One of the current limitations of Japanese IC transit cards like Suica is they have a storage limit of ¥20,000. Suica will not accept more than that. Transit cards were conceived long before the arrival of smart connected devices and designed for local area transit.
This is part of the reason why systems like Mobile Suica and smartEX have a separate Shinkansen e-ticket that piggybacks on Apple Pay Suica and Mobile Suica. Wouldn’t it be nice to just touch and go Apple Pay Suica for Shinkansen travel like regular trains with no special ticket purchase?
This is exactly what JR East is doing with their new “Touch and Go Shinkansen” service starting April 1, 2018. Touch and Go Shinkansen for Japanese transit IC cards still has to deal with the ¥20,000 balance limit and only offers certain routes and destinations from Tokyo that fit within that limit, and is only good for non-reserve seats.
This is convenient but the real test will be how much of a discount stingy JR East will offer. Pricing is still being cooked but the example Touch and Go fare discount from Tokyo to Utsunomiya was a measly ¥200. If JR East wants people to use Touch and Go on a regular basis they’ll have to do better than that.
On the plus side, JR East said they are working with the other transit card partners to remove the ¥20,000 limit by April 1, 2019 when JR East plans to unveil their own smartEX like service. It would be very nice to have real Touch and Go Shinkansen with Apple Pay Suica without limits, and better discounts.
Touch and Go Shinkansen has been expanded to include all JR East Shinkansen lines.
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