With the JAPAN CASHLESS Rebate program in full swing, many Apple Pay Suica users are suddenly paying attention and signing up to get those post-transaction rebate points. The sleepy JRE POINT site is suddenly a hot bed, and users are advised to steer clear of registering Suica cards during the peak evening hours of 22:00~24:00.
JRE POINT issued a notice today reminding users with plastic Suica cards registered with JRE POINT, that they need to re-register the Suica as Mobile Suica if they transfer it to Apple Pay.
JRE POINT allows multiple Suica cards to be registered, but only a single Mobile Suica card (green) can be registered at any one time, and one Mizuho Suica (blue). Once a Apple Pay Suica/Mobile Suica card is registered however, users don’t need to worry about the Suica ID number changing when migrating to a new device or moving Suica from iPhone to Apple Watch. The number usually doesn’t change but even if it does, the Mobile Suica/JRE POINT system takes care of it.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that MIZUHO Suica does not count towards the Mobile Suica limit, you can have one Mobile Suica card (green) and one MIZUHO Suica card (blue) both in Wallet, both earning JRE POINT.
2% and 5% CASHLESS rebates are processed and paid out at the end of each month. So I was a little surprised last night when I opened JRE POINT app, checked the transaction list and found lots of extra points listed as ‘rebate campaign’.
It took me a moment to realize that these were not JAPAN CASHLESS store rebate points but JRE POINT campaign rebate points. JRE POINT is running several point campaigns, the 2% one runs until June 30, while the NewDays Self Checkout one runs until October 30. If you are registered with JRE POINT, use Apple Pay Suica to buy your daily commute drinks at NewDays self checkout this month and rack up the points: the regular 2% + the 3% self checkout. Every other point system is doing the same from PayPay to Rakuten so keep an eye out for all kinds of campaigns.
Tokyo Cashless 2020 is a series covering all things cashless as Japan gears up for the big event. If there is a topic that you’d like covered tweet me @Kanjo
Note: CASHLESS rebate program details are constantly updating, new information is consolidated here instead of separate posts,check for updates at bottom
A reader asked if I knew of any comprehensive English guide for the various Japanese point systems: Rakuten, T Point, JRE POINT, etc. It’s a good question, and a timely one. Unfortunately the short answer is no, a guide like that does not exist.
It took me a year to put together a good Apple Pay Suica ecosystem guide (at least I think it’s good for covering the basics, if not let me know). It’s impossible to intelligently catalog the various Japanese card and payment app ecosystems into English for the CASHLESS rebate program in a short time.
Instead of a broad sloppy sweep, I updated the JRE POINT guide that covers the entire JR East ecosystem of Apple Pay Suica and how it works with the CASHLESS rebate program. The basic concepts apply to all CASHLESS rebate program qualified e-money cards. Hopefully this post and the JRE POINT guide will give you enough information to find the right setup for your card/app payment/point system of choice.
You may not have to do anything to get ready. As the rest of this post shows, credit card users don’t need to do anything more than use a Japanese issue credit card.
The JAPAN CASHLESS Rebate Program
In tandem with the 10% consumption tax starting October 1, the Japanese government is launching a CASHLESS rebate program that offers a 5% or 2% rebate with cashless purchases at participating stores and online shopping sites like Amazon JP, Rakuten JP and Yahoo Japan Shopping. The idea is to ween Japanese society away from its infamous “cash addiction”.
The CASHLESS program is overseen by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and will be valid for certified cashless purchases from October 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020 at qualified participating stores. A METI outline of the CASHLESS program is available in PDF (Japanese only). The CASHLESS web site is informative and constantly updated, hopefully with English at some point.
It’s important to understand that from October 1 the consumption tax is 10%. The rebate program effectively reduces the tax rate until June 30 depending on the kind of purchase (food vs household items, etc.) and how it is paid for (cash vs cashless). After June 30 the consumption tax will be 10% across the board.
No matter what item you buy, or the tax rate, all items are eligible for CASHLESS rebates when purchased at stores displaying the 5% or 2% CASHLESS banner. How do you get the rebate? This part is easy: make purchases at any store displaying the 5% or 2% CASHLESS banner with:
Japanese issue credit/debit cards, either plastic or on Apple Pay (iD/QUICPay)/Google Pay.
Japanese e-money cards (Suica, nanaco, WAON, etc.) either plastic or Apple Pay Suica/Google Pay.
Japanese QR Code smartphone payment apps (PAYPAY, Origami Pay, Rakuten Pay, etc.).
