Pay Per Session EV Charging
18Oct, 23 October 18, 2023
  • By evcharger

Major automakers like Ford, GM, and Volvo have announced plans to go all-electric over the next decade, and government incentives and rising gas prices make EVs an attractive option for many drivers. However, charging an electric vehicle on the go can be confusing due to the variety of payment options available. Unlike gas stations, where you just pay by the gallon at the pump, EV charging requires some pre-planning and understanding of the different payment models. 

In this guide, we’ll compare the main payment methods for public EV charging stations, including pay-per-session, monthly network plans, RFID cards, and smartphone apps. You’ll learn the pros, cons, costs, and key considerations for each charging payment model so you can decide which option is right for your EV charging needs and budget.

Pay Per Session Model

The pay-per-session model is the most flexible since you only pay for exactly what you use. But it can also become the most expensive option for frequent EV drivers. 

Many public charging stations operate on a pay-per-session structure. When you plug in your EV, the charging station communicates with the network to initiate a session. You will pay for that session by credit card directly at the station. Some locations may also accept Google/Apple Pay through your phone.

Session rates are usually charged by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). The average rate ranges from $0.30 to $0.50 per kWh among most networks like ChargePoint, EVgo, and EVConnect. Some luxury networks like Electrify America and Volta can charge upwards of $0.79/kWh.

Pros of Pay Per Session

  • Only pay for exactly what you use: With the pay-per-session model, you are only charged for the electricity dispensed during that particular charging session. If you just need a small top-up, you’ll only pay for those extra kWh. 
  • Works across networks: Most pay-per-session stations accept major credit/debit cards. So you can easily tap into different charging networks without needing a membership or account.
  • No hidden fees: The per kWh rate is transparent before you begin a session. You won’t get hit with other unexpected costs.
  • Flexible for occasional charging: Pay per session works best if you only charge your EV occasionally on road trips or long commutes. 

Cons of Pay Per Session

  • Can be costly for frequent charging: For drivers that require public charging multiple times per week, the per-session costs add up quickly. At $0.40/kWh for a 60 kWh EV battery, you would spend $24 for a full charge. At 3 sessions per week, that’s over $300 per month just in charging costs.
  • The payment method must be available: To start a pay-per-session charge, you need a credit/debit card or phone that’s NFC enabled for contactless payments. Not having a card or phone on hand prevents you from charging.
  • No way to reserve: Most pay-per-session stations are first-come, first-served. You can’t reserve a spot ahead of time or see if a charger is currently in use.
  • No loyalty rewards: Pay per session provides no discounts, free charging, or other loyalty incentives that come with memberships. You pay the standard posted rate each time.

Monthly Charging Network Plans 

For regular and frequent EV drivers, signing up for a public charging network plan can provide more value through lower charging costs. Networks like ChargePoint, EVgo, and Electrify America offer unlimited charging plans for a recurring monthly fee.

These plans allow unlimited 30-60 minute charging sessions per month from any of that provider’s stations nationwide. Having a monthly plan can save money for drivers who require multiple weekly charging stops. 

Some handy features that come with most network charging plans:

  • Access charging stations across the country since networks are national.
  • Locate stations nearby using the network’s app or website.
  • Start charging and pay right from your account through the app.
  • Reserve a charging spot ahead of time to guarantee an open charger.
  • Get perks like free charging time, discounts, and rewards as a loyal member.

The Pros of Monthly Network Plans

  • Unlimited charging for one price: The best part is unlimited charging sessions for your flat monthly fee. No worrying about costs for frequent drivers.
  • Skip per-session fees: You don’t have to pay by the hour or kWh. Just charge as much as you need with the monthly plan.
  • Reserve chargers ahead of time: Reserve through the app so you always have an open charger waiting for you. Very convenient.
  • Access across the country: A single plan lets you charge at thousands of stations nationwide across the network.
  • Member rewards save money: From free charging hours to discounts, you’ll get nice perks that add value as a member.

The Cons of Monthly Network Plans

  • Monthly fee always applies: You pay each month whether you charge some, none, or a lot. The fee stays the same.
  • Limited to one network: You can only use stations run by that provider. EVgo plan won’t work at ChargePoint stations.
  • Possible fees for overages: If you go over time limits, you may get fees, especially during busy times.
  • Maybe in a contract: Some networks make you sign a 1-year contract. You pay a fee if you want to cancel early.

RFID Charging Cards 

RFID Charging Card

Many EV charging networks also offer RFID cards that let you tap to initiate and pay for charging sessions. Also called radio frequency identification, these durable cards contain an embedded antenna that communicates with a reader at charging stations.

