“ Internet Site Main Class: Online Payments „
I made the rather stupid decision to stop driving to my local train station in the mornings and cycle instead. But, when bad weather strikes there are a lot of occasions that I still drive in and without the luxury of a season ticket I'm forced to pay the daily charges in those events. At Bracknell you get paper tickets out of machines...machines that never seem to ruddy work and thus I often found it a struggle to catch my train in time on account of fannying around like a headless chicken trying to find a machine that worked. Step in PayByPhone.co.uk. This is a service that allows you to sign up, input your car registration, your payment details and your parking location and then all you ever need to do is type in your length of stay and hey presto you've paid in true cashless fashion. However, despite the sign up being free the downside for this convenience is in certain areas (Bracknell being one of them grrr) a little extra is tacked on to your parking fee, 10p for me every time I submit a payment, but still I don't find I'm losing sleep over that amount since I now no longer live in fear of missing my train when things go awry at the parking machines.
Signing up at paybyphone.co.uk is a doddle, all you need to enter is your name information, your email and mobile phone number (although this is a requirement so if you're one of the few people without a phone you will be unable to use this service) and a 4-digit PIN number to act as a password. Then type in your payment details (credit or debit card) and your car registration (it looks like up to 4 cars, so one for the Bentley, one for the Jaguar, one for the Rolls Royce and one for the Aston Martin but it could be more - I simply don't have enough cars to test this out) and you're all set up. To change any details all you need to do is go to your Profile page at paybyphone.co.uk or the Options menu at the mobile site or on your phone App if you download it and then you can make any amendments accordingly. You can also easily delete your account by going to the profile page and clicking Delete Account.
==How to Pay==
Any car park working in conjunction with paybyphone.co.uk should have a sign full of useful information with the location code, text and phone number, and on the website you can search for all the car parks around the country that utilise paybyphone.co.uk. Once you have paid, your car registration and stay duration is sent to the handheld units that the patrolling parking officers carry so you should be covered immediately. The duration is defined by the specific tariff structure of the car park in question, so for example at Bracknell I can only select my duration in day increments up to 5 (if I change the location to 74791 rather than 7479 this will allow me 7 days for the price of 5), but in other car parks it is possible to select in minutes, hours, days, weeks etc. There is also the option to extend your parking after you have submitted, which is incredibly useful if you are parked on an hourly basis and are going to be late.
So, there are 5 different ways that you can use this service:
1. Touch Phone - you can dial up the number listed at the car park and then if you are a current user you can type in the 4-digit location code, the duration required, and the security code of your credit and debit card. If you are a new user you will be able to register over the phone first through the act of pressing buttons rather than talking to an operator and then you can enter the aforementioned details - not ideal if you are in a rush though. To extend, simply dial the same number which will recognise your account and prompt you to add time however you need to.
2. Text - You can send a text message to 65565 with the location, duration and security code and you should receive a confirmation text back confirming the parking has started which is probably only the best way if you don't have a smart phone as it would be dreadful to make a typo with autocorrect. To extend you can simply send another text with just the new duration and your card's security code.
3. Mobile Web - this is pretty similar to logging straight in to paybyphone.co.uk but is a mobile optimised site which means it will work properly on your smart phone, so as on the main website you can simply log in (and you have the option to remain logged in - always a security risk), type in the location code, select your car registration if you have a selection, choose the duration and then type in your card security code. Done. This also has some account management functionality. Log back in to extend your parking duration.
4. Internet - Exactly the same process - login, type in your location, car registration, duration and card security code and you're away. Here there is also an extra section for Motorcycle users in Westminster who can buy daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual motorcycle parking permits. Here you can also set up a corporate account which makes the management of a fleet of vehicles that much easier through one account which could be handy, although since I do not fall in this category I cannot offer any insights. You can also view and download VAT receipts from your account or have them sent via email or SMS to your mobile if you so require them. Again, simply log in to extend your parking.
