Prepaid IC cards are very useful for getting around Japan. In Tokyo, you can get either a Pasmo or a Suica card to make your commutes easier and more convenient. You can use them not only when taking the subway trains, but also when riding the buses, purchasing drinks and food items from vending machines, and paying for coin lockers.
The benefits of getting a Pasmo or a Suica card
It saves you a lot of time.
A Pasmo or a Suica card saves you the hassle of having to purchase a new ticket from the ticket vending machines every time you take the trains or buses. With either, you can just walk straight to the train station ticket gates and enter by tapping it onto the reader, or pay for your bus fare without having to rummage for yen in your purse or pockets. There is no more need to wait in line, while the tourists in front of you are taking a bit of time trying to figure out the fare table or the ticket machines.
It affords you flexibility.
What if, while already in transit, you suddenly change your mind and decide to get off at a stop five stations away from your original destination? You have with you a ticket that is supposed to only cover for the fare to it. What do you do? With a Pasmo or Suica card, you do not have to worry about things this, and just get off when you want to. The correct fare is deducted from your IC card once tapped onto the reader at the destination station.
It offers small discounts per journey.
If you are travelling by train using either a Pasmo or a Suica card, you can avail of fare rates that are a few yen cheaper than a single ticket. For example, with an IC card, a train ride between Asakusa and Shinjuku can save you up to 10 yen per trip. The more train rides you make, the more savings you get!
It serves as an electronic wallet.
Did you know that you can also use a Pasmo or Suica card for shopping? A lot of convenience stores all over Japan accept Pasmo or Suica cards as payment for purchases. There are also vending machines that have card readers so that you can buy drinks and snacks using your IC card. There are even coin lockers at the airports, train stations, and some tourist attractions that can be rented using it too!
Comparing Pasmo and Suica
Which IC card should you get once you arrive to Tokyo? What makes one better than the other?
Where to buy
Both Pasmo and Suica cards can be purchased as soon as you arrive to Tokyo. At Narita Airport and Haneda Airport, there are JR and non-JR ticket offices and vending machines where you can get your own Pasmo or Suica card.
They are also available at train stations in Tokyo. You can get a Pasmo card at any JR Station, and a Suica card at any non-JR station.
A Pasmo or a Suica card can be purchased for 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 4,000 yen, 5,000 yen, or 10,000 yen, and includes a 500 yen deposit.
When buying a Pasmo or a Suica card at a ticket vending machine, there is an option to get a regular card or a registered/personalized card. The regular one looks like a typical IC card with just the Pasmo or Suica logo, and the registered/personalized one has the company logo and your full name on it.
If you choose a registered/personalized card, you can get a replacement card in case you lose it. So, be ready to provide a number of personal information, such as your full name, date of birth, and phone number, as you buy from the machine.
Pasmo and Suica cards can be recharged or reloaded at all JR and non-JR stations. Just find a recharging machine and follow the steps displayed on the screen on how to add more credits to your card. There is usually an English option available, so choose that to go through the process quicker and easier. These machines, though, do not accept credit cards, so have some yen bills or coins on hand when recharging.
Pasmo and Suica cards can be used nationwide. They are valid on many JR and non-JR trains in Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka, and several other cities outside of Tokyo.
If you have 2,000 yen credits left on your Suica card upon returning it, you will get the 500 yen deposit back, and a 220 yen charge deducted from your remaining balance, for a total refund amount of 2,230 yen (500 yen + 2,000 yen – 220 yen).
If your remaining balance is less than 220 yen, you will not be charged with the fee. So, make sure to leave as little amount on your card as possible before returning it.
In the case of a Pasmo card, you will get all the remaining balance on your card plus the 500 deposit back without any fees or deductions.
Pasmo vs. Suica – A Summary
The table below contains a summary of some important information on Pasmo and Suica to help you make a decision on which one to get on your trip to Japan.
|Where can you buy it?||Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, non-JR Stations in Tokyo||Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, JR Stations in Tokyo|
|How much is the refundable card deposit?||500 yen||500 yen|
|How much is the minimum initial charge amount?||500 yen||500 yen|
|Can you register/personalize it?||Yes||Yes|
|Can you replace your registered/personalized card?||Yes||Yes|
|Where can you recharge or reload it?||At all JR and non-JR stations||At all JR and non-JR stations|
|Is there a charge once you return it for refund?||None||Yes, 220 yen is deducted from your remaining balance.|
|Where can you use it in Tokyo?||At all JR and non-JR lines||At all JR and non-JR lines|
|Can you use it outside of Tokyo?||Yes||Yes|
As you can see, there is not really much difference between the two. They can basically be used interchangeably. So, as soon as you get to Japan, just get whichever card is available for sale at the ticket office or ticket vending machine you find first.