ago) I was not sure how it would work, so I lingered by the entrance and waited for the text message, then entered the pump number,” he said.
“The better move is just to drive up to the open pump and enter the pump number when the text comes,” he said. “Very convenient. It will pay huge dividends when winter comes back through, as there is less outside time fiddling with the card reader. Speaking of the card reader, PayByCar will reduce the odds of identity theft which, at least for me, is a bigger reason to use it. I cannot wait for it be available at the service stations on (the Massachusetts Turnpike), as that is where I gas up the most.”