Ride the Rails with Apple Pay Suica and Earn JRE POINT

The enhanced NFC functions of iOS 13 could not have come at a better time for the Japanese market. The great 10% consumption tax cashless experiment begins October 1 when the tax hike becomes effective and the Japanese government starts giving 2%~5% refunds for cashless payments via established card point systems. The ‘My Number‘ Japanese Individual Number card will be a centerpiece for getting those point rebates and the Japanese government has already announced iOS 13 support for My Number card. The whole rebate/refund thing is clear as mud but exciting too. Suica is listed as one of the many e-money cards eligible for consumption tax refunds/rebates. Suica consumption tax point refunds will be delivered via JRE POINT.

JR East added to the excitement today with the announcement that starting October 1 Suica users can earn JRE POINT simply by riding the rails. Mobile Suica transit users (Apple Pay Suica, Google Pay Suica, Osaifu Keitai Suica) earn 1 JRE POINT per 50 yen of IC transit fare, plastic Suica cards earn 1 JRE POINT per 200 yen of IC transit fare.

That’s a huge incentive to drive transit users from plastic Suica to Mobile Suica. The same JRE POINT rates apply to Green Car Seat purchases. And get this, only Mobile Suica Commuter Plan purchases and renewals are eligible for JRE POINT with 1 JRE POINT per 50 yen of the purchase/renewal. This is a sweet deal if your company sponsors your commuter pass. They give you the money, you get the points. Ugh, now I have to hold off renewing my Apple Pay Suica Commute Plan until October 1 but the points are worth going without my commute plan for a few days. JR East’s big push for Mobile Suica over plastic is remarkable and will become a shove when the next generation ‘Super Suica’ format arrives in April 2021.

To earn points the Suica card must be registered to a JRE POINT account. The JRE POINT account setup process has gotten a little more streamlined, and the iOS JRE POINT App a little less clunky over the past year. Mobile Suica and JRE POINT systems are now dynamically linked so you don’t need to worry if the Apple Pay Suica card ID number changes.

Today’s announcement only applies to regular train travel but JR East will be adding a lot more in 2020~2021 as the Super Suica start date approaches: JRE POINT for Touch and Go Shinkansen travel starts with the new JR East eTicket system in April 2020, Round trip fixed travel route coupon-like JRE POINT is due December 2020. And finally, with Super Suica in place, the regular express train/Shinkansen ‘EkiNet‘ ticketing and point system will be rolled into the JRE POINT system. Travelers can then earn and use JRE POINT to purchase regular express train and Shinkansen eTickets and upgrade seats. It will be Apple Pay Super Suica eTicket bliss.

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Apple Pay Suica Troubleshooting #3: Recharge hangs and errors

1030/1050/1210/2040 Errors
All Apple Pay Suica recharge errors happen when iPhone has a poor network connection. If Apple Pay Suica Recharge fails or hangs, don’t panic. Cancel the recharge process by hitting the sleep button, then check to make sure iPhone has a robust network connection, sometimes it helps to toggle Airplane Mode on and off to clear a bad connection. Try recharge again.

One important thing to remember is that even if you see a charge on your bank card, it is only temporary and will not be processed. If recharge still fails Suica App may display one of the following error numbers: 1030/1050/1210/2040. Follow these steps to clear the error:

  1. Restart iPhone
  2. Make sure your iPhone has a good network connection
  3. Make sure you are not in the Mobile Suica maintenance window: 2am~5am Japan Standard Time
  4. Open Suica App (you do not need a Mobile Suica account for this operation)
  5. Tap the red explanation point you see on the Suica App card

This will clear most error problems. If it does not clear the problem the next steps are:

  • Make sure you are logged into Apple ID and the iPhone Region is set to Japan
  • Remove Suica from Wallet.
  • Wait 10 minutes.
  • Tap the plus sign.
  • Tap Continue, then tap Suica.
  • The Suica card you removed from Wallet should be showing with the balance.
  • Add the Suica to Wallet.
  • Return iPhone Region to your preferred setting.

In some rare cases you may get this screen when attempting to re-add Suica in Wallet:

This means you made multiple recharge attempts that Mobile Suica needs to clear. Simply wait for the end of the next Mobile Suica maintenance window: 2am~5am Japan Standard Time, then re-add Suica.

iOS 13 Apple Pay Suica Warning for EX App users

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 today 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 Suica card ID number changes, once, it seems. 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.

Unlocking Suica App Security Lock

Suica App is very handy but comes with serious limitations for inbound visitors:

  • Suica App is Japanese language only
  • Suica App only accepts Japanese issue cards for registration

An English version of the app is certainly coming before the Tokyo Olympics, likely arriving in tandem with the new JR East Shinkansen eTicket system in April 2020.

Fortunately we have the English language SuicaEng app for adding a virtual Suica card, and we also have direct virtual Suica card creation in iOS 13 Wallet that eliminates dealing with SuicaEng or Suica App. And if you need to purchase anything in Suica App, such as Commuter Plans or Shinkansen eTickets, it can all be done with your Apple Pay cards.

Suica App has good security, but if you forget your Mobile Suica account password or attempt to register an international issue credit card, you can get yourself security locked out of Suica App and Mobile Suica. Here’s how to unlock the Suica App security lock and get a new password issued.

The first thing you need to do is write down your Mobile Suica registration details:

  • Last name, first name in Romaji/Kanji and Katakana
  • Birthdate
  • device phone number
  • Japanese postal code number
