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.
Mobile Ticket Basics The JR East online train ticket reservation system comes in 2 flavors: multi-lingual JR East Train Reservation for inbound visitors, and Japanese Eki-Net for domestic users. Both of these differently branded services share the same basic system, internet domain name and similar account registration process. However the accounts are not compatible as ticket menus, discounts and related services are different. Japanese Eki-Net is a sprawling travel service portal that covers everything from train tickets to package tours and car rentals, far too large to cover here. This guide is limited to setting up and using eTicket and 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 helps to know the basic categories of JR East mobile ticketing:
Regular Train Lines
Suica (Transit IC cards) pays the station to station distance based fare using the Stored Fare balance of the card (SF).
Eki-Net Ticketless: Limited Express reserve seat mobile tickets (Narita Express, Azusa, Kaiji, Odoriko, etc.) used in combination with Suica to pay fare.
Eki-Net eTicket: a Shinkansen mobile ticket that bundles Shinkansen distance fare + Limited Express seat reservation in one eTicket attached to a Suica or Transit IC card. 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 tiny 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 each train and can disappear quickly. The general rule of thumb is, the bigger the discount, the faster they disappear. Tokudane Tickeless 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. 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 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.
Once in a while I get a surge of traffic from reddit and like to see which post was linked and the attached discussion. This was very hard to do before reddit added comment searches and even so it takes a few days before a new entry shows up in search results. The latest one was about iPhone X and NFC.
Question: What’s the difference between X and XS ? Which is better ? My second question: Recently I bought an X Japanese Version. Is it different from regular X ??
Answer 1: X to XS is Just a small minor cpu upgrade and minor antenna fixes making the iPhone bottom speaker/microphone holes assymetrical, if you bought a X from Japan and are planning to use it for commuting using apple pay there, make sure to check the production date, pre2018 iPhone X has a suica gate problems that got fixed with the Rev B iPhone X. iPhone X suica problem
Answer 2: Also, all Japanese iPhones have a different NFC reader, so they won’t work with non Japanese tap and pay terminals and other NFC points, eg on public transit and similar
Yikes, all the good and bad of reddit in one post. The question is a good one but the good natured answers are equally helpful and utterly misleading.
Answer 1 is a little off in that bad iPhone X NFC was not a Suica problem, NFC was unreliable across the board regardless of type (A-B-F) or protocol (EMV, FeliCa, etc.), with iPhone X NFC crapping out completely later on (after AppleCare expired naturally). The Rev B thing was just my made up name for units manufactured after April 2018 with reliable NFC. And even though most people have moved on to newer iPhone models with much superior NFC performance, the big bad iPhone X NFC problem continues to haunt users. For me, with 3 replacements and a lot of headaches, iPhone X was the worst iPhone ever. iPhone X users deserved a NFC repair program but never got one because at the time Apple Pay Express Transit was only available in Japan. Apple at its Tim Cookian worst.
When foreign issue VISA cards in Wallet stopped working for Apple Pay in-app Suica and PASMO recharge on August 5, the first people to howl in pain were Apple Pay PASMO users who suddenly couldn’t recharge with their Chase Sapphire VISA cards. Chase Sapphire still codes for 3x travel points with a PASMO recharge and long time resident Suica users migrated to PASMO when JR East and VISA shut down 3x travel points in May 2021.
I did the usual duty of talking with Mobile Suica support, official line: there should be no problem, contact the card issuer. I then contacted Wells Fargo card services support, official line: there should be no problem with your VISA, contact the merchant. Entirely expected of course but I did confirm that Mobile Suica transaction attempts were not even showing on the Wells Fago system. They said it seems to be a ‘communications issue’… code word for: something’s not right on the merchant transaction authorization side.
I suspected a larger issue than just Apple Pay and an Android Suica user confirmed the same non-JP VISA problem with Google Pay Suica. I also alerted IT journalist Junya Suzuki who focuses on mobile payments. His first thought was something might be going on with the VISA Japan merchant acquirer side of the payment network. For reference, the merchant acquirer handles transaction authorization from the merchant side, ‘this transaction is clear to send to the card issuer.’ The issuer then clears the transaction with the customer account, ‘this customer is good to pay for this charge.’
Merchant acquirers are very secretive and nobody knows who is the merchant acquirer is for Mobile Suica/Mobile PASMO. Maybe they were tightening online transaction security…or something else. Everything was clear as mud though a well placed source did say this:
An acquirer made the decision stopping handling cards issued in other countries… Another guy suggests Apple or such acquirer may face money laundering issue by registering Apple Pay with pre-paid Visa cards or such.
In addition, that means JRE doesn’t know what’s happening on this problem.
A reader asked me if Japan was banning non-JP VISA cards across the board along with a screenshot of Universal Studios Japan advance ticket sales page with a red colored important notice on the top that said: “We apologize that currently Visa and Mastercard credit cards issued outside Japan are not available until further notice.”
