I received an Illinois I-Pass gift card the other day. A quick & easy way to replenish your I-Pass transponder balance, right?

Wrong.

I’ve now spent more than 45 minutes trying to add this $20 to my account.

First, you can’t add the gift card balance via the I-Pass website. I spent over 10 minutes searching the I-Pass website for this option, but it just isn’t there.

Second, you can’t add the gift card balance via the automated phone system. After calling the number on the back of my I-Pass gift card, I spent 20 minutes sorting through the menus, setting up a PIN, and waiting, searching, waiting, searching … All the time having to call back & re-enter my account number several times, as the phone tree has numerous dead ends. After all of this, still no option to add the gift card.

So I called back and after about 4 minutes finally found the option to talk to a person. After waiting on hold for another 10 minutes, I got a person on the line (whom I could barely understand) that wanted way too much information to verify my identity. Name. Account Number. Last 4 digits of my driver’s license number. My email address. My mailing address. Seriously, Illinois? You need all this to know who I am?

After pulling up my account, the person on the other end recited, “You currently have $40 on your transponder, and that can be used at any of the Illinois Toll Locations, and blah, blah, blah, 2 more minutes of explaining the tollway system to me, please visit our website at…” Whoa, hold on there! I really just want to add this gift card. I didn’t interrupt until the very end, when it sounded like this person was about to hang up on me, and she got really surly when I did.

I got the I-Pass gift card balance added to my account, and she again launched into an explanation of how the Illinois Toll System works. Thanks, lady. I think everyone already knows. Plus, you already told me.

I can understand that Illinois wants people to use automated credit card replenishment. But why do they sell these cards when they’re so difficult to add to your account? Why not have a web-based option? Why not let the phone tree handle it? Having to talk to a person certainly wasn’t worth my time. And I can’t imagine it was cost effective for them, either.

I’m not the only one feeling the pain.

In short, if you’re thinking of buying someone a gift card for the Illinois Toll system, don’t do it. Give them a prepaid credit card instead.