After posting about the surprise rise of Mobile Suica payment use it occurred to me that I failed to take the corporate transit angle into consideration. COVID has been hard on transit companies in many ways, especially now that there is much less need for commuter passes. But it has also been kind to Mobile Suica in unexpected ways, the appeal of Express Mode for transit and purchases that doesn’t care about face masks is undeniable, and Transit IC mutual compatibility lets Suica work as a national transit card. Japanese corporations are leveraging this last point as Mobile Suica takes care of nationwide corporate transit needs, and takes care of the travel expense accounting.
While there isn’t a need for dedicated commuter passes for people working remotely, companies still need to reimburse employees for travel they still need to do. Calculating and reimbursing plastic transit cards is a pain as it is for paper tickets. Mobile Suica as corporate transit card has several advantages here, it works nationwide for regular transit, for Shinkansen eTicketing (EX, Eki-Net eTickets, Touch and Go), for travel incidentals (taxi, meals, etc.), and it is much easier to pull itemized travel details online from Mobile Suica accounts.
The biggest advantage of Mobile Suica is SmartGo Staple and SAP Concur online integration with live JR East Suica transaction records for much easier corporate travel expense accounting. SmartGo is particularly compelling as it matches Mobile Suica account expense reporting with a corporate VISA prepaid card option, removing the need for monthly employee reimbursement. This matchup of SAP, SmartGO and Mobile Suica has made Suica the default transit tool for COVID era corporate Japan.
As more companies transition work style away from daily commuting to a central office to telework with direct business trips from home, there is less need for commuter passes but that means more corporate virtual paperwork and paper trails for filing and processing transit expenses. How nice it would be if Mobile Suica had a plug-in for SF expense reporting. It does actually: SmartGo Staple a co-venture between JR East and NTT Communications.
The service is straightforward: for a ¥1,000 (w/VISA card option) or ¥600 (w/o) per Mobile ID monthly service fee, SmartGo Staple provides live Mobile Suica ID SF transaction data of registered accounts to corporate management and accounting, who then calculate and reimburse employee on the go, or teleworking at home for corporate related Mobile Suica use, reducing the paperwork at all levels. The flexibility of Mobile Suica and Suica App which discretely attaches a credit card to a Suica card, allows users to set up a Suica card just for corporate use with a corporate credit card attached.
This is the idea behind the SmartGo Staple prepaid VISA card option which management can ‘recharge’ remotely. SmartGo Staple a service for the COVID era but the interesting thing is that with more people doing without commuter passes, Apple Pay Suica and Mobile Suica easily covers nationwide transit and payment use. Commuter passes are the only reason for all those Japanese Transit IC cards. One Mobile Suica does it all. There are still weak spots, i.e. non SF Suica ID # attached services like smartEX and Shinkansen eTickets. Using a transit card ID number to attach separate services is flexible but involves the extra step of corralling the separate transaction histories into one expense report.
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