The Pennsylvania Turnpike now accepts credit cards at toll booths throughout the state.
That doesn't mean drivers are encouraged to rely on plastic, though, said Carl DeFebo, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
"It's a backup if you pull up to a toll booth and you don't have cash," he said.
While cash and E-ZPass are the preferred means of payment, the turnpike's toll collectors began receiving card readers Sept. 13, as first reported in the Pittsburgh-based news web site The Incline, to cope with the realities of an increasingly cashless society, DeFebo said.
"There are fewer people today that seem to be carrying cash," he said.
He also said drivers' GPS devices were routing them to interchanges that are E-ZPass only, creating a problem for those who then get on the highway without a toll ticket.
Typically a driver who doesn't have enough cash to cover the costs of the toll has to fill out a certificate of passage, essentially an IOU to the turnpike. It's time consuming and offers no guarantee the toll payment will ever come. He said that these drivers were not a significant source of unpaid tolls, he said. Unlike people who intentionally drive through E-ZPass lanes without paying, these drivers usually pull into a cash lane and tell the toll collector they are short of cash.
Now, a driver can go through one of the cash lanes to use a credit card, DeFebo said. Card readers were initially issued as a pilot program and were made available throughout the state on Sept. 19. DeFebo emphasized, though, that people without E-ZPass should just carry cash. "The credit card really is not a preferred payment method," he said.