2% instant CASHLESS rebate at convenience store checkout When you make a cashless purchase with any of the certified methods (credit card, Suica, QR, etc.) at CASHLESS certified 2% rebate independently owned convenience store franchises for 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart, MiniStop, the 2% rebate is instantly calculated and deducted from the transaction, and shown on the store receipt. Only franchise locations are certified, large O&O locations are not eligible. Be sure to check for the CASHLESS banner on the store front.
Note: Any Apple Pay Suica card you add to iPhone/Apple Watch is considered “Japanese issue” and qualifies inbound Suica users for the 2% instant rebate at convenience stores. No signup or registration required. Just use Apple Pay Suica, it doesn’t care which country you come from.
2% or 5% post-transaction CASHLESSrebate When you make a cashless purchase with any of the certified methods (credit card, Suica, QR, etc.) at CASHLESS certified 2% or 5% rebate stores, the rebate is calculated but not shown on the store receipt, then processed and refunded at the end of the month according to the type of card:
Credit (post pay): CASHLESS program rebate amount totals are calculated by the card company at billing and automatically deducted from your monthly credit card bill. Credit card CASHLESS rebates are not tied to point systems.
Debit (instant pay): CASHLESS program rebate amount totals are calculated by the card company at end of the month and automatically refunded to your bank account, or instantly deducted from the purchase amount at transaction. Debit card CASHLESS rebates are not tied to point systems.
Prepaid (stored value): CASHLESS program rebate amount totals calculated at the end of the month and refunded as points. The point system depends on the type of e-money prepaid card: JRE POINT for Suica, Rakuten point for Rakuten EDY, etc. The point rebate model also applies to QR Code systems like PayPay, however prepaid e-money rebates are tied to point systems while QR Codes are tied to app user accounts. Be sure to check the CASHLESS details of your QR Code payment system.
The CASHLESS web site maintains comprehensive lists of qualified credit/debit cards, and prepaid e-money cards/QR Code Apps. The site is constantly updated with direct links to all participating payment system CASHLESS rebate information pages. Search your payment system, and it will link you with the CASHLESS rebate information for your payment system. All pages are in Japanese language, there is no English.
Surprisingly Easy The 2% instant convenience store rebate is a no-brainer. All anybody needs to do is use one of the certified cashless payments at certified convenience stores displaying the 2% CASHLESS banner, that’s it.
The 2% or 5% post-transaction rebate for all other rebate stores is easy too. All Japanese issue credit card users need to do is use their card at any store displaying the CASHLESS logo, that’s it.
Debit cards are also straight forward but users should check how the rebate is handled for their card account. QR Code systems sign up users with an account and should be automatic as well but be sure to check the rebate method.
Prepaid e-money card users need to register their prepaid e-money card with the appropriate point system to get 2% or 5% post-transaction CASHLESS rebates. For Apple Pay Suica users this is covered in the JRE POINT guide.
The nice thing about CASHLESS + Apple Pay Suica is that users are not chained to Green/Yellow logo JRE POINT locations to get JRE POINT CASHLESS rebates. Any store participating in the CASHLESS rebate program that offers Suica for payment is good to go. Check for stores displaying CASHLESS and Suica banner logos on the store front or at checkout.
JR East also has a bonus JRE POINT campaign for Suica purchases running concurrently with the CASHLESS rebate program. Keep your eye out for campaign logo marks and details in JR station retail areas and NewDays stores.
9/20 UPDATE: The CASHLESS iOS map app has been released. Download it and get ready to find stores around you offering rebates with cashless purchases. There is also a CASHLESS online map version to search and find rebate stores with filters.
9/30 UPDATE: The number of CASHLESS rebate stores for the October 1 start up is capped at 500,000. There are many more CASHLESS rebate stores to come, however in order not to overwhelm payment systems, stores will be added in waves: launch wave @ 500,000, wave 2@ 500,000, and so on every 10 days until all 2 million participating stores are up and running with the CASHLESS rebate program.
10/3 UPDATE: The CASHLESS iOS map app and CASHLESS online map are not reliable. Japanese media news reports say that settlement companies uploaded the wrong data sets to the maps database. MiniStop convenience stores for example give the instant 2% rebate with cashless purchases, but are not listed yet. The most reliable way is to check for the CASHLESS banner on the store door or at checkout. Until CASHLESS maps are fixed forget the smartphone app and stick with the ground truth.
10/7 UPDATE: Be careful, not all 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart, MiniStop convenience store locations are certified and offer instant 2% rebates. Always check for the CASHLESS banner on the store front or at checkout. I have yet to find an in-station convenience store that offers CASHLESS rebates such as Kintetsu Family Mart.