RFID cards offer a convenient way to pay since you don’t need to insert a credit card or open an app. However, they also have some limitations to consider.

When you tap an RFID card on a compatible station pad, it automatically pulls up your account and begins the charging session. 

Most stations have card readers located below the display or on the charging cable itself. Popular RFID networks include ChargePoint, EVgo, Greenlots, and Electrify America.  

Some key features of RFID charging cards:

  • Tap to initiate the charging session.
  • Stations automatically detect account.
  • Pay through a linked payment method.  
  • Use across a single provider’s network.
  • Can be shared with other drivers.

Pros of RFID Charging Cards

  • Added convenience: With RFID cards, charging takes only a quick tap without handling credit cards or apps. This saves fumbling at the station.
  • Faster charging initiation: RFID typically lets you start a session faster than inserting a credit card and following prompts.
  • Link to account: Your card ties directly to a charging account and payment method. No need to bring other cards.
  • Simple charging: It’s easy for anyone to start charging, from family members to valets. Just tap and go.
  • Affordable cost: RFID cards themselves cost around $10-15 on average from major charging networks. A worthwhile investment for frequent drivers.

Cons of RFID Charging Cards

  • Tied to one network: The main limitation is RFID charging cards only work at stations run by that specific provider. An EVgo card won’t initiate charging on a ChargePoint station.
  • Transmit static ID: Information transmitted by the RFID card doesn’t change. This introduces potential security concerns, unlike chip-based EMV cards.  
  • Costs may be higher: Some networks charge slightly higher rates when initiating charging via RFID card versus their app to account for convenience fees.
  • Can be physically lost: If you lose your RFID card, it could result in fraudulent use or unwanted charges until you deactivate it.
  • Limited functionality: RFID cards only initiate charging sessions. You may still need the network’s app for managing payments, reservations, and other features.

Smartphone Charging Apps

Using a smartphone app to manage public EV charging offers connectivity and control. Apps like ChargePoint, EVConnect, PlugShare, Electrify America, EVgo, and Volta allow you to locate stations, initiate charging, make reservations, and manage payment all through your phone.

While apps offer the latest features, you do have to create accounts, enter payment information, and have the app open to use it. Some key functions of EV charging apps:

  • Locate charging stations on the map
  • View availability status
  • Start and stop charging  
  • Make session reservations
  • Payment and billing management
  • Charging alerts and notifications
  • Membership and rewards accounts
  • Guest user access

Pros of Using Charging Apps

  • Pay through phone: No physical cards or fumbling with credit cards needed. Just tap to pay through your saved account.
  • Access multiple networks: Aggregator apps allow you to charge across different networks from one interface.
  • Added features: Apps provide additional functions like real-time maps, reservations, alerts when your session ends, and detailed charging history reports.
  • Rewards integration: Apps fully integrate any loyalty programs, coupons, or credits offered by charging networks.
  • Universal tool: You’re likely already carrying your smartphone, so the app provides charging access without needing multiple cards.

Cons of Using Charging Apps

  • Account setup required: You must enter your payment info and register for an account to use charging apps, unlike pay per session. 
  • Need data/Bluetooth: Cell service or a Bluetooth connection is required for the app to activate charging and make payments. 
  • Battery drain: Constantly running a charging app can drain your phone’s battery since it relies on power-intensive GPS.
  • The app needs to be open: If the app is closed, charging may be interrupted or not initiated unless it can run in the background.
  • Learning curve: Apps have more settings and features than a basic RFID card. It may take some time to learn an app’s full functionality.

Which Charging Payment Method is Right For You?

With the major options of pay-per-session, network plans, RFID cards, and apps covered, how do you determine which payment method is best for your EV charging needs? 

Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • How often will you use public charging per month? 

If you only need occasional public charging every few weeks, pay per session offers flexibility without monthly fees. But frequent drivers are better off with a network plan.

  • Do you take long road trips? 

Pay per session allows you to easily charge at various networks along your route without memberships. Apps also make trip planning easier.  

  • How tech-savvy are you? 

RFID cards provide simple tap access, while apps offer advanced features but require some learning. Either can work if ease-of-use or high-tech control is more important to you.

  • What’s your budget for public charging? 

Pay per session offers transparency, but occasional drivers may save significantly through a monthly plan. Determine expected monthly costs for your needs.


As electric vehicles keep rising in popularity, understanding the pros, cons, and differences between public charging payment models is key. Whether you prefer the simplicity of pay-per-session, unlimited value from a monthly network plan, tap-and-go RFID card, or high-tech management through a smartphone app, being informed helps you make the best choice. EV drivers now have more options than ever before to pay for charging while on the go. Select the payment method that best fits your unique driving habits and needs.