Reality on the street
iPhone 8 and iOS 11 Apple Pay can do it all on the iPhone side of the equation but what about store NFC terminals? In early 2016 NFC Pay (EMV credit cards) was available in Tokyo Disneyland, Ikea and a few places in Yokohama, places where foreigners hang out basically. Since then McDonalds has added NFC Pay. 7-Eleven will likely add NFC Pay when they start installing a fancy new POS system in October. But even in Tokyo progress in 2017 has been slow.
The J/Speedy, Mastercard Contactless card announcement from JCB and T-Cubic means big changes are coming. These are basically EMV/NFC-Pay credit cards for domestic use that Japanese customers can also use abroad. JCB and T-Cubic would not make that kind of commitment unless domestic store terminal support was in the cards. Store terminal hardware is already NFC A-B-F compatible so the changes are likely to be on the backend.
For iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Pay Watch Series 3 visitors from abroad who want to use Apple Pay in Japan, the best solution is adding Suica and using your Apple Pay credit card to recharge it. That way you get the best use of both FeliCa and EMV with nationwide coverage for transit and store purchases.
Of course we could have avoided this whole mess if EMVCo and the gang had incorporated NFC-F in the contactless payment NFC normalization process. We probably would have gotten something like Apple has done: NFC switching and 2 credit card ID (EMV/FeliCa) system that ‘just works’ everywhere instead of stupid contactless payment terminal turf wars.
NFC contactless payments should be like good wallpaper that fades pleasantly into the background. Unfortunately in Japan right now, card network payment systems and retail empires have a bumper sticker fetish with logos cluttering up your Apple Pay trip to the cash register terminal. It’s not going to work until it works everywhere, every time. Hopefully we’ll get there in time for the Tokyo Olympics.