This points to a larger problem than just Mobile Suica and PASMO. The USJ wording also suggests that JTRWeb have their hands tied ‘until further notice’ and echos what JR East PR told Suzuki san about the non-JP VISA recharge problem being beyond their immediate control. Something seems to be happening with the VISA merchant acquirer…but in different highly selective ways. For example why does foreign issue VISA work for Apple Pay in-app purchases with Japanese apps like Starbucks, but not in-app purchase with JR East for Suica recharge?
Security and Apple Pay Enhanced Fraud Prevention It’s helpful to examine the impact of phishing attacks that hit NTT Docomo, Line Pay, PayPay and other QR code mobile payment services in late 2020, and JR East online services (Mobile Suica, JRE POINT, Eki-Net and VIEW card) in early 2022. Responses to phishing attacks were varied and vague. Companies like to say they value customer security but are short detailing what they’re doing because nitty gritty details hashed out with the card brands and merchant acquirers are secret non-disclosure territory.
Japanese credit card issuers responded by upgrading to EMV 3-D Secure v2 (3-D stands for three domains: merchant/acquirer domain, the issuer domain, and the interoperability domain), for non-digital wallet browser and mobile app payments. EMV 3-D Secure is the EMV e-commerce browser and app authentication tokenization spec with card brands using their own naming and handling the merchant support. It’s important to understand that EMV 3-D Secure has nothing to do with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and similar digital wallets who have their own tokenization. However, Apple Pay has been making some changes to enhance online and in-app security.
For cards with certain enhanced fraud prevention, when you attempt an online or in-app transaction, your device will evaluate information about your Apple ID, device, and location if you have enabled Location Services for Wallet, in order to develop on-device fraud prevention assessments. The output of the on-device fraud prevention assessments, but not the underlying data, will be sent to Apple and combined with information Apple knows about your device and account to develop Apple Pay transaction fraud prevention assessments. These transaction fraud prevention assessments may be shared with your payment network, together with a shipping address identifier and IP address if available, in order to prevent fraud at the time of transaction. The shipping address identifier differs per payment network and may be used to confirm whether shipping addresses for different transactions using a particular card on your device are the same in a way that does not reveal the underlying address. You can check whether a card has this enhanced fraud prevention at any time by going to the back of your payment credential in Wallet. To prevent the sharing of fraud prevention assessments with your payment network, you can select another card.
This means that Apple Pay ‘might’ share iPhone/Apple Watch location information when making online or in-app purchases. So far VISA cards are the only ones that have Enhanced Fraud Protection but it doesn’t seem an across the board change for all VISA issue cards and depends on the issuer. My Wells Fargo VISA card for example doesn’t show any sign of enhanced fraud prevention in Wallet app card details.
Does enhanced fraud prevention have anything to do with Apple Pay Suica and PASMO recharge not working for foreign issue VISA? I suspect not but it’s an important background development because: 1) it’s limited to online and in-app purchases, 2) VISA pushed for these ‘fraud prevention assessments’ so they could obtain device location information and more. VISA pushing this agenda could be causing issues on the merchant acquirer side.
The VISA open loop power play So we circle back to foreign issue VISA use in Japan again. Why are cards cleared for Apple Pay, cards that worked fine until August 5, suddenly not working? JR East support says it’s not o them: all credit and debit cards that support Apple Pay in-app purchase are good to go. They certainly want inbound visitors to use Suica. Evidence points to a transaction authorization change on the VISA merchant acquirer side. Everybody else seems to be doing what they always do.
The timing is perfect however when you also consider that VISA is heavily promoting ‘VISA Touch’ EMV contactless and open loop transit in Japan as a challenge to the home grown FeliCa based Transit IC card system. It’s very convenient for VISA Touch open loop marketing purposes when Apple Pay Suica and PASMO are kneecapped as easy payment and transit options for inbound visitors.
VISA has a history of not playing nice with Japanese stored value cards on mobile. Japanese issue VISA cards didn’t work for Apple Pay in-app purchases and Suica recharge until May 2021, VISA waited 5 years to ‘resolve’ that issue. VISA cards still do not work with Mobile WAON and Mobile nanaco on Android and Apple Pay, they likely never will. My take is that VISA is happy with people buying things with VISA, they are certainly happy with people borrowing money at ATM machines with VISA, but they are not happy with people using VISA to move money into stored value prepaid cards for making payments, earning points, etc., that are not VISA.
Junya Suzuki thinks the VISA merchant acquirers might be coming under pressure from potential money laundering risks. I say bunk, after all we’re only talking a max Suica balance of ¥20,000 here. Whatever the reason let’s hope it is fixed, though I have learned over the years that card brand payment issues are never simple or solved quickly. Time will tell. At the very least we can mark this down as another skirmish in the ongoing digital payment turf wars.
2022-12-03 UPDATE JR East updated the entire JR East credit card system with a series of special maintenance downtimes in November 2022. The work covered everything connected to credit card purchases: JR East station kiosks, VIEW ATMs, Mobile Suica, Eki-Net, etc.
After the last scheduled overnight maintenance session on November 30~December 1, a few select foreign issue VISA cards started working again for Apple Pay Suica and PASMO recharge but everything stopped again 2022-12-03. The VISA in-app block continues. JR East has also scheduled special Mobile Suica credit card system maintenance for March.
You must be logged in to post a comment.