Apple Pay Japan Intro Q&A

apple-pay-japan_inline-01Apple Pay in Japan launched with the release of iOS 10.1/WatchOS 3.1 on October 25, 2016. For convenience I collected Apple Pay Japan information from various posts along with new information. The sections are: FeliCa, Suica, Credit Cards, NFC Readers. These are separated into support pages, Q&A, and summary/tips. I’ll regularly update this page with new information.

Recent News
Apple iCloud/Apple Pay servers and JR East Suica servers experienced extremely heavy launch day traffic. Apple Pay and Suica services have long since been fully restored and are working normally (regardless of whatever nonsense Bloomberg may be reporting). Check the support pages of the Apple Pay Japan providers, JR East, Docomo iD and JCB QUICPay, if you experience service trouble as they occasionally perform system maintenance.

Apple Pay seems to be working well for the majority of users. There have been scattered tweets complaining about slow store readers. Lawson stores in particular are the most complex to the point that Lawson put up a ‘How to use Apple Pay’ web page, and video, to show you their two-step verification method. Lawson is installing new reader and POS systems starting in December 2016 so Apple Pay transactions will be easier to use.

Suica with Express Transit mode is the fastest and most reliable transaction method, and is getting raves. My own first impressions are here.

Apple Pay Japan Support Pages and Videos (Japanese)
Apple Pay Support Site
Apple Pay intro video
About Apple Pay
Apple Pay Video – adding a credit card
Apple Pay Video – adding a Suica card
Suica card loading instructions for iPhone and Apple Watch
Using Apple Pay for Store, In-App and Web purchases
Apple Pay Suica card use instructions and support (English)
Support page for adding cards to Apple Pay
Japan Bank and card issuer list (nearly 120 Apple Pay participants on 10/25)
Support page for Apple Pay partner stores and Apple Pay Partner Store Feedback  
Note: Most of the Apple support pages above have English and other language versions available by toggling the country/language setting at the bottom of the page.

FeliCa Q&A
FeliCa Type-F NFC technology is required for using contactless transit and store transaction systems in Japan.

Q. What Apple devices support FeliCa and work with Apple Pay in Japan?
A. Apple states:

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Watch Series 2 users will be able to make purchases in stores anywhere Suica, iD or QUICPay is accepted…

Apple Pay in Japan also works with some older devices that do not have FeliCa:

When paying for goods and services on the go within apps or Safari, Apple Pay works with iPhone 6 and later, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 3 and later. You can also use Apple Pay in Safari on any Mac introduced in or after 2012 running macOS Sierra, and confirm the payment with iPhone 6 or later or Apple Watch.

Q. I have an iPhone 7/ Apple Watch Series 2 device that I bought in my home country. Can I  use Apple Pay for transit and store purchases in Japan?
A. No. Only iPhone 7/ Apple Watch Series 2 devices purchased in Japan support FeliCa Type-F NFC contactless technology required for Apple Pay transit and store purchases in Japan.

Q. Why is that?
A. Good question. Apple appears to be using the same NEC manufactured NFC controller in all iPhone 7/ Apple Watch Series 2 devices but only activating NFC FeliCa for devices sold in Japan. This could be due to regulatory issues, licensing issues, or Japanese card company agreements that limit liability. Nobody outside of Apple and their Japanese Apple Pay partners knows the answer.

Q. If those issues are resolved will Apple activate FeliCa Type-F NFC for all iPhone 7/ Apple Watch Series 2 devices?
A. Another good question with no answer. The biggest Apple Pay Japanese partner, JR East, has said they hope to improve support for “Inbound” customers. Whether this translates to future  FeliCa NFC support for all iPhone 7/ Apple Watch Series 2 customers visiting Japan is anybody’s guess.

