Stored value transit cards like Suica are different from branded credit • debit • prepaid cards issued by banks as the money is stored on the card itself (called the card balance or stored fare/SF balance). The truth is in the physical or digital card that holds and manages the SF balance, not the cloud. And because a Mobile Suica card’s primary function is a transit card that has to pay fare based on the distance of transit, it can only exist on a single device and the SF balance cannot be transferred to another person. It can only be spent on transit or purchases, or be refunded in cash (plastic card) or a Japanese bank account (Mobile Suica • PASMO • ICOCA card).
‘Remove’ from Wallet is not ‘Delete’ from Apple Pay
People assume removing a card in Wallet means that it is deleted from Apple Pay, but this is not the case. Removed Wallet cards are still attached to the user’s Apple ID are stored away in Wallet ‘Previous Cards’, a ready to be re-added list of cards, keys and passes attached to Apple ID that can quickly re-added.
Wallet wording is tricky because there is a huge difference between ‘removing‘ a card, which removes it from Wallet, parking it in Apple Pay iCloud and Previous Cards, and ‘deleting‘ a card which completely deletes a card from Apple Pay and Apple ID. You need to pay close attention.
The Stored Value difference
There are also differences when deleting items from Apple ID • Apple Pay • Wallet for good. Deleting a bank issue payment card from Apple Pay is easy to do in Previous Cards as nothing is stored on the card itself, deleting leaves the card account intact and untouched. It can all be setup and added again if you want to do so. However you cannot delete a Suica or other stored value card (PASMO, ICOCA, nanaco, WAON) from Previous Cards.
Deleting Suica is the digital equivalent of going to the JR East station agent and returning the plastic Suica by paying a ¥220 processing fee for a refund of the balance and ¥500 deposit. On the digital side, JR East, has the legal obligation to refund the card balance to the user before Suica can be deleted from Apple Pay. This is why it is impossible to delete Suica from Previous Cards and Apple Pay. Refunding a Suica balance and deleting the digital card is the job of Suica App.
It’s easier just removing Suica from Wallet. Suica is valid for 10 years (longer actually) and can quickly re-added and used when visiting Japan. But some users may want to go through the extra hassle going through the digital refund process.
What’s a digital Suica withdrawal refund?
Getting a withdrawal refund from a Mobile Suica card balance isn’t an option for inbound visitors as refunds can only be made to a Japanese bank account, with an upfront ¥220 processing fee taken out of the SF balance. Mobile Suica must also be registered in Suica App. The Japanese bank account requirement is there because it costs too much in foreign exchange fees to process small change Suica JPY refunds. It would be a money losing proposition for all.
However you can delete Suica from Apple Pay and avoid the Japanese bank account + ¥220 processing fee requirements by running the Suica balance to zero, just like JR East recommends:
The “Withdrawal” procedure on the registered members menu (in the Japanese only Suica App) allows the balance of the SF (Stored Fare) to be remitted to your bank account in Japan. Since it costs ¥220 for the refund, it is generally advised that you use up all the SF (Stored Fare).Mobile Suica Support: Can I get a refund from the remaining balance on the SF (Stored Fare) ?
Using up the stored fare/card balance is easy to do: just buy something more expensive than the card balance, pay with Suica first and the rest in cash.
The Suica withdrawal refund workaround
With a zero card balance and nothing to refund, you can permanently delete Suica from your Apple ID • Apple Pay account. You still need a Mobile Suica account and Suica App (or PASMO • ICOCA equivilant) to do the job but the process is simple. With the balance at ¥0, launch Suica App.
- Step #1: scroll to the bottom of Suica App Ticketing and Management menu and tap the red ‘Refund this Suica’ item at the very bottom
- Step #2: Confirm the refund terms and confirm
- Step #3: In the next screen confirm the balance, refund and processing fee are ¥0, tap ‘refund and delete card’.
- Step #4: Confirm refund and delete
- Step #5: In Wallet Suica shows ‘this card cannot be used’, tap ‘delete this card’
- Step #6: Confirm deleting Suica
- Step #7: Wallet notification that Suica has been deleted from Apple Pay
Done. Suica is deleted though it will show in Previous Cards for a few hours until the 2 am~4 am JST nightly Mobile Suica system maintenance processes it completely.
While this post only covers Suica, it’s the same process for PASMO and ICOCA using their respective apps.