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Angus Miyaji

Why You Need A Suica Card for Rail Travel in Japan

Embarking on a trip to Japan is always an exciting experience, but the thought of navigating the transportation system can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time in the country. With a potential language barrier to overcome, getting around may seem like an intimidating task. But fear not! Japan has a solution that makes transportation cashless, convenient, and hassle-free – the Suica card.

In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about the Suica card. From explaining what it is, how to get one, and why you need one, highlighting its many benefits to make your Japan adventure even more enjoyable.

It's Fast, Easy, And Convenient 😉

For starters, the train system in Japan is incredibly well-organized, with detailed maps and information readily available in stations and online. And the trains run on time, so you can always rely on them to get you where you need to go. Plus, the trains are clean and comfortable, making for a pleasant journey no matter how long or short.

But what really sets train travel in Japan apart is the Suica card. With the Suica card, there’s no need to worry about buying separate tickets or dealing with cash. Simply touch your card to the reader at the ticket gate, and you’re on your way. The same goes for making purchases at convenience stores, vending machines, and other retail outlets. It’s all so fast, easy, and convenient.

In short, whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned traveler, a Suica card is a must-have item for a hassle-free and seamless travel experience in Japan.

Man tapping his Suica card at the train station ticket gate

Taping the Suica card at the gate to enter the platform of the station.

Purchasing Suica Card at the train station in Japan

1. What is a Suica Card? 🤔

The Suica card is a rechargeable smart card used as an electronic ticket on Japan’s transportation system. It was first introduced in 2001 by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and has since become a popular payment method for people traveling in Japan.

It can be used on most train lines, including the Shinkansen bullet train, as well as buses and subways. It is similar to The Octopus Card in Hong Kong, The Oyster Card in London, T-Money in South Korea, Myki Card in Melbourne, and the Navigo Card in Paris.

2. Where can I Get a Suica Card? 🤗

Getting a Suica card is simple. You can purchase a Suica card at train stations and ticket vending machines in Japan. To get a Suica card, you just need to buy one and then add money to it.

The card can be recharged at any station, and the amount you add to the card can be used for all transportation and purchases.

3. How much does a Suica card cost? 💸

The cost of a Suica card is a refundable deposit of 500 yen. This can be refunded if you return the card. You can either charge 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 4,000 yen, 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen, but the first time this will include the 500 yen deposit. You can return the card back to the station and receive your money back anytime.

*There is also a special Suica card called the “Welcome Suica,” which is available at limited stations. We will cover this in a separate article.

4. How to Use a Suica Card? 🙆🏻‍♀️

Using a Suica card is very easy and convenient. To use it for transportation, simply touch the card to the reader at the ticket gate of a train station, and the fare will be automatically deducted from your balance.  If the reader turns red or makes an alert sound, it may be because you have insufficient balance or your card is malfunctioning, if this happens, you can ask assistance from the station staff. You may find them at a small booth usually right beside the ticket gates.

To make a purchase at a store or vending machine, touch the card to the reader.

5.Can I use a Suica card to travel on Shinkansen ? 🚅💨

To use your Suica card on a Shinkansen you will need to register it with ‘Touch de Go! Shinkansen (タッチでGO! 新幹線)’. This isn’t a hard process. You need to either ask at the window or use the ticket machines and choose ‘Touch de Go! Shinkansen (タッチでGO! 新幹線)’ button after placing your card on the tray.

You can also refer to the step-by-step video below.

📽 Video: Step-by-step  instructions for registering ‘Touch de Go! Shinkansen’.

6. Benefits of Using a Suica Card 😎

Using a Suica card can save you time and make travel in Japan much easier. You don’t have to worry about buying tickets every time you ride the train, and you can quickly make purchases without carrying cash. It is also a bit cheaper!

By registering your Suica card, you can also make it safer, as it can be easily replaced if lost or stolen. If you are a seasoned traveler, you can reuse your Suica card the next time you visit Japan and continue to use it for 10 years.

7. Other Uses of Suica Card 🤩

In addition to being used on the transportation system and for purchases, Suica cards can also be used to pay for taxis, amusement parks, and even restaurants. This versatility makes the Suica card an ideal travel companion, and it’s easy to see why it has become a popular payment method for travelers in Japan.

8. Other questions about Suica cards 🤔

Can I use the Suica card anywhere in Japan?

Yes, the Suica card can be used anywhere in Japan where there is a compatible reader or ticket gate. This includes all train and subway lines in the greater Tokyo area, as well as most cities and towns in Japan. In addition to public transportation, the Suica card can also be used to make purchases at convenience stores, vending machines, and other retail outlets.