Q. Can I buy an Apple Watch Series 2 watch in Japan and use FeliCa with my iPhone from abroad?
A. Yes, you can pair Apple Watch Series 2 with iPhone 6 and above to load and use Apple Pay for transit, store and in-app purchases. Japanese users who are not ready to upgrade to iPhone 7 are using this option and loving it. See this page for details and setup instructions in English.

Q: Can I use a iPhone 7/Apple Watch Series 2 device purchased in Japan to use Apple Pay in my home country?
A. Yes, you can use iPhone 7/Apple Watch Series 2 device purchased in Japan with Apple Pay supported cards issued in your home country. Apple Japan Support says that you need to set the device Region setting to match the country that the card was issued in before adding that card into Apple Pay: Japan region setting to add Japanese issued cards, America region setting to add USA issued cards, and so on.

Q. Does my Apple ID need to be a Japanese account to use Apple Pay in Japan?
A. No, it does not matter what country your Apple ID was created in. Any Apple ID can be used for Japan Apple Pay.

You must purchase an iPhone 7 or Apple Watch Series 2 device in Japan to use FeliCa Apple Pay services. If you are visiting Japan and want to use FeliCa Apple Pay, either buy a sim unlocked iPhone 7 or Apple Watch Series 2 watch from Apple store in Japan. The Apple Watch Series 2 option is the cheaper way to go.


Suica Transit
JR East’s widely used transit/prepaid Suica card is the centerpiece for Apple Pay in Japan. Apple Pay is the only service that can use Suica without a Mobile Suica account that is a requirement on all other non-Apple devices.

Suica Apple Pay Support Pages
Apple Suica Apple Pay Setup (English)
Apple Suica Apple Pay Use (English)
JR East Suica Apple Pay support page (Japanese) Excellent support information and videos.
JR East Suica Apple Pay Guide (PDF) (Japanese)
JR East Suica Apple Pay Support for server errors (Japanese)
JR East Suica App download (note that Suica app will only work on iPhone 7 or an iPhone paired with Apple Watch Series 2, and you must have a iTunes/App Store Japanese account, a quick overview of Suica app here)

Suica Q&A
Q. How do I load Suica onto my iPhone?
A. Apple says all you need to do is touch iPhone 7 to your Suica card. iPhone 7 reads and automatically loads your Suica card information (commuter pass, debit amount, etc.) into Apple Pay. After Apple Pay loading process is complete, you cannot use the physical Suica card. If you have a very old Suica card and Apple Pay cannot load it, go to the nearest JR station where they will exchange it for a new Suica for free.

Q. Can I load a Suica enabled credit card, Student ID card or Bank cash card?
A. Apple Pay will only load the credit card information of a Suica enabled credit card (such as the JR East View Card). Suica information on Suica enabled credit cards, ID cards or bank cash cards cannot be loaded into Apple Pay.

Q. How many Suica cards can I load?
A. JR East says up to eight Suica cards can be added to Apple Pay. One for commuting to work, one for personal use, etc.

Q. If I have both iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 Japanese purchased devices, can I have Suica on both devices or different Suica cards on each device?
A. No, you can only have one device setup for Suica.

Q. How do I reload/charge Suica Apple Pay?
A. You reload Suica (the prepaid account or your commuter pass) directly in Wallet with an Apple Pay loaded JCB, MasterCard or American Express credit card. See the credit card section below for details.

Q. Is Suica reloading automatic?
A. No, but if you add the Suica iPhone app from JR East you can set a View Card for automatic Suica reloading. The Suica iPhone app is available in the Japan App Store.

Q. Do credit cards issued abroad work for reloading Suica?
A. I have successfully tested an American issue Wells Fargo VISA card loaded into Apple Pay for Suica reloading. Your milage may vary but if your non Japanese issue credit card is sucessfully loaded into Apple Pay, it should work for Suica reloading (called charging in Japan).

Q. Do I have to use Touch ID every time I use Suica for transit or store purchases?
A. No, when you first load Suica into Apple Pay, Express Transit mode is automatically turned on to bypass Touch ID for automatic transit and store transactions for that Suica card.

