Thursday, 26th September, 2019

How does Paytm FASTag work on national highways?

FASTag

When I bought a new car this year the car dealership took Rs 500 from me towards FASTag, out of which Rs 100 is the cost of the tag, Rs 250 is refundable security deposit and Rs 150 is kept as a threshold amount in your FASTag account. Many banks are assigned by the government to sell these FASTags. My car dealership gets the tag issued by Paytm, so they connected this tag with my Paytm mobile number & this new car’s registration number. And then they affixed the tag on top of my front windscreen.

Within minutes I received SMS notification from Paytm about a new FASTag being activated in my account, and I could see Rs 150 threshold amount in a “FASTag wallet” inside the Paytm app.

If you order a FASTag from any of the issuing banks the process should be similar, you will pay the one time fee to buy the sticker, you will also need to provide your car’s registration number while buying it, and it will be given to you by the bank and you will stick it onto your car. But I am unsure how much time that will take because traditional banks & their employees are very lazy, when I asked about to one of the “Personal Banker” officer at my HDFC bank’s home branch he was completely clueless about it. So I would suggest you to get it from Paytm.

I recently went on a big road trip & this was the first time I used it. As this has been launched since quite a few years, all the toll gates on national highway are FASTag enabled already and the government is going to make FASTag mandatory to pay toll fee from 1st December 2019. So now is the perfect time to get it.

Right now, some toll gates have all of their lanes FASTag enabled while some toll gates have only one dedicated lane for it, and some toll gates have handheld scanners with their staff. In either case you will be able to see FASTag notice boards & banners from atleast 500 meters away before approaching the gates. Now you just go near the gate, there are scanners which will read your tag & lift up the metal boom barrier & you can drive past. It automatically deducts amount from your bank account or Paytm account depending upon to which account it is connected.

You will receive a SMS of the fee deducted but it will not be instantaneously, the SMS usually arrives after a few hours, depending upon how well that particular toll gate is connected to the internet. I have even received SMS of one toll gate charge one day after I drove past it, so nothing to worry, it always deducts the correct amount.

So far I have not been able to test a round trip by going both ways through the same toll gate within a time period of 24 hours, but I believe it will correctly deduct the amount [round trip fare minus one way fare already paid] instead of charging you one way fares twice, which seems only logical.

I have setup Paytm to charge my credit card Rs 1000 to top up its balance automatically when the balance goes below Rs 1000. So the process is completely automatically, I zoom past toll gates, they deduct the fee, I get a SMS, I can see the transaction inside the Paytm app & I can also download a monthly statement in PDF format as well. I would say this whole system works pretty smooth.

Wednesday, 25th September, 2019

South India road trip

We went on a car trip towards southern India for about 4 weeks, from 30th August to 22nd September. We just got out of the door without any fixed route or destination or number of days in mind, with only one hotel booked at the next city, and continued planning further details on the road, till we were ready to return home. Here are some details.

Route / Distance / Toll Paid / Days Stayed

BBSR > Visakhapatnam / 423 KM / Rs 400 / stayed the night

Visakhapatnam > Vijayawada / 368 KM / Rs 547 / stayed the night

Vijayawada > Chennai / 458 KM / Rs 450 / stayed for a week

Chennai > Puducherry / 130 KM / Rs 150 / stayed for 3 nights

Puducherry > Bengaluru / 311 KM / Rs 100 / stayed a week

Bengaluru > Hyderabad / 575 KM / Rs 680 / stayed a week

Hyderabad > Visakhapatnam / 682 KM / Rs 845 / stayed the night

Visakhapatnam > Bhubaneswar / 419 KM / Rs 500 / reached home

Stats:

Drove 4265 kilometers from home till back home, across 5 states and 1 union territory.

Paid approximately Rs 3800 at various national highway & interstate expressway toll gates, almost all of which was paid using FASTag, the electronic toll collection system.

Burned around 17757 of petrol.

Spend 67019 in hotel bills.

Saw countless beautiful sights, passed by hundreds of mountains, endless greenery, drove on great 6 lane national highway from Vijayawada to Chennai, drove on awesome 8 lane Nehru Outer Ring Road outside Hyderabad, drove on terrible potholed roads in Bengaluru. Ate at many highway side dhabas & food courts. Visited temples, malls, beaches.

Our jaws hit floor seeing absolutely massive KIA Motors plant in Andhra Pradesh while going from Bengaluru to Hyderabad. Ate Swedish food & brought furnitures from giant IKEA showroom in Hyderabad.

As I sit here at home in Bhubaneswar on a rainy morning, typing this post, trying to remember all the things we saw & did in the trip, relive those moments, I feel good that I did this trip, I feel proud that I was able to drive such long distances, but more importantly it feels useful.

I believe such spontaneous, big road trips can be very useful for a person: just get out there, see the vast lands, see our gigantic country, first get confused & then understand different languages, cultures, eat different food, hate some people, love some people, it increases your exposure, it broadens your horizon, gives you more courage to face the unknown, grows your ability to overcome obstacles as they come, it keeps you on your toes, it keeps your brain sharp, it makes you more understanding & compassionate towards others.

We will definitely be going on more such journeys.

Thursday, 12th September, 2019

HDFC credit card cash back

Here is one more reason to use a credit card from HDFC. Now you have the option to get direct cash back to your bank account against the points you have earned. The points to rupee ratio varies by card. On a Regalia card 5 points equals 1 rupee, so if you have 1000 points you can redeem the points to be 200 rupees in your bank account.

To do so login to your NetBanking account, go to Cards > Credit Cards > Redeem Reward Points > tick your active Card & click Continue > Continue. A popup window will open & it will automatically log you into the HDFC MyRewards portal where you can see your incurred points and redeem them against cash or various products.

Get cash back from HDFC credit card

Note that HDFC will change you 99 rupees every time a redemption request is made, so it is wise to have atleast a couple of thousand points before redeeming them to cash. Earlier I used to redeem my credit card points for perfumes but this is the first time I used the cash back option as it is a very new feature.

Cash back from credit card points