10/9 UPDATE: the CASHLESS iOS map app and web site have been updated. The database seems fixed now. Some locations are still missing, like MiniStop, but listings now show the correct store payment information. The next Cashless store wave of 500,000 is due to join the program on October 10. At that point MiniStop should finally be listed.
10/16 UPDATE: Finally solved the ‘some convenience stores have 2% discounts, some do not’ mystery: independent owner franchise stores are eligible in the CASHLESS rebate program, directly owned and operated locations are not. This explains situations such as why Kintetsu FamilyMart in-station locations don’t have rebates while FamilyMart stores near stations do.
One of the early issues of using Apple Pay Suica was that the Suica card ID number would change every time the card was removed and re-added to Wallet, migrated to a new iPhone, or transferred from iPhone to Apple Watch. This was no problem for using Suica for transit and payment, but soft-linked services like JRE POINT and the JR Central Shinkansen EX App were a problem. Users had to manually update the Apple Pay Suica card ID number in those service accounts. If they did not, those services stopped working.
The good news is that Mobile Suica and Apple Pay fixed the issue in 2017. The bad news is that the issue is back again. JR East has done a lot of backend work on the Mobile Suica system to get the iOS 13 direct Suica card creation Wallet feature in place. I moved by main Apple Pay Suica card to test it on Apple Watch and noticed that the Suica card ID had changed. I thought I might need to issue an all points alert, but close investigation revealed that JR East has really improved things on the Mobile Suica system.
The official JR East Mobile Suica support position is that Suica card ID numbers can change when removed and re-added to Wallet. Softlinked Apple Pay Suica services like EX App (smartEX and Express Reservation) and Touch and Go Shinkansen stop working when the Suica ID number changes and need to have the registration information updated to re-link the services.
My own experience is the Suica card ID number changes, once. After that, moving Suica around doesn’t change anything. I suspect this is related to the changes in iOS 13 Wallet. Another interesting change is that the JRE POINT system automatically updates a changed Suica ID number from Mobile Suica. It just works. Hurray!
Softlinked Apple Pay Suica services like EX App (smartEX and Express Reservation) and Touch and Go Shinkansen are still a problem. Touch and Go Shinkansen users simply register their device again at a JR East station kiosk. Apple Pay Suica & Express Card EX App users need to open up Suica App, tap the Express Reservation option and login to EX via the shitty little mobile EX browser window. You should see a “Your Registered Device has changed” and a “Update” button. Tap that and all is done. You can confirm the updated Suica ID number in EX App.
I do not have a smartEX account and cannot confirm this, but I suspect users need to update any changed Suica ID number manually in the EX/smartEX Apps. In the future I hope that JR Central does a better job of dynamically connecting their EX system with Mobile Suica.
I know, I know, it was a really stupid thing to do even though I had all the power tools at my disposal: Apple Pay Suica card, BIC CAMERA View JCB card, JRE POINT card, Mobile Suica and JRE POINT accounts, Suica App. Somehow I could never quite bring myself to take that final step of turning on the Auto-Charge option in Suica App.
You see, I’m a very manual man. I think it was my addiction to the Apple Pay ‘ka-ching’ sound. Even though it’s audio confirmation that my money is going down the drain, it just sounds so good. That and my addiction to Suica Notification shortcuts, they were always there but never really worked right until iOS 12.3. Those are flimsy but valid excuses. But now that notification shortcut recharge is working good in iOS 13, I knew I had to take the last step. The final blow was the Dr. Shump/Arale-chan JR East View card campaign ads. I always had a soft spot for Arale-chan, I mean if she didn’t originate the pile of poo emoji, nobody did. And so I turned on Auto-Charge.
What can I say? Auto-Charge makes the Apple Pay Suica experience better and smoother in every way. It’s far better than futzing with credit cards, even Apple Pay credit cards, but fellow Apple Pay 4S members already knew that.
I keep the auto-charge amount at the lowest setting, ¥2,000, because my manual man side is uncomfortable with large recharge amounts and prefers manual Apple Pay recharge to keep an eye on the money before it goes down the drain.
I look forward to the day when Suica Auto-Charge functionality extends from Suica/Pasmo gates to all transit gates nationwide. It would be insanely great if JR East opened up Auto-Charge to non-JR East View credit cards, but that will probably remain an exclusive incentive. If Super Suica delivers nationwide transit gate Auto-Charge compatibility, I’ll settle.