Suica is a transit pre-paid card system developed by JR East, with Suica you can ride Japanese trains and buses nationwide and also use it for store purchases. Nothing beats the convenience of Apple Pay Suica for travel all over Japan purchasing things on the go.
Apple Pay Suica is “superglue” that lets visitors enjoy the convenience of Japanese contactless payments in stores and transit while using Apple Pay credit cards from home to add money (Suica Recharge). This is the unique feature of Apple Pay Suica not available on any other platform.
Anybody visiting Japan with iPhone 8, iPhone X or Apple Watch Series 3, can add and use Suica. To mark the official rollout of Apple’s global FeliCa iPhone support, here is an Apple Pay Suica guide.
Getting Started: Plastic or Virtual Suica?
The choice of plastic or virtual Suica depends on what device you have: with iPhone 8 or iPhone X you can add a plastic Suica card to Apple Pay. It is the easiest and recommend way. You can also add a virtual Suica with the Suica App; a little more work. Buy Suica at any Tokyo area JR station as shown in the JR East video below (the one minute mark).
Add Plastic Suica to iPhone 8 / iPhone X
1) Once you have a Suica the basic steps are setting device Region to Japan then adding Suica in Apple Pay Wallet. Set your iPhone Region to Japan, the Language setting does not need to be changed. Region can be restored to your preference after successfully adding Suica.
2) Open Wallet, tap , tap Next, tap Suica and follow the screen instructions, also explained on Apple’s Set up a Suica card in Apple Pay: Transfer a Suica card to Apple Pay on your iPhone.
3) Use Suica as explained on Apple’s Using Suica page. Not that you really need an explanation.
4) Add Money (Suica Recharge): in Wallet, tap the Suica card. tap , tap Add Money, then choose the amount, and tap “Add”. Select the card you want to pay from and place your finger on Touch ID to complete the transaction. Any Apple Pay credit card is good for Suica Recharge. Go here for details.
Suica Express Transit mode is automatically turned on when you first add a Suica card to Apple Pay. With Express Transit you do not use Touch ID:
Simply hold the top of your iPhone X / iPhone 8 or the display of your Apple Watch Series 3 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.
Suica Express Transit is convenient and secure. Suica is a pre-paid card, it only holds the amount of money that you add to it with Apple Pay, or with cash.
Apple Pay Suica, Network Access and Battery
Network access is necessary only when adding Suica to Apple Pay, Suica Recharge with Apple Pay or using the Suica App. Apple Pay Suica does not require network access for transit, store purchases and Suica Recharge with cash, and can be used in Airplane mode to preserve battery life while traveling. Do not run out of battery on-route before reaching your final destination.
Apple Pay Suica Support and Coverage
JR East has an extensive Apple Pay Suica Japanese support site. English support is here.
Apple Pay Suica is compatible with all the major transit IC systems covering rail and bus nationwide. It is good for store purchases too, look for the IC logo or Suica logo at the payment terminal.
Note: if you are migrating Suica from iPhone 7 or Apple Watch Series 2 you must delete Suica from the old device first before setting it up on a new device.
Add Plastic Suica to Apple Watch Series 3 with iPhone 8 / iPhone X
If you are using Apple Watch with iPhone 8 or iPhone X all you need to do is add Suica to iPhone explained above, then transfer it to Apple Watch. See “Move your Suica from your iPhone to your Apple Watch” in the Set up a Suica card in Apple Pay support page for details.
Create a Virtual Suica or Add Suica to Apple Watch Series 3 with iPhone 6, 6S, 7
To create a virtual Suica with Suica App on iPhone 8 / iPhone X go to the Suica App page and follow the instructions.
Suica App is only available in Japanese language. It can be downloaded from the Japan App Store, USA App Store and Australian App Store. Distribution is expanding, check availability in your home country App Store
If you are using an older iPhone paired with Apple Watch Series 3 you must create a virtual Suica with Suica App on the paired iPhone then transfer it to Apple Watch.
Apple Watch Series 3 with iPhone 6, 6S, 7 Preflight check list
- iPhone 6 or above running the latest iOS version paired with Apple Watch Series 3 also running the latest WatchOS
- A credit card already loaded into your iPhone Apple Pay Wallet. The card can be any Apple Pay compatible card issued from your home country
- Mobile data app use turned on for Suica, Wallet and Watch apps
- Passcode set for both iPhone and Apple Watch
- Apple Watch wrist detection turned on
- Region setting for both devices set to Japan. The Language setting can be any language you prefer. Region can be restored after successfully adding Suica
- Network access when adding Suica to Apple Pay
- Suica App installed
Launch the Suica app. Note that Suica app will only launch with a successfully paired Apple Watch Series 3. Follow adding virtual Suica steps.
The last step is transferring Suica from iPhone to Apple Watch. See the “Move your Suica from your iPhone to your Apple Watch” section of the Set up a Suica card in Apple Pay support page for details.
Suica Express Transit and Store NFC Readers
Using the Apple Pay Suica Express Transit feature of iPhone and Apple Watch is slick, secure and very 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.
Simply hold the top of your iPhone 8 or the display of your Apple Watch Series 3 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 some older store readers are not Suica Express Transit savvy and require Touch ID.
Fortunately, all convenience stores and almost all NFC store readers are Express Transit card savvy with newer readers and POS systems rapidly being deployed. 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 Touch ID or Face ID. It just works. NFC readers like the ones pictured below work great.
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 Touch ID confirmation. And the transaction speed is sluggish. Be wary when you encounter the NFC reader pictured below.
UT1-Neo NFC readers show below are Suica Express Transit card savvy but very sensitive how iPhone is held. Do not lay iPhone flat on the reader, hold the top of the iPhone tilting forward slightly just in front of the reader and hold it there until the reader beeps. UT1-Neo NFC readers are found in smaller stores and coffee shops such as Ueshima Coffee and Tsubakiya Coffee.