Suica (スイカ Suika) is a rechargeable contactless smart card, electronic money used as a fare card on train lines in Japan, launched on November 18, 2001. The card can be used interchangeably with JR West's ICOCA in the Kansai region and San'yō region in Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi Prefectures, and also with JR Central's TOICA starting from spring of 2008, JR Kyushu's SUGOCA, Nishitetsu's Nimoca, and Fukuoka City Subway's Hayakaken area in Fukuoka City and its suburb areas, starting from spring of 2010. The card is also increasingly being accepted as a form of electronic money for purchases at stores and kiosks, especially within train stations. As of 2018, JR East reports 69.4 million Suica UID's have been issued, usable at 476,300 point of sale locations, with 6.6 million daily transactions.
|Location||Kantō region, Sendai area, Niigata area|
|Launched||April 8 – July 8, 2001: piloted at 57 stations; November 18, 2001, official launch at 424 stations|
|Currency||Japanese yen (¥20,000 maximum load)|
|Stored-value||Pay as you go|
|Credit expiry||Ten years after last use|
Since Suica is completely interchangeable with Pasmo (see for the complete listing of companies and lines that accept Suica) in the greater Tokyo area, it is supported on virtually any train, tramway, and bus system (excluding various limited and shinkansen trains, as well as a few local buses as the system is still in the process of being extended to all routes).
Suica stands for "Super Urban Intelligent CArd", and the pronunciation is also a pun on the Japanese word for watermelon, スイカ (suika). In the logo, the "ic" is highlighted, standing for the initialism of integrated circuit in "IC card", which in turn is common Japanese vernacular for smart card. An additional meaning comes from the ideophone "sui sui" which means "to move smoothly", intended to highlight the smooth simplicity of using the card compared with traditional train tickets. Since penguins can also swim smoothly through water, a penguin is used as a motif.
While Suica's primary usage is as a fare card for transportation services, it can also be used as electronic money for general purchases. With the exception of archaic models of the Suica, all Suica have the
Most vending machines, kiosks, and coin-operated lockers within JR stations can be paid with the card. In addition to payment, the card is also used as an electronic key to open the specific locker used. Outside of train stations, chain stores such as FamilyMart, ampm, 7-Eleven, Ministop, Circle K Sunkus, Yodobashi Camera and Bic Camera support transactions with Suica, however mostly restricted to the Kantō region only. A few shops at Narita International Airport, and taxis accept Suica. Stores that accept Suica are indicated by displaying either a Suica, Pasmo, Kitaca, Icoca, Toica, Sugoca, Nimoca, or Hayakaken logo. The card can also be used to make payments at supporting online shops, which requires the consumer to own a Sony FeliCa Reader hardware and a PC running the Windows operating system.
Usage of the card involves passing it over a card reader. The technology allows for the card to be read at some distance from the reader, so contact is not required. This functionality is in contrast to the instructions which frequently inform the user to 'touch' (タッチ tacchi) the card to the reader, a misnomer since it works with or without physical contact. In fact, many people leave the card in their wallet and just pass the wallet over the reader as they enter the ticket gate.
The balance on the card is displayed when the user enters the ticket gate this way. The minimum fare is needed on the card when entering the train system, which is not deducted at that time. The balance is also displayed whenever the card is inserted into the ticket or fare adjustment machines as well. A travel record is stored on the card, and can be displayed or printed out at the same place where one can purchase and reload Suica. On exit, the card is again passed over the card reader. At this time the fare is deducted from the remaining balance from the card and the new balance is displayed.
The card can also be used to store a commuter pass. This is available for purchase from regular ticket vending machines and allows a Monthly, 3-monthly or Annual pass for travel between two JR stations to be stored on the card. On occasion, when traveling to a station where Suica is not supported, the card must be handed over to the staff at the exiting station, so that they can calculate the remaining fare and return a slip of paper which must be given to the staff at the next station where Suica is used. Since the system keeps track when a card enters and leaves a station, if the records show that the card had entered a station but not left (due to the situation such as described above, or technical malfunctions), the station staff can reset the card.
Points of purchase
These cards are available at card vending machines at the train stations that allows Suica. A new card costs 2,000 yen, which includes a 500 yen deposit that will be refunded if the card is returned. The remaining 1,500 yen is immediately available for train rides, and more money can be charged on to the card (in 500 yen, 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 4,000 yen, 5,000 yen, and 10,000 yen increments), up to a card maximum of 20,000 yen, at similar ticket vending machines or fare adjustment machines displaying the Suica logo inside each station.
Types of cards
Suica are sold by three railway companies
- Suica, MySuica, and View Suica: sold by JR East
- Rinkai Suica: sold by Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit (Rinkai Line)
- Monorail Suica: sold by Tokyo Monorail
A Suica works as the standard prepaid Suica (with user's name available on it) which can be used to ride trains in the place of paper tickets, or it can become the Suica commuter pass for unlimited traveling between two destinations for work or school. The Suica commuter pass also doubles as a prepaid Suica for purchases or tickets outside of the normal commute route.
