Hankyu Goes ICOCA

Hankyu Corporation announced in January they would sell ICOCA cards for commuter pass use starting March 1. The switchover is interesting on many levels. ICOCA is the JR West transit IC card and PiTaPa is the transit IC card for Kansai area private lines (Hankyu, Keihan, Hanshin, Kintetsu, etc.). They are both FeliCa cards, offer commuter passes and are compatible for transit use under the Japan Transit IC Mutual Use Association project specification.

There is one big difference: ICOCA is prepaid while PiTaPa is a postpaid credit card/transit card hybrid that can never really be mainstream because it has credit checks. ICOCA can be bought by anyone at a ticket machine. The Hankyu/Hanshin switchover to prepaid ICOCA for the masses follows the JR West arrangement that Kintetsu and Keihan already have in place. There is just one last little detail that JR West needs to work out however: get ICOCA on mobile digital wallet platforms like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Super Suica should take care of that in 2021.

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Apple Pay Japan Adds J-West Cards, ICOCA Next?

J-West Joins Apple Pay

JR West joined Apple Pay on March 12 with their J-West VISA, J-West Mastercard and J-West JCB credit cards. The cards are on the QUICPay payment network (the spiffy updated Apple Pay on QUICPay page is worth a glance).

ICOCA
Will the JR West ICOCA platypus join the JR East Suica penguin on Apple Pay?

Now that JR West is playing nice with Apple Pay the big question is Apple Pay ICOCA next? Definitely maybe, especially if the Apple Pay China Transit signs spotted in iOS 11.3 beta 4 point to easier transit card support.

I have posted about ICOCA getting ready for Apple Pay, here and here, but so far there is no sign that JR West has the necessary cloud service in place yet for that to happen although SMART ICOCA is the beginnings of one. Then again JR West has much deeper pockets than say PASMO. They can certainly afford to cut a data deal with JR East Mobile Suica or build their own.

Update
The ‘Super Suica’ card starting April 2021 will incorporate all Japanese transit cards in one card for transit, e-money and Apple Pay.