5. Mobile App - you can download the App for the iPhone or Android and I'd say that with the exception of motorcycle permits and receipts you can pretty much do everything you can via the internet. Under the options menu you can adjust your location, manage your vehicles and payment details, change your email and text settings, review your security settings (choose to stay signed in or not, change your PIN etc), and check the Terms and Conditions. The iPhone App at least also has a Map section which uses your GPS location to pinpoint where you are and allows you to pin the car park location in order to help you find it again if you are in unfamiliar surroundings. There is also an info section which gives you the number and email for the helpline plus some FAQs and a video guide. If you are in an active period of parking, when you log in the first page displayed shows how much time you have remaining plus an extend option so again it is very easy to extend your parking via this method.
Paybyphone.co.uk offers a really easy to use and convenient service that probably isn't essential but does make parking a whole lot easier and less stressful than messing around with coins or cards to physically pick up a paper ticket which can easily fall off your dashboard and you still end up with a fine. You also have an electronic receipt which can be used to argue any possible erroneous parking infractions that may occur through any overzealous parking officers so I quite like this historical trail aspect associated with having an account. The different methods are handy too depending on your technological situation i.e. not owning a smart phone, although personally I tend to simply use the App to submit my parking requests as the whole process takes about 20 seconds to complete from the comfort of my bedroom or car and you can see straight away that parking has commenced. Since I've been using this service I have neither made a mistake since it remembers my settings nor have I had any issues with my parking requests which start straight away and allow me more time in the mornings to catch my train.
If you are planning a trip in advance, searching online for parking is pretty easy if you're going somewhere you don't know as you can search via Town, Operator or even type in your own location search which brings up a map plus the list of associated car parks in the area complete with addresses, the location code and the PayByPhone number to call. There are also user guides for the iPhone/Android Apps and the mobile site available at the website in pdf format which talk you through every aspect of using this service, though to be honest I found it so intuitive I had no use for the user guide at all. There are also plenty of FAQs online which pretty much answer most questions I would think from such things as general use, payments, account management issues, VAT and security and if you cannot find the answer you are seeking here, they have plenty of phone and email support to allow you to engage with an actual human being.
If you do make a mistake though, alas this doesn't seem the easiest thing to rectify. Via text you do have the option to send STOP within the first 5 minutes otherwise it's a go (unless you are in Westminster where you can stop your parking at any time and get a refund on the remaining time left). If you mess up on location, duration or registration via any other method your only option seems to be to run through the procedure again (correctly this time otherwise things could really start to get messy) and then contact either firstname.lastname@example.org or 0330 400 4357 to cancel your first attempt, but you must be prompt as if you wait until after your parking has finished refunds are not possible. So, best not make a mistake then. Extending your parking however is a lot easier as I mentioned before, just a case of one more phone call, text, or a hop on the site via your mobile or the internet, but damn them, they will charge you for this extension if you are in a charging area which I feel is a tad unfair but ho hum, I guess they have to make money somehow, but still it feels a bit of a cheat to me.
Basically, this is a nifty service which is incredibly easy to use and will make parking cashless and stress free as long as you don't mind the chance of a small service fee on top of your original payment (probably only 10p) in certain participating car parks. Setting your car and payment details up is a breeze and easy to amend through many different routes and seems highly secure given you need a PIN to log in and have to enter your card security code (CVV2) every time so as long as you log out after use every time there are few security risks that I can see. According to their website "The details that you enter to set up a PayByPhone account are encrypted and stored on a PCI compliant secure database. They are used solely for the purposes of paying for parking and receiving essential updates about the service and are never passed on to third parties." so again there are security measures in place to safeguard your details. For me the biggest pluses are convenience, extending your parking if you are going to be late, time saving, ease of use and tracking via electronic receipts and the only real downsides are difficulty in rectifying a mistake and extra service charges in certain areas. Having something like this available and already set up can save a lot of parking related stress for future trips in my opinion so I'd recommend giving it a try - in any case it won't cost you anything just to have a look.