The VIEW Suica pairs the prepaid Suica with a credit card. Various types exist, including at least one available through JR and View, and others such as the Bic Camera Suica. These function both as a pre-paid Suica as well as a regular credit card, and provide an auto-charge feature to prevent exhausting the Suica balance unintentionally. The automatically recharged amount is added to the user's credit card bill. Thus, these cards have two balances: a prepaid Suica balance and a credit balance for which monthly bills are sent. Thus, store-related cards like the Bic Suica can include fully three separate functions: serving as a store point card, a general use Suica, and as a credit card. Any credit purchase (restricted, in the case of Bic, to JCB) adds a small amount to the available points on the store point card. Yet another type of Suica offered by Japan Airlines (JAL) that is called JALCARD Suica. In addition to having Suica and credit card functionalities, a JALCARD Suica can also function as an electronic boarding pass for a JAL-operated domestic flight in Japan at an airport that offers the JAL IC service.
MySuica allows users to input personal information at the time the card is created. If the card is later lost or stolen, the user can obtain a new card with the previous balance.
Ticket gates return an error when the scan encounters more than one compatible card. Although it is intended that each person have only one Suica, many people have more than one. Further, since the introduction of Pasmo in March 2007, more people have at least one of each. Consequently, JR has begun, and intensified since March, an awareness campaign to discourage commuters from storing multiple cards together. Incompatible cards, such as Edy, seem to have an inconsistent effect on a machine's ability to read the card which may depend on the reading device. On the other hand, the Express-IC (EX-IC) card for Tokaido Shinkansen reservations is meant to be used in this manner (stacked on either a Suica or ICOCA to facilitate transfer between Shinkansen and regular lines).
The card incorporates contactless Near Field Communication (NFC) technology developed by Sony, called FeliCa. The same technology is also deployed in the Edy electronic cash cards used in Japan, the Octopus card in Hong Kong, and the EZ-Link Card in Singapore.
On March 18, 2007, the Tokyo-area private railways, bus companies, and subways implemented Pasmo, a smart card solution to replace the existing Passnet magnetic card system. Through collaboration with JR East, passengers can use Suica wherever Pasmo cards are accepted to ride any railway or bus in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Monthly passes for JR East lines can only be on Suica, while monthly passes for Tokyo Metro can only be on Pasmo cards but otherwise, the cards are functionally identical for commuters.
This agreement has since been implemented with other systems across Japan. On March 23, 2013, a nationwide inter-operation among 10 transportation smart cards started. As of 2014 Suica has interoperability with ICOCA, Kitaca, PASMO, TOICA, manaca, PiTaPa, SUGOCA, nimoca, hayakaken and several other local smart cards.
Since January 2006, a version called Mobile Suica has been incorporated into mobile FeliCa wallet phones by Japan's mobile operators. This system includes Java applications to manage the Suica function in the mobile phone, to recharge the Suica stored in the mobile phone, review the stored value and perform other functions via the mobile phone. An enhancement for 2007 will allow for Suica charges to be added directly to the phone bill, eliminating the requirement to constantly add to and monitor the remaining balance. On May 23, 2011, JR announced debut of Mobile Suica app for Android Smartphones Supporting Osaifu-Keitai.
On September 7, 2016, Apple announced that Suica is now integrated into Apple Pay. iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 users (with devices bought in Japan) can now add Suica into their Apple Pay wallets and tap their phones just like regular Suica. With the release of the iPhone 8, iPhone X and the Apple Watch Series 3, any of the before-mentioned device, regardless of origin, can be used with Suica. Users can either transfer the balance from a physical Suica to the Apple Pay wallet (while the device Region is set to Japan), or create a virtual Suica in the wallet from the JR East application.
- "Suica – Fares & Passes". JR-East.
- "IC 'Smart Cards'". Japan Railways Group. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007.
- "Ｓｕｉｃａ、ＳＵＧＯＣＡ、ｎｉｍｏｃａ、はやかけん 相互利用サービス開始日の決定について" (PDF) (in Japanese).
- "Annual Report in English" (PDF). Japan Railways Group. p. 41.
- JR East. "JR東日本：Suica＞利用方法＞お買い物" (in Japanese).
- "JR East workers use Suica as ID". Japan Times. April 3, 2004.
- "About FeliCa Technology".
- Tsuchimoto, Gaku (July 22, 2014). "交通系電子マネーを使ってWii Uのチャージに挑戦、手軽さが魅力的" [Using transport e-money to charge Wii U - convenience is attractive]. Inside (in Japanese). Japan: IID, Inc. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
- "Mobile Suica Service to Start Saturday, January 28, 2006". JR East.
- "Mobile Suica service for Android™ smartphones". JR East. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
- "Apple Pay". Apple. Retrieved September 7, 2016.
- "Apple Pay Getting Started". Apple. Retrieved September 7, 2016.
- Official website (in English)
- Official website (in Japanese)