Apple Pay Suica Inbound #7: No Foreign Transaction Fees

Apple Watch Suica

A reader comment after using Apple Pay Suica on his iPhone X:

My trip is half over, and we’ve found Suica to be a huge advantage over the old method of converting currency when we use our “no foreign transaction fee” card  to recharge it. So we use it heavily every day.

Since I live in Japan this important Apple Pay Suica advantage never crossed my mind. There are lots of “No Foreign Transaction Fee” credit cards available in America. As long as they work with Apple Pay they are good to work for Suica Recharge. As long as you have a Global FeliCa model iPhone or Apple Watch you are good to add Suica. For the purchases you make with Suica kiss foreign transaction fees goodbye.

Unfortunately for inbound Android users the recent rollout of Google Pay Suica does not let them into the Global FeliCa smartphone party.


Yes, You Can Talk And Recharge Apple Pay Suica at the Same Time

Nobu Ringo (Nobu Apple) is my kind of Apple Pay Suica guy. His YouTube channel is filled with fun imaginative slightly dopey Apple Pay Suica exploits. Apple Pay Suica at McDonalds, KFC, Esso, parking meters and the extra, extra, extra spicy curry take home plate from Coco Curry House (complete with eating timer).

His latest exploit: recharging Apple Pay Suica while having a phone conversation. Tricky but it does work in case you are really on the run. And if you are wondering, he does it all on what appears to be iPhone 8 Plus not iPhone X. Good choice.

JCB J/Speedy Apple Pay Lands in Taiwan

JCB Apple Pay in Taiwan

JCB announced J/Speedy Apple Pay service for Taiwan today. This means any Taiwanese customers with JCB cards can add them to Apple Pay. More importantly this means all those Japanese tourists that Taiwan has been advertising to can now spend money with Apple Pay JCB cards in Taiwan. In short iOS 11 NFC switching for FeliCa QUICPay at home and EMV J/Speedy in Taiwan.

Who says you can’t have it both ways?

Apple Pay Suica Inbound Battery Strategies

Apple Watch Suica

Google Pay doesn’t do Inbound and Apple Pay Suica remains the only digital wallet choice for inbound visitors to Japan who have a Global FeliCa iPhone or Apple Watch. One of the worries visitors have is iPhone battery life when using Apple Pay Suica. Apple Pay Suica works perfectly well in Airplane Mode without a network connection, a great battery saver tip in a pinch.

Inbound travelers have different needs however and traveling offline most of the time isn’t an option if you need GPS, online maps with transit routing or want to find a great place for lunch on the run. The danger of iPhone running out of battery mid transit is a possibility when your attention is distracted while out and about living plug to plug. Run out of juice in the middle of a Apple Pay Suica transit and you will end up paying full fare in cash at the exit transit gate. Some blogs say that you can pay with a backup plastic Suica but the official JR East position is strictly cash only.

If you are doing it all on iPhone while visiting Japan a good battery case/bank is highly recommend. There are other strategies too, they all basically boil down to dividing trip duties between 2 devices.

  • Apple Watch: if you have Apple Watch Series 3 you can transfer your Suica card from iPhone to Apple Watch with the Watch app. Offloading Suica to Apple Watch allows you to keep Apple Watch in Airplane Mode for Suica transit and use iPhone online for maps and transit without dead battery worries. The only time Apple Pay Suica needs a network connection is when recharging Suica with an Apple Pay credit card.
  • iPad: if you have a cellular model iPad buy a data travel SIM in Japan and use iPad as your main GPS map and transit tool on the road. If you have a Apple SIM iPad you can also buy a data plan on the go. It might not be the cheapest option but Apple SIM is convenient.

Any Android device will also make a good offload roaming device freeing up iPhone for Apple Pay Suica use while maximizing battery life. And remember if you do run into the 10% battery life warning mid transit, don’t panic. Simply turn the Apple Pay Suica device off, and turn it back on when you reach your destination transit gate.

Thoughts on Google Pay Suica

Investor-writer Ichiro Yamamoto shares his Thoughts on Google Pay Suica on Yahoo Japan. If you ever need proof that Keio University Business School grads can be idiots look no further. Instead of getting his facts straight, Yamamoto san feels Google’s pain and blames the Google Pay Suica debacle not on Google, but on the FeliCa / Osaifu-Keitai standard because it is “Japanese” and not “Global”. Yes folks another ‘FeliCa must die because it’s proprietary’ rant. How 1990s can you get? I guess Yamamoto san is invested in Alphabet.

Yamamoto san then goes completely off the rail saying that Japanese iPhone Apple Pay cannot be used abroad and that QR Codes are shaping up to be the future of a cashless economy.

Ichiro Yamamoto Yahoo Japan
Yamamoto san says Apple Pay Japan can only be used by ‘Japanese iPhones’.

What a load of crap. I guess Yamamoto san never heard the news about Global FeliCa iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch 3. I guess he never heard of NFC Switching or used a Japanese iPhone X Apple Pay d CARD to buy things in America. Yes Yamamoto san, it does work:

A lot of “experts” make the mistake of mixing up the open global NFC hardware standard (NFC A and NFC-F are required) with the proprietary software stacks that run digital wallets: EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE, etc. Smartphone manufacturers will always have to license  software stacks and keys to make digital wallets work. There is no free ride.

What it comes down to is that Apple can create and sell a smartphone that is truly ‘Global’ and Apple Pay just works everywhere because Apple owns the software and hardware.

Android smartphone makers have yet to take up the challenge to make a global Android phone and actually sell it globally. Google isn’t going to help them.