The railway station barrier-free fee system is “a Japanese railway fare system established with the aim of promoting barrier-free railway stations in urban areas” by leveraging a fee on urban railway users in Tokyo, Kansai and Fukuoka areas. It is a barrier-free train station tax if you will, added to regular adult fare and commuter passes but generally not child fares or school commuter passes. The barrier-free tax will cover station infrastructure costs for adding platform doors, elevators, etc., to the designated metropolitan area stations.
From 2023-03-18 most railway companies in the Tokyo area, both JR East and non-JR, raised transit fares to pay this barrier-free station tax. Here is the breakdown for the Greater Tokyo area focusing on JR East.
Non-JR East Tokyo area railway companies are raising regular fares by ¥10 but commuter passes are a different story.
While barrier-free stations are good thing and not a big tax to pay for all that new infrastructure, the timing could not be worse. Living costs are rising across the board, little increases add up, eating into salaries that are not rising much, if at all. Each transfer on a multiple transit line routes now has increased fare with each transit operator section. For example: my work commute uses JR East and Tokyu lines, the old fare was ¥419, new fare is ¥457.
In real world use it simply means if you have an Suica Off-Peak Commuter Pass, don’t enter your start station during the station designed morning ‘Peak Time’ on work days. If you do the commuter pass doesn’t work. Any time outside of ‘Peak Time’ you are good to do. This is much better than the convoluted, often confusing Suica Off-Peak JRE POINT Campaign that ends March 31.
Apple Pay Suica users can purchase Off-Peak commute plans in an upcoming version of Suica App (v5.2.1), but you must purchase a new pass. Regular commute plans can only be renewed as regular commute plans, they cannot be migrated to off-peak plans. School commute plans and passes will not be charged the barrier-free tax which is good news. Another bonus: high school and jr. high school students can add and use Mobile Suica school commute plans staring March 18.
Keio and Keikyu are raising fares later this year in October.
Regular adult fares are up ¥10 in line with JR East, some have also raised child fares by ¥10. Commuter passes are generally being raised more, and there are no off-peak commuter passes. Kansai area transit operators are raising fares on April 1, Fukuoka on March 27. Be sure to check how the fare and commuter pass increases apply to your local commute situation.
Notice: The VISA payment network is blocking foreign issue VISA credit cards for Apple Pay In-App use with Suica, PASMO, ICOCA. Apple Pay Wallet users cannot add or rechargeSuica, PASMO, and ICOCA cards with foreign issue VISA credit cards, attempts to add money to the card in Wallet result in a ‘Payment Not Completed’ error shown below:
The issue has been ongoing since early August 2022. Use Mastercard, AMEX credit cards, UnionPay credit cards for adding money to Apple Pay Suica, PASMO, ICOCA in Wallet app. More foreign issue credit and debit cards work for Apple Pay Suica than PASMO or ICOCA. Here’s the current situation based on online user feedback:
Non-JP VISA: credit cards are blocked by VISA for adding money to Suica, PASMO, ICOCA. Some credit cards may work sporadically but only temporarily. Some VISA debit cards work for adding money to Suica: DKB, Hyundai Zero, ANZ. Boursorama, Revolut and WISE work depending on the country of the account, no other issuers confirmed though more seem to be working over time. Non-JP Mastercard: cards work for adding money to Suica, some credit cards are not working for PASMO depending on the issuer. Some debit cards may be limited by the ATM withdrawal limit. Mastercard is not currently working for adding money to ICOCA. Non-JP AMEX: cards work for adding money to Suica, PASMO, ICOCA. UnionPay: cards work for adding money to Suica, PASMO, ICOCA.
Pass-through workaround option for inbound VISA card users from EU • UK (VISA credit and debit), US (VISA debit only): link VISA with a Curve Mastercard added to Apple Pay Wallet to add money to Suica indirectly with VISA.
New developments will be posted to this page, feedback from users is much appreciated.
Recharge and Network Issues The majority of Apple Pay Suica • PASMO issues are due to poor network connection issues, usually when using free WiFi, auto-connect carrier WiFi, or in crowded areas with maxed out mobile connectivity. Always make sure your device has a robust internet connection when recharging in Wallet app or using Suica or PASMO apps.
When recharging a Suica or PASMO card with a poor network connection, Wallet appears to hang during the process. When recharge fails or hangs, don’t panic. Cancel the recharge process by hitting the sleep button, then check to make sure iPhone has a robust network connection: turn off WiFi and use 4G • 5G. Toggle Airplane Mode on and off to clear a bad mobile connection. When you have confirmed a robust network connection try recharge again.