Q. Can I load other transit cards such as PASMO, SMART, ICOCA and PiTaPa onto my iPhone 7?
A. No, but any Suica compatible transit card system will work with Suica Apple Pay. Suica is compatible with all major transit systems in Japan.

Q. Can I extend Suica Apple Pay functionality?
A. Yes, the Suica iPhone app adds functionality:

  • Create a new Suica card on your device
  • Create or change your commute plan
  • Buy Shinkansen or Green Car tickets
  • Set up auto-reload (using a JR East ViewCard only)
  • Set or change the notifications that you get from JR East

For Suica App details see my full review here.
Note that you must also register as Mobile Suica user. Ticket purchases are currently limited to JR East rail network trains. Expanded interoperability with other JR rail networks is due in the summer 2017.

Q. I have Mobile Suica installed on my Android smartphone/Japanese feature phone. Can I migrate my Mobile Suica information to iPhone 7?
A. Yes but there are specific steps you need to follow to successfully migrate your information. JR East has a Suica support page (Japanese only). If you already have a Mobile Suica account, make sure that you sign into the iPhone Suica App with the same ID then initiate the migration process in the Suica App. JR East has also posted a Android to iPhone 7 migration instruction video. Certain Mobile Suica features such as EX-IC reservations (the JR Central/JR West Shinkansen reservation system), Suica reloading via carrier billing, and Suica reloading via bank account billing do not work with Apple Pay. JR East plans to gradually restore missing Mobile Suica features via the Suica iPhone app.

Q: Can I get a Suica commuter pass for my bus commute?
A: Yes, you can get a Suica commuter bus pass for Toei buses. Go and request one at a JR East station office where they sell commuter passes, or a Toei branch office listed here.


Suica Apple Pay Express Transit mode allows you to use Suica without waking the device. The iPhone 7 or Apple Watch Series 2 device must be turned on but can be left locked with the screen off. For Suica transit use make sure your device has enough battery power to complete your planned transit route as Suica transit payment transaction is made at the final transit exit point.

Suica App: At present, the Suica App can only be downloaded from the Japan App Store which requires a iTunes/App Store Japanese account. This may change so confirm if Suica App is available in your country App store. You must also register as a Mobile Suica user to access commuter pass purchase, Shinkansen ticket purchase, Green Car seat purchase and auto reload features. Student discount Suica transit purchases require you to mail a student certificate to JR East to complete the purchases. Instructions are in the app and here.

JR Central/JR West Shinkansen: JR Central/JR West has a support page for using Apple Pay Suica with JR Central/JR West Shinkansen trains. JR East has said they are working with the other JR companies to provide full and seamless smartphone transit interoperability by the summer of 2017.

Apple Pay Credit Card Support Pages
Docomo iD 

Credit & Prepaid Card Q&A
Q. What cards can I use with Apple Pay?
A. The cards listed below can be used at stores displaying any of the contactless pay system logos listed above. Suica, iD, and QUICPay are commonly found together.

Pay System


Orico (JCB, VISA, MC)
Saison Card (JCB, VISA, MC, AMEX)
View (JCB, VISA)
au (VISA, MC)
Rakuten Card (JCB, VISA, MC)
iD Mitsui Sumitomo (VISA, MC)
Aeon (JCB, VISA, MC)
SoftBank Card (VISA)

Note that this is only the listing from the Apple Pay Japan page. For the complete card issuer Apple Pay Japan list see the Apple Pay Support Page.

Q. VISA is not listed on the Apple Pay Japan page, do VISA cards work with Apple Pay?
A. VISA has not signed an agreement with Apple for Apple Pay in Japan but VISA cards issued from the list above, and the full launch list from Apple, work for store purchases. VISA cards issued in Japan will not work for Suica Apple Pay reloading, in-app purchases and web purchases.