It’s worth noting that while the Suica card is widely accepted and very convenient, there may still be some places where it is not accepted. To be sure, it’s always best to check with the vendor or ticket vending machine beforehand. Nevertheless, the Suica card is an excellent way to get around and make purchases in Japan, as it provides a very convenient way to pay for transportation and other goods and services.

9. The Monthly Suica Card For Regular Commuters

The monthly Suica card is designed to offer regular commuters a more convenient and cost-effective way to pay for their transportation. It allows users to pay a fixed monthly fee in advance, which covers unlimited rides on specified train and bus routes during the designated period.

The monthly Suica card can be purchased at train stations and other designated locations in Japan. The cost of the card varies depending on the distance and frequency of the user’s commute. The card can be recharged with additional funds as needed, and the balance can be checked at any time using a Suica card reader.

A photo of monthly Suica card in Japan

10. Are there similar travel cards in Japan?

Yes, there are similar travel cards like the Suica card in Japan. Some of the most popular alternatives include:
(1) Pasmo This card works similarly to Suica, and is used for a wide range of purposes, including paying for transportation and making purchases at retail outlets.
(2) ICOCA: This smart card is primarily used in the Osaka and Kobe areas, and can be used for transportation and other purposes in a manner similar to Suica and Pasmo.
A photo of ICOCA card
(3) Kitaca: This smart card is primarily used in the Sapporo area, and works similarly to Suica, Pasmo, and ICOCA.
(4) TOICA: This smart card is primarily used in the Nagoya area, and works similarly to Suica, Pasmo, ICOCA, and Kitaca.

Overall, the main difference between these cards is the geographic areas in which they are primarily used. Suica, Pasmo, ICOCA, Kitaca, and TOICA are all accepted on most train and subway lines within their respective regions, and can be used for a wide range of purposes, including paying for transportation and making purchases.

It’s worth noting that while these cards are primarily used in specific regions of Japan, they can still be used in other areas, such as when traveling between regions.

A train in a station in Tokyo

11. Should I get a 'My Suica' card or a normal Suica card?

You may choose the ‘My Suica card‘ option on the ticketing vending machine if you want to keep your card secured. (You can only get a refund after losing your card if you have a ‘My Suica’ card).

For this, you will need to register your name, gender, and date of birth.

If you value the peace of mind that comes with being able to recover the balance if your card is lost, a My Suica Card might be the better option for you.

12. Do I need a Suica card if I have a JR PASS?

A JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) is a popular train pass available to visitors to Japan which allows for unlimited travel on all JR trains (except some shinkansen trains) and some privately run lines.

If you have a JR pass and it covers all the days you are in Japan (and you don’t plan to visit places that your JR pass doesn’t cover) , you probably don’t need a Suica card. However, most visitors will probably make some trips on the train or underground (subway) which the JR Pass doesn’t cover so a prepaid card like Suica is going to be useful for most travelers.

13. How to transfer a Suica card to mobile a device? 🤳

Using your phone as a Suica card gives another level of convenience.  You can easily charge using a credit card when you need more balance, and you don’t have to carry a card all the time with the risk of losing it. 

 Transferring a Suica card to your phone is quite simple if you follow the steps. But before trying to transfer your physical Suica Card to your mobile device, note that this method is only available for Iphone devices and, that you’ll be unable to use your actual card after the transfer. 

✨Simple steps for transferring a Suica card to your IPHONE 📲

FIRST, you’ll need your Suica card, Iphone, and Apple Wallet app. On your Iphone 📱 open Wallet app➔tap Add button➔Transit Card➔choose Suica➔tap continue➔add amount➔confirm your transaction. After a successful transfer you’re now ready to use Suica on your mobile. 


Final Thoughts

Overall, the Suica card is an essential travel item for anyone visiting Japan. Its convenience, ease of use, and versatility make it an excellent payment method for transportation and purchases. With a Suica card, you can save time and avoid the hassle of purchasing individual tickets, making your travel experience much smoother.

I hope this guide has provided you with all the necessary information to get the most out of your Suica card during your stay in Japan. Enjoy your travels!

Check out the best Events and Festivals to visit in near Tokyo!

Did you find this article useful?

I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.

To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.

Contributor: Angus Miyaji
Founder of Japan World Link, Angus helps visitors discover off the beaten track destinations in the North Kanto regions (Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki & Saitama) nearby Tokyo. He regulaly travels between Japan and the UK promoting tourisum and Sake.


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