The financial pain of commuting: You’re overpaying

Next time you’re sitting in traffic on the way to work, here’s a happy thought to entertain you: You’re probably overpaying for the privilege.

A new Citibank survey found that workers spend an average $2,600 on their commute. That’s an average of $12 per day, they estimate, with some city residents shelling out more—in Los Angeles, for example, an average $16 daily.

Time is money, too, of course. While 2013 Census Bureau data put the average commute at 25.8 minutes, 8.4 percent of commuters routinely travel an hour or more each way. (That includes 6.4 percent of those driving alone, 10.5 percent who carpool and 36.5 percent of commuters taking public transportation.) The number of jobs within typical commuting distance for suburban residents fell 7 percent between 2000 to 2012, according to a 2015 Brookings Institute study, while city residents saw a 3 percent drop.

Read More How much should you actually save for emergencies?

Easing the pain of a long commute doesn’t have to require telecommuting or shifting work hours so you can avoid traffic jams. Check out the video above for some less-talked-about strategies to minimize costs, including programs that can significantly reduce tolls (from $14 to as low as $5.75 crossing New York City’s George Washington Bridge, for example) and reward-point redemption options that benefit commuters.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Technology can offer a few more ways to save time and money. Traffic trackers such as Google Maps, Waze and alert drivers to construction, accidents and other traffic hazards “that could really turn your 20-minute commute into an hour and a half,” said Brad Spirrison, managing editor of review site Appolicious.

Workers looking to carpool or rideshare might find fellow travelers (even co-workers) via apps like Carma and Duet Commute or sites like and There are also apps like GasBuddy and AAA TripTik to help find the cheapest gas along your commute route; price variations from station to station can exceed 50 cents, and some offer better pricing to users who pay with cash.

Public transportation users can also download official and third-party apps that monitor their system of choice.

“People don’t have to stand around anymore waiting for a bus,” said Virginia Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association. Plenty of municipal systems have signage, sites or apps to help commuters gauge wait time or warn of delays and construction detours that might merit taking a different route (or service). Bike-sharing program apps even detail how many bikes are available or, for current riders, how many spots are open for returns to avoid a wasted trip, Spirrison said.

Another resource to tap: HR. Almost half of companies have some kind of commuting initiative, according to data from benefits manager Aon Hewitt. You’re probably already aware of the most common offer, pretax flexible spending account options for transit passes and parking fees. But there can be other savings opportunities, too—40 percent of companies have deals with insurance companies to offer employees discounts, according to Aon Hewitt, and almost 20 percent arrange van or car-pooling. Seven percent even offer basic auto maintenance services as an employee amenity.

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