The easiest way to travel around Tokyo and survive its crazy ticket system is to use a prepaid card (IC Card) such as Pasmo or Suica. Having an IC card eliminates the need to worry about which type of ticket you need to buy and at the same time, you will cut small costs on the fare just for having it.
Not only can you use this card to pay train and bus fares, you can also use it at some vending machines and stores; this works everywhere in Japan, not only Tokyo.
How to get an IC Card?
Both cards can be purchased at every train or subway station – just look for the machine with the card logos. Suica cards can be purchased at JR Stations and Pasmo cards at non-JR stations. You can switch the language setting to English and soon enough, you’ll have your card that’s ready to use.
Choose a general card after selecting the “New Pasmo/Suica” button. You can get a personal one with your name printed on it so in case you lose it, you can report it and get a new one. That option takes more time, however, and is unnecessary if you are going to stay in Japan for a short period. After, choose the value to charge on your IC Card in multiples of 1000 yen; be sure to consider the deposit fee of 500 yen that’s refundable upon returning the card. Insert your money, wait a few seconds and receive your card!
Starting from September 2019, a new tourist Suica card was released. This version is valid for 28 days without a deposit fee, making it a great souvenir to bring home with you!
How to use IC Card?
Using your card is very easy – you just need to tap it at the magnetic plate at the ticket gate (or at the cashier/the vending machine for purchases) and it automatically deducts the fare. If you don’t have enough credit, you will be alerted with a different sound and see a warning.
To recharge your IC Card, go to the ticket machine, insert the card and press the “Charge” button.
Upon leaving Japan, go to the information desk or a refund machine to receive back your deposit and the amount still left over on your card. A commission of 200 yen will be kept if your balance exceeds that amount, but nothing will be deducted for smaller amounts.
Pasmo or Suica?
Pasmo and Suica cards are basically identical. The main difference has to do with a commuter pass, which visitors don’t need to worry about.
As mentioned before, starting from September 2019, if you don’t want to worry about returning the card or losing your deposit, opt for the tourist-friendly Welcome Suica card. Now that you know how to use a Pasmo/Suica Card, you’re ready to enjoy your time in Japan. Be sure to join one of our guided tours. Choose your favourite on our tour page!