To get around in Japan, you’ll more than likely need a Pasmo or Suica card. These prepaid cards are a convenient way to get around Japan by train or bus without having to worry about purchasing an individual ticket. You can even use your card at convenience stores such as Lawson or 7&i Holdings (7/11) to pay for purchases.
To get a Suica or Pasmo Card, you will have to look for the specific ticket machine at any train station. Suica is owned by JR East, so you will have to look for the green JR East ticket machines. When looking for a Pasmo Card, you will have to look for the pink Pasmo ticket machines. Each machine is typically branded with JR East or Pasmo, so it’s not hard to miss if you are looking for it.
For the most part, these cards are almost interchangeable. However, there are some things to be aware of when deciding what card to buy. I will also explain exactly how to purchase these cards below!
JR West Suica Card
The Suica Card is the most common prepaid train card in Japan. If you are staying in Japan for longer than a weekend, I highly recommend purchasing this card and adding the money you have put aside for train fares to the card. Compared to buying a physical ticket, this card makes traveling by train very simple and easy. You can add funds at any ticket machine up to 20000 yen (about 200 USD), which is great if you plan on using the train a lot. Ticket machines do not accept credit cards or transfers, so be sure to have physical cash on you. Many restaurants and convenience stores in Japan have IC card readers so that you can pay with your Suica card instead of cash. This is especially convenient when most stores do not accept credit cards.
A Suica card costs 500 yen and a deposit of 1500 yen, which can be used after you get your card. No personal information is required or taken when getting a new card. If you don’t want to keep your card when leaving Japan, you can get a 500 yen refund at any ticket machine once you return it. A Suica card becomes void if not used within 10 years. If you lose your card, you will have to purchase another one. The Suica branded mascot is a cool or demented penguin depending on your take of it.
When you find the JR West Green ticket machine, be sure to follow this guide below:
Tokyo Metro Pasmo Card
The Pasmo Card is the second most common prepaid train card in Japan. This card is interchangeable with the Suica card and can be used the same way a Suica would. There pretty much no differences between the two. You can add funds up to 20000 yen (about 200 USD) on a single card.
Pasmo ticket machines do not accept credit cards. Like the Suica, you can use this card at restaurants and convenience stores to pay for meals or goods. A Pasmo card costs 500 yen, but a deposit of at least 1000 yen is required when purchasing a new card. No personal information is required when making the transaction. If you decide you do not want to keep your card after leaving Japan, you can return this card to any ticket machine and get your original deposit back. A Pasmo card becomes void if not used within 10 years. If you lose your card you will have to purchase another one from the ticket machine.
The only difference between the Suica and the Pasmo, is that with the Pasmo, you can store day passes on the card which can be very convenient for tourists who utilize day passes and would rather have it all in one card than having to carry multiple pieces of paper. The Pasmo branded mascot is a cute pink robot.
When you find the Pasmo pink ticket machine, be sure to follow this guide below:
Choosing Between The Two
It’s honestly hard to have an opinion on two things that are pretty much the same. I personally use a Suica card daily, and it’s been my card since the first time I came to Japan. I think the little cool penguin and the green color is awesome, so I don’t complain! I definitely haven’t had any problems with it, and it serves its purpose in holding money for me to use to get to point A to B. My girlfriend uses Pasmo and she also never has any issues with her card. The choice between the two is ultimately up to you and your preferred colors and branding!