One important thing to remember about recharge: if you see failed charges on your credit or debit card, these are temporary charges that are not processed and automatically resolved by the Mobile Suica • PASMO • ICOCA system during the 2 am ~ 4 am JST nightly system maintenance period. Temporary charges on your card are erased but they may not show immediately depending on your card company system, contact your card company to confirm.
If you still have recharge hang problems do this first:
Make sure you have the latest iOS • watchOS installed
Restart iPhone or Apple Watch and make sure they are paired
Make sure your iPhone has a robust internet connection.
Make sure you are not in the Mobile Suica / Mobile PASMO / Mobile ICOCA 1 am~5 am JST maintenance window.
It’s also a good idea to check Apple’s Japanese System Status page to make sure Apple Pay & Wallet services are online and not experiencing local region issues.
If you still have recharge issues follow these additional steps (note that you cannot do these steps if you are in transit and have not tapped out at your final destination):
Confirm that you are logged into the same Apple ID used to add Suica • PASMO • ICOCA
Open Wallet > select Suica, PASMO or ICOCA > tap the more button ‘…’ > scroll to the bottom of the card > tap ‘Remove this card’.
Wait 5 minutes.
Tap add card ‘+’ in Wallet, tap Previous Cards in Add to Wallet screen
Select your Suica, PASMO or ICOCA in the Previous Cards screen, tap Continue.
In Add Card the Suica, PASMO or ICOCA you removed from Wallet should be showing with the balance, tap Next to complete.
If recharge still fails, download and open Suica App or PASMO App. It may display an error number or a red exclamation mark. Tap the red explanation mark if you see one on the card, then tap ‘OK’.
This operation will clear most error problems. Give it 10 minutes or so to clear the problem.
When the card remove operation appears hung If the Suica•PASMO•ICOCA card removes from Wallet but appears hung as “Removing/Deleting” in the iCloud device list, or if Wallet says the card cannot be removed because it is “In Transit”, sign out of Apple ID on your iPhone, restart the device, then login with the same Apple ID.
Card Unavailable Message In some cases you may get a Card Unavailable screen when attempting to re-add Suica•PASMO in Wallet:
This means there are some issues that the Mobile Suica / Mobile PASMO systems will clear during the maintenance period. Simply wait for the end of the next 2 am~4 am JST maintenance window, then re-add the card.
**Troubleshooting notice for Apple Pay Commuter Suica users: Suica App 3.0 introduced a new process when re-adding Commuter Suica cards. There are cases when re-adding a Commuter Suica to Wallet the stored fare balance will be 0. Don’t panic if this happens, your stored fare balance is not lost. This is done so that commuter passes can be re-added and used immediately even if there are remaining stored fare issues to fix during the Mobile Suica nightly maintenance reset. The previous stored fare balance is restored manually via the Suica Pocket option in Suica App and will show up as a Suica App notification.
Bricked iPhone If your iPhone or Apple Watch becomes bricked due to damage the first step is following the same steps for a lost or wiped device: login to your Apple ID account on the web or from another trusted Apple ID device and remotely delete the Apple Pay cards from the bricked device.
Restoring Suica etc. is exactly the same as transferring Suica to a new iPhone. Once you successfully delete the card on the bricked device and are ready to restore the card to a new device, simply add the card using the iOS 15 or later Wallet app Previous Cards category.
Mobile Suica account users also have the option to reissue the Suica from a bricked device via the Mobile Suica members site. Once signed in you can check the online status and balance of the Suica card. Select the reissue option and follow the instructions. Users can also quit Mobile Suica and refund the remaining card balance to a Japanese bank account with a ¥220 handling fee.
Transit Gate Issues When exiting the last station the user failed to tap correctly. The gate will flash red with an alert sound but sometimes the user continues on leaving the Suica card status as ‘in transit’. The next time you enter a transit gate it flashes red with an alarm sound. Take your iPhone to the station attendant and they will reset it but they will have to deduct fare from your previous trip to reset the card. Be aware that you must do this at the station of the same company line used for the last trip. Suica, PASMO, ICOCA cards cannot be used again until you have settled the fare. You cannot at any station or different company line.
If you enter a transit gate with Suica but exit outside of the Suica/PASMO region, you will have to pay cash fare for the entire trip. The station attendant will give you a piece of paper validating that you paid the fare. When you are in the Suica/PASMO region again, give the paper and iPhone to a station attendant and they will reset it for you.
Mobile Suica Operational Hours (24 hour format) Operational times for specific functions are listed. All times are Japan Standard Time (JST) Basic services run 22 hours from 4:00 (am) to 2:00 (am), with a 2 hour system maintenance window. Special system maintenance schedules and other important Mobile Suica system info is posted here (Japanese only). Mobile PASMO and Mobile ICOCA operational hours are the same.
