JR East announced a special plastic Suica card for inbound tourists called “Welcome Suica” that will be available from September 1, 2019 at major Tokyo area stations and JR East Travel Service Centers. The main attraction according to the press release is that the Welcome Suica card does away with the ¥500 deposit, and the hassle of getting it back when leaving the country, but the card is only valid for 28 days from the issue date and JR East also says that unused Welcome Suica balances are not refundable… but the unique card design makes a nice souvenir. Welcome Suica cannot be added to Apple Pay or Google Pay and is plastic issue only.
The whole thing sounds like it would have been a nice idea before Apple Pay Suica and Google Pay Suica, both of which let users to add virtual Suica cards without a deposit, and can be safely removed from Wallet and left on the cloud until needed again.
It turns out there is a good reason for Welcome Suica that wasn’t clear when it was first released. A year later we found out: Welcome Suica is special Suica for registering and attaching inbound discount tickets and passes at JR East service windows and designated station kiosks.
PASMO PASSPORT is a similar but slightly less attractive deal than Welcome Suica: a limited 28 day validity PASMO, a 500 JP¥ deposit fee with no deposit fee or balance refunds. It does have a cute Hello Kitty design however. A user asked if I had any opinions about Welcome Suica and PASMO PASSPORT. I thought about it and can only assume Welcome Suica/PASMO PASSPORT plastic cards are aimed at inbound visitors who want to purchase inbound discount tickets and passes they can register to the Welcome Suica and PASMO PASSPORT cards.
The real limitation of plastic Suica and PASMO is they are limited to cash recharge at station kiosks and convenience stores. Apple Pay Suica and Apple Pay PASMO are good options if travelers don’t plan to use inbound JR discount tickets and passes, Apple Pay recharge is convenient and works anywhere.