Q. What credit cards work for Apple Pay in-app and web purchases?
A. The JCB, MasterCard or American Express cards listed above and in the full launch list work for in-app and web purchases.

Q. Can I use credit cards issued from other countries with Apple Pay in Japan?
A. No, you can only use Japanese issued cards with Apple Pay in Japan. Cards issued abroad do not support FeliCa Type-F NFC systems and are not compatible with the iD and QUICPay pay systems.

If you work and live in Japan and plan to use Apple Pay regularly, you might want to rearrange your credit card collection to fit your needs. For example if you are a heavy Suica user, many Japanese users who want automatic Suica reloading are signing up for the Bic Camera JCB ViewCard because not only do they get auto reloading, they also receive Bic Camera points for Suica reloading and do not need to pay the 10,000 JPY annual card fee of other ViewCards.

Another example for users who drive a lot would be the ENEOS JCB card which gives you points and a small gas discount when filling up at ENEOS. You also earn more points from matching it with an ENEOS ETC card.

There are lots of credit card loyalty point systems out there. Do some research up front to avoid the hassle of changing cards later, and get the most of using Apple Pay.

NFC Readers
Using the Apple Pay Suica Express Transit Card feature of iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 devices purchased in Japan is slick and convenient. It’s the big killer feature heavily marketed by Apple and JR East in Japan and fun to use for transit and store purchases.

The Apple Pay Suica support page store section states:

If your Suica card is set as your Express Transit card, simply hold the top of your iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus or the display of your Apple Watch Series 2 within a few centimeters of the contactless reader until you see Done and a checkmark on the display. You don’t need to wake or unlock your device or open an app to make the purchase.

In the field however this is not always reliable and depends on the kind of NFC reader and the store POS system.

The Good
Fortunately, most NFC readers are Express Transit card savvy. Tell the clerk you want to pay with Suica, when the reader lights up put your device a few centimeters away, it beeps a completed transaction and you are on your way. No need to wake the device, choose the Apple Pay card or use TouchID. It just works.

The Bad
Unfortunately some NFC readers are not Express Transit card savvy. NFC readers in Seibu Ikebukuro (and all Seibu related stores) and all the Tokyu railway stores force you to wake the device, select the Suica Apple Pay card and perform TouchID confirmation. And the transaction speed is very sluggish. Be wary when you encounter a NFC reader pictured below.

The Ugly
I wrote about temperamental Transaction Media-Networks UT1-Neo NFC readers earlier. These readers are Suica Express Transit card savvy but sensitive how the iPhone is held. I find they work most reliably holding the iPhone 7 device a little further away, not too close and at an angle. UT1-Neo NFC readers are found in smaller stores and coffee shops such as Ueshima Coffee and Tsubakiya Coffee.

UT1-Neo NFC Reader

Update and Revision History

added link for instructions on adding Suica to an older iPhone from abroad.
added Q&A covering iPhone 7/Apple Watch Series 2 devices purchased in Japan for Apple Pay use in other countries.
added NFC Reader device section, edited text for clarity.
updated MUFG Card information.
 updated Suica enabled credit card/ID/Bank card limitation information.
added Suica enabled credit card limitation.
added Suica Toei commuter bus pass information.
added Lawson Apple Pay info and links.
added Suica App review link.
added Mobile Suica server error support page link.
added ENEOS card information to credit card summary/tips.
added Apple Pay Japan video links, recent news information, initial field test results for Suica reloading with USA issued cards, credit card summary/tips section. Corrected information for Mobile Suica iPhone 7 migration from Android/Feature Phones.
10/29: added more Suica Apple Pay support page links, Suica App  Mobile Suica membership to access advanced features, and student discount transit pass purchase information.
added Apple Japan Apple Pay support site and pages, FeliCa summary, Apple ID Q&A, and Suica transit notice.
: JR East Suica support and Suica app information, Rakuten Card addition, Apple Japan Apple Pay support information, Apple Pay participating bank and card issuer list and revised MUFG card status.

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