Account Registration 04:00~02:00 Create new Mobile Suica account 05:00~00:50 Register and transfer Suica commuter pass to Mobile Suica account
Stored Fare Balance 04:00~02:00 Wallet App or Suica App recharge* *(Cash recharge at stations, 7-11 ATMs, convenience stores is always available 24/7) 04:00~02:00 Auto-Charge registration/change settings/cancel (VEIW CARD) 05:00~00:50 View transaction history in Suica App 05:00~00:50 Download PDF receipts from Mobile Suica members site
Suica Commute Plans 05:00~23:45 Purchase, renew, refund or change commute plan route
Suica Green Car Tickets 04:00~00:50 Purchase Green Car Tickets in Suica App 05:00~00:50 Refund Green Car Tickets in Suica App
Suica Day Pass 05:00~23:45 Purchase Day Pass in Suica App 05:00~23:45 Refund Day Pass in Suica App
Other 05:00~23:45 Mobile Suica reissue 04:00~02:00 Transfer Suica to new device 05:00~23:45 Suica withdrawal refund
With the new train schedule and barrier-free transit tariff going into effect on March 18, current Suica Commuter pass users like myself who use the JRE POINT Off-Peak Commuter Point Service that ends this month, face a dilemma: does the Off-Peak Commuter Pass offer the same level of JRE POINT reward savings? Let’s face it, in these inflationary and looming tax increase times, pinching every point to yen counts.
It comes down to 3 choices: (1) a more expensive regular commuter pass that is difficult to swallow without the off-peak transit point return, (2) a less expensive Suica Off-Peak commuter pass without off-peak transit points, (3) no commuter pass with repeat transit points.
As my work place pays commuting expenses based on regular non-commuter pass transit fare, going with the less expensive off-peak commuter pass lets me pocket the difference. So my choice basically comes down to off-peak commuter pass or no commuter pass with repeat transit points, depending on which one gives better JRE POINT returns, better purchase price savings, or both.
Here is a comparison of the price increases for my 6 month commuter pass between JR East Asagaya and Tokyu Ikegami. The route is Chuo-Yamanote-transfer at Gotanda-Ikegami. The JR East portion covers 11 stations and 15 kilometers of track. Tokyu covers 12 stations and 11 kilometers of track.
Right away we can see that the JR East fare increase basically adds the barrier-free tariff, a 1.4% increase. The Tokyu fare increase is more than just the tariff, a lot more at 13.8%, likely including electricity price increases, salary increases, and what not. Tokyu also does not offer an off-peak option.
Now that we have the new commuter pass prices for both JR East and Tokyu, let’s run a simulation to find which configuration has the best JRE POINT returns. For the latter I used the very handy JRE POINT simulator, highly recommended for running reward point numbers. Remember, that off-peak and repeat points only apply to JR East fares.
As my work place covers the regular fare price, old and new regular fare difference is set at zero. Off-Peak points are calculated for 6 months based on 2022 returns. Repeat and recharge points are calculated on 20 round trips between Asagaya and Gotanda a month x 6 months for old and new fares. The return is the purchase difference plus JRE POINT with 1 point = 1 yen.
The simulation results are pretty much in line with my expectations. Suica Off-Peak commuter passes do give you the best value, by a little bit, especially when your company is reimbursing you at regular fare rates, which many companies seem to do. You also get the best value when your commute is exclusive to JR East lines as JR East has not raised fare increases, only adding the barrier-free tariff. The return drops when including connecting non-JR East lines but still give the best overall return. One thing is for certain: if you ride JR East lines regularly with Suica and are not registered with JRE POINT, you are throwing money away.
Mobile Ticket Basics The JR East online train ticket reservation system comes in 2 flavors: Japanese only Eki-Net for domestic users and the multi-lingual JR East Train Reservation for inbound visitors. Both of these differently branded services share the same basic system, internet domain name and similar account registration process.
Welcome to world of Eki-Net The domestic targeted Eki-Net is a sprawling travel service portal that covers everything from train tickets to package tours and car rentals, far too large and messy to cover here. This guide is limited to setting up and using Shinkansen eTicket and Express Train Ticketless services of the Eki-Net Japanese web site and app, and using them with Apple Pay Suica which gives you the best value with JRE POINT integration.
To understand how and when to use Eki-Net, it’s important to know the basic categories of JR East mobile ticketing:
JR East Regular Train Lines
Suica (and compatible Transit IC cards) pays the station to station distance based fare using the Stored Fare balance (SF) of the Suica card.
