Toll Insight spoke with Kenneth Plunk, President & CEO of tapNpay.
1. How was tapNpay founded, and what is the relevant problem statement or opportunity?
In 2018, we began working with the North Texas Tollway Authority, toll authority for North Texas, to help eliminate paper invoices for untagged users on their “All Electronic” toll roads. The NTTA spends millions of dollars per year on ZipCash collections (their brand name for pay by mail) and wanted to reduce the expenditure while making it easy for their untagged consumers to pay accumulated tolls.
One of the biggest issues NTTA faced is locating users and being able to invoice them. People change their address but do not always update the DMV, so finding user addresses can be problematic. This can result in unrecoverable leakage. They needed a way to solve this.
By late 2019, we implemented tapNpay, the world’s first (and only) patented alternate toll payment service using Direct Carrier Billing (DCB), meaning that users link their license plate number to their mobile phone and pay tolls on their monthly phone bill.
Allowing people to register on their phone using text makes it simple to use, there is no application required and the phone does not need to be on when using the toll roads. This is different than other alternate payment services.
We always know how to get in touch with tapNpay registered users, as they need to keep their details up to date with the phone companies. We are not reliant on sending paper invoices, as users receive their invoices on the phone, which they can review and approve, before the charges are added to their phone bill.
In many cases, users’ phones are their lifeline, and they do not want to lose their number that they may have had for many years, so they always pay their phone bill on time. This helps us receive the toll payment in a timely manner and reduces leakage.
2. Tell us more about the product and intended customer experience.
tapNpay is an easy way to pay tolls. No tag is required, and in a minute, consumers can register their vehicle and begin to use the toll roads. Users just text us their license plate number and confirm the house number or PO box number their car is registered to. They then pick their payment option of choice.
tapNpay has become quite popular because of direct carrier billing, but if a consumer has a mobile phone service not supporting DCB, we give them the ability to use credit or debit card (or Apple/Google Pay) as an alternative. When a user registers, they are presented with payment option choices, the first being DCB, then either Apple or Google Pay, depending on their phone type, then finally credit/debit. This means that tapNpay can be used by anyone who has a mobile phone regardless of who their mobile carrier is, and if it is a smartphone or not.
Consumers using tapNpay just pay the cash toll price, and it is postpaid. In some cases, toll agencies can add a convenience fee, but that discourages the use of the toll roads, and the whole purpose of an alternate payment tool is to encourage use!
One thing about tapNpay that is unique to other alternate payment providers is that we are a white-labeled software as a service (SaaS). That means that toll agencies can brand the service any way they want, and most importantly, continue to own the consumer. This gives the agencies the ability to talk to their customer and market to them to eventually upgrade to tags. Let’s face it -- there will always be consumers who do not want a tag, so alternate payment tools like tapNpay are useful, but as their (customer) situations change, agencies want to offer the most cost-effective and easiest solution.
3. Which commercial partnerships have tapNpay established to enable the integrated toll payment service offering? How do these partnerships generally work?
Our first DCB partner was Verizon Wireless, which is the largest mobile phone company in the United States, with about a 36% market share. We are in the process of adding AT&T as well as T-Mobile/Sprint, both in the final stages of adding direct carrier billing to their portfolios. We have also added almost every international carrier.
The reason international carriers are important is if visitors come to the U.S., rent a car, and use the toll roads, they can do so by adding tapNpay for the limited time they rent a car, and not have to pay high rental car company uplifts. When they use the toll roads, they will have the choice of putting their tolls onto their local country mobile phone bill and pay in their own currency. When Canadian or Mexican cars cross our borders, they too can use the toll roads and pay on their local mobile phone bill.
In addition to DCB, we offer Stripe as a Payment Service Provider (PSP). Stripe accepts AMEX, Master Card, Visa, Discover, Google, and Apple Pay as well as debit card payment. So essentially anyone, from anywhere, can use tapNpay to pay for their toll road usage.
4. Please tell us about your pilots and service rollout. What is the latest status?
As said earlier, our first customer, NTTA, started tapNpay service in late 2019. When we first started the service, the NTTA advertised tapNpay as an alternate payment on their ZipCash invoices, in their payment centers, and on their website. Customers who joined tapNpay used the roads and paid their accumulated tolls after they registered. In January of 2021, we added the feature allowing consumers with a current ZipCash invoice, to pay any outstanding toll payments, as well as any future tolls. We are discussing with NTTA the possibility of adding credit/debit card payment allowing any untagged user to be able to register for tapNpay. We are also expanding our marketing efforts to increase user knowledge of tapNpay.
5. What do see for the future of tapNpay and related industry trends?
In the near future, we will be adding the ability to offer limited-time registration, which may allow an Uber/Lyft/Taxi/Limo user to register the vehicle just for their ride, covering the costs of tolls for the period of time they are using the service.
We will also be adding new services such as congestion charge payments, as well as parking charges – for both local city government and private use. There are many opportunities for tapNpay alternate payment in the transportation industry, train and bus fees, airline tickets, and many more. We look forward to growing our footprint and expanding consumers' choices.
tapNpay is a FinTech company offering a different way to pay for goods and services. We are currently in discussion with many toll agencies across North America and look forward to expanding our services. We are also focused on growing tapNpay internationally.
If readers would like a demonstration or additional information on tapNpay, please call (512) 415-0760 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you tapNpay for sponsoring this Toll Insight post!