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.
Gird yourself for the March 18 Suica Off-Peak launch because there will be a online crush of people like me, cancelling and refunding regular passes, and purchasing new off-peak passes. And don’t forget that date is also the launch of Mobile Suica passes for high school and junior high school students. Don’t be surprised if Suica App has a meltdown from the stampede. Good luck with simulations and finding the best way to save on transit costs.