Eki-Net Ticketless: are separate online only Limited Express reserve seat tickets (Narita Express, Azusa, Kaiji, Odoriko, etc.) used in combination with Suica to pay basic fare and the reserve seat.
JR East Shinkansen Lines
Touch and Go: a ticketless non-reserve Shinkansen option that uses Suica • Transit IC card SF for non-reserved seat travel on JR East Shinkansen lines. It works exactly the same as Suica for regular transit, no discounts but there are JRE POINT transit rewards with Suica which basically gives Suica users a discount. Free pre-registration of the Suica or other transit IC card is required.
Eki-Net eTicket: a Shinkansen mobile ticket that bundles Shinkansen distance fare + Limited Express seat reservation or unreserved seat in one eTicket attached to a registered Suica or Transit IC card. Suica users also get the benefit of earning JRE POINT rewards, other Transit IC cards do not. Eki-Net eTickets do not use the Suica SF balance but attaching an eTicket to Apple Pay Suica for example, makes for extremely convenient and seamless local train to Shinkansen connections with just iPhone or Apple Watch.
Eki-Net Tokudane discounts One of the nice things about Eki-Net is that it offers the same discount rates to all Eki-Net users unlike the 2 tiered EX service which has smartEX with small discounts and EX-Press Reserve with large discounts.
Eki-Net discount eTicket and Ticketless are called ‘Tokudane’ and are reserve seat only. Tokudane eTickets are also limited in number for each train and can disappear quickly. During big vacation periods such as New Years, Golden Week and Obon, they are almost always unavailable due to hight demand. The rule of thumb is, the bigger the discount, the faster they disappear. Tokudane Tickeless discounts are limited to reserve seat capacity of the train and are easy to get at the last minute.
Eki-Net • JRE POINT Integration Eki-Net is highly integrated with the JR East JRE POINT system and just like any ‘mileage club’ out there, ticket purchases come with JRE POINT rewards that can be turned around and used for ticket purchases and Green Car seat upgrades. Basic point rewards are earned with any Eki-Net registered credit card purchase. JR East VIEW CARD purchases earn extra JRE POINT rewards.
Eki-Net Registration Registering and managing an Eki-Net account can only be done via the web site.
The Eki-Net registration YouTube video has a quick visual explanation of the steps:
Steps 3~5 (0:33~0:53) enter email address to receive the registration URL. Step 6 (1:07) register name, address, phone number, account ID and password. Step 7 (1:29) register a credit card. Foreign issue credit cards can be registered if 3-D Secure compliant. Step 8 (1:50) register Mobile Suica or plastic card ID numbers (up to 6). Step 9 (2:17) sign up or decline Eki-Net promo emails, confirm info and tap register (2:48).
Eki-Net Ticket Purchases You can either use the Eki-Net website or Eki-Net app to search trains and purchase eTicket and Ticketless train tickets. You can bypass manual login with Eki-Net app that supports Face ID / Touch ID login, download Eki-Net from the Japanese App Store.
It’s helpful to know to know a few basics.
You can purchase Eki-Net tickets up to one month in advance.
You can apply to purchase Eki-Net tickets up to month plus one week in advance but there is no guarantee the application will be successful. You will be notified by email the day tickets are available for purchase and application result (success/fail). If successful you have a limited purchase window to complete the purchase.
Step 1~2 (0:37) enter station points, date, departure time, number of people and tap search. Step 3 (0:51) select the train. Step 4~5 (1:05) select the seat type: eTicket non-reserve, Tokudane discount (reserve), Green Car, JRE POINT Green Car upgrade, etc., then select having a seat assigned or select via the seat map. Tokudane availability is indicated by a green banner next to the car number. Step 6 (1:49) select your credit card, enter security code and purchase you eTicket. Step 7 (2:27) link eTicket with Apple Pay Suica or other registered IC Transit cards.
Here are screenshots of the steps using Eki-Net iOS app.
Using eTickets Apple Pay Wallet and Suica App do not have any of your mobile ticket information and you do not need to launch an app to use eTickets or Ticketless. Just get on your train.
The only notification you will receive is a reminder email from Eki-Net before departure. Eki-Net app is handy for confirming eTicket seat assignments and attached Transit IC cards, just tap the your ticket to view details.
Your eTicket is linked to the registered Apple Pay Suica, all you do is tap the Shinkansen transit gate and go through as show in the above video using Apple Pay Suica on Apple Watch. Your eTickets are validated online, there is nothing you need to show to the conductor or station staff.
Using Ticketless Once you have your Ticketless seat reservation, simply get on assigned train car and take your assigned seat. Conductors already have your seat information and do not check or validate your seat assignment.