Asian iPhone 8 users are loving the Apple Pay Suica support.
In addition to the J/Speedy and Mastercard Contactless announcement from T-Cubic, other Apple Pay benefits for Japanese users were announced by American Express. With iOS 11 Apple Pay AMEX users can now use Apple Pay Japan abroad.
7-Eleven also announced support for J/Speedy cards from JCB. Translation: 7-Eleven is rollout out support for NFC Pay with the new POS system installation starting next month. A lot of Japanese users think VISA will announce official Apple Pay Japan support soon now that NFC Pay is in place.
Apple’s support of global NFC (A-B-F) in iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 with the NFC switching improvements in iOS 11 is a game changer. It makes Apple Pay truly global and removes the FeliCa barrier. Inbound visitors can use Suica, Japanese going abroad can use Apple Pay.
It’s unfortunate that people outside of Japan cannot fully appreciate the amazing changes that Apple is bringing to the contactless payments market with iPhone 8 and iOS 11 Apple Pay.
It’s nice to know that Apple Watch Series 3 purchased in Taipei works fine with Suica.
This global FeliCa thing is going to be fun.
Inbound Suica officially starts September 22 with the release of iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3. Anybody visiting Japan with these devices can add and use Suica. To mark the official rollout of Apple’s global FeliCa support, here is a basic guide.
Plastic or Virtual Suica?
The choice of plastic or virtual Suica depends on what device you have: with iPhone 8 you can add a plastic Suica card to Apple Pay; the easiest way. With Apple Watch Series 3 you have to add a virtual Suica with the Suica App; a little more work.
1) Buy Suica at any Tokyo area JR station as shown in the JR East video above (the one minute mark). Set your iPhone region setting to Japan. The iPhone Language setting does not need to be changed. Region can be restored after successfully adding Suica.
2) Add Suica following the instructions 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) Recharge Suica: 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.
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 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.
Preflight check list
- An iPhone 6 or above running the latest iOS version paired with Apple Watch Series 3 also running the latest WatchOS.
- Download and install the JR East Suica app.
- 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.
Requirements when adding Suica
- Network access when adding Suica to Apple Pay, recharging Suica with Apple Pay or using the Suica App. Suica can used in Airplane mode for transit and store purchases.
- 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 is set to Japan. The Language setting can be any language you prefer. Region can be restored after successfully adding Suica.
- Launch the Suica app. Note that Suica app will only launch with a successfully paired Apple Watch Series 3.
Now comes the tricky part if you cannot read Japanese. Follow the screenshots and captions to create a new Suica card and add it to your Apple Pay Wallet.
If all went well you should now have a Suica card in your iPhone Wallet app setup for Express Transit. The last step is transferring the Suica card from iPhone to Apple Watch. Read 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.
iPhone 7 phones sold in Japan carry the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications regulatory mark engraved on the back due to the iPhone 7 FeliCa Apple Pay support. It was a bit of a brouhaha a year ago even though there was a new MIC guideline in the works to display the certification mark on the screen instead of the case.
Nice to know that is all settled and the MIC certification mark for FeliCa is on the screen now. Global FeliCa inbound iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 devices are covered for use in Japan without having the mark engraved on the case.
Japanese iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 models likely dispense with the case mark as well. We’ll all find out on September 22.
Now that global FeliCa is supported in iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3, anybody coming to Japan with the new devices can add and use Apple Pay Suica. Suica will be the main reason visitors from abroad will use Apple Pay in Japan. Charging Suica is very simple, you simply use an Apple Pay credit card.
The Apple Pay support site is short on details but the general rules are:
- Any Apple Pay loaded credit card is good for charging Suica.
- Credit cards issued from your home county loaded into Apple Pay are good. I have VISA cards issued from Wells Fargo and Marriott/Chase Bank that work fine for Suica charging. Other users from abroad have reported success as well.
There is one exception: Japanese issue VISA cards cannot be used for charging Suica with Apple Pay. This is because VISA KK has not signed an agreement with Apple directly but is obligated to support all iD and QUICPay store payment network licensees which includes Apple and the card issuers.
I suspect the reason is that VISA still wants to market Visa payWave in Japan which uses the NFC A-B flavor instead of FeliCa/NFC-F. Now that Apple has gone in for Global FeliCa and NFC A-B-F in every new iPhone, who cares? And with Apple doing it all the top smartphone vendors are sure to follow so why bother. Now might be the time for Visa to get out of the payments infrastructure business and focus on making their credit card ‘just work’ everywhere.
The other credit card option for charging Suica is the iPhone Suica App. This requires signing up for a Mobile Suica account but you get bonus features such as Shinkansen e-ticket purchase and ticketless Shinkansen boarding. The Suica App/Mobile Suica registered credit card is completely separate from Apple Pay.
Mobile Suica lists seven eligible credit card brands: View Card, VISA, JCB, Master Card, American Express, Diners Club, JR Central EXPress Card. I have not tested Suica App credit card charging but have read posts that foreign issue credit cards work with the Mobile Suica payment system. JR East support of foreign issue credit cards is likely hit and miss so be aware and use Apple Pay as a fallback.
There are also some limitations to be aware of:
- Suica App auto-charge only works with JR East issue View cards
- Suica auto-charge only works within the JR East rail network region. It won’t work for example when you are using transit in Nagoya or Osaka
- Suica auto-charge does not work with store or vending machine purchases
With Suica ‘Inbound’ starting with the September 22 release date of iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3 things are going to be very interesting, and a little messy.
Don’t forget that you can charge Apple Pay Suica with cash at train station kiosks and covenience stores.
A Japanese reader gently pointed out my sloppy use of NFC-F, Type F and FeliCa. To experts in Japan they mean different things: A full-blown FeliCa chip with secure element, or just the NFC-F portion of FeliCa technology. Rest assured that whatever my sloppy writing says I always mean the same thing: the NFC-F interface portion of FeliCa.
Now that NFC A-B-F is just one simple Global Certification Forum (GCF) requirement for global NFC device certification, Apple doesn’t bother mentioning global FeliCa at all except in the iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 Japanese page tech specs.
I think this is the right approach. Using the FeliCa name in Japan makes sense because it has lots of brand marketing value behind it. For the rest of the world nobody cares about FeliCa, they just want Apple Pay to work wherever they go.
With iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3, it does now.