fbpx
suica front photo

Basic Guide to IC Cards and the Suica App in Japan

Disclosure: Basic Travel Couple, LLC has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Basic Travel Couple, LLC and CardRatings and MileValue may receive a commission from card issuers. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Traveling around Japan is quite easy with the technological advancements of today’s mobile mapping services. It’s as easy as typing in or “asking Siri” how to get from the Tokyo Tower to the Shibuya Crossing. As long as you have cellular data, a SIM card, or a portable WiFi device you’ll have no problem pulling up directions to navigate the country of Japan! 

Now that you have the directions pulled up, how do you actually pay for the fares to use the subways, trains, buses, and other public transportation options? You’ve got two options, either an IC Card or the Suica mobile iPhone App

The IC Card

The IC Card is a reloadable card that can be used to pay fares on most forms of public transportation throughout the country of Japan. Transportation includes buses, trains, and streetcars. Recently you can now use the IC Card to pay for goods and services at stores like 7-11 and street vending machines. You can even use the IC Card to rent lockers in the railroad stations! 

How to choose an IC Card?

There is a handful of growing options when it comes to choosing an IC Card. Originally, the different regions of Japan all had their own IC Card that you’d have to purchase in order to ride their public transportation. However, in 2013 Japan made all of the cards compatible with one another to ease traveling from one region of Japan to another. Given that the IC Cards can be now used interchangeably, you can technically use whichever one you’d like. 

The Most Popular IC Cards

Despite being able to use whichever one you want, you can only find the IC cards that are in the region that you’re located in. Since most travelers fly into either the Narita or Haneda Airports, the choices for IC Cards will be either Suica or Pasmo. They often run different promotions with various designs depending on what is going on in Japan during that time of the year. Some people choose to collect them and include the card in their scrapbooks. 

Where to pick up the IC Card

You can purchase an IC Card at the ticket counter and ticket machines in the railroad stations. They are pretty easy to find and only take a few minutes to set up. 

The Cost of the IC Card and Funding Methods

In order to open an IC Card account, you will need to pay a 500 Yen ($4.60 USD) refundable deposit. After purchasing, you can reload the cards at any ticket machine found throughout the railroad stations. The maximum amount that you can add to an IC Card is 20,000 Yen ($185 USD). You can only use Yen to fund an IC Card which is why I prefer the mobile app which allows credit cards! 

How to use the IC Card

When going to pay for something, you can slide the card across the payment area. For example, if you are going to ride a train, you’d slide it across the IC payment area as you walk through the ticket gates. Pretty easy, fast, and efficient! 

The Suica App

In my opinion, the Suica App is the go-to option for IC Cards while traveling throughout Japan! Instead of having to fiddle around with cards and tickets, you can just use your phone across the scanner to pay. Once set up, you can connect a credit or debit card and load as you go. You don’t have to worry about having enough Yen to load your IC Card at a machine or pulling money from an ATM only to redeposit into an IC machine. When traveling, the last thing you want to be doing is spending valuable time moving money around different cards and accounts. 

Capital One Venture
75,000
Venture Miles
fter spending $4,000 within 3 months from account opening

Which mobile devices support the Suica App

As of now, only Apple iPhone 8, 8 plus and later models can support the Suica Mobile App. If you have an iPhone 7 or earlier, you’ll need to upgrade in order to use the Suica Mobile App while traveling through Japan. 

How to set up the Suica App on the iPhone

1. Go to the iPhone App store and search for “SuicaEng”

2.  Download and then open the app!

3. Change your region to Japan by going to Settings -> General -> Language & Region

4. Open Wallet App and connect apple pay

5. Add money to your new Suica Mobile Card 

Final Thought 

Using the Japan public transportation system is the go-to way to explore this country! If you have the option to use the iPhone App; I’d highly suggest downloading and setting it up before arriving in Japan. It will make your life a whole lot easier. Remember you’ll need to be connected to cellular data in order to use it! Don’t forget to use any remaining balance before you leave.

The stores in the airports do accept the Suica App so you can grab some last-minute souvenirs to use up your balance before flying home. If you have the paper IC card; you’ll have to go to the IC Card desks and return it for your deposit back. I hope everyone enjoys this guide and finds it useful in preparing for a fantastic trip to Japan!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

The comments section below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 Basic Travel Strategies

Need-to-know tricks for cheap travel.

Top Credit Card Offers

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Citi Premier Credit Card

Earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

American Express® Gold Card

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

credit-card

We're Dave & Lisa

An easy-going, fun-loving couple who have a passion for adventure and exploring the world! Our strategies have saved us over $100,000 in travel over the last four years, and our goal is to help you do the same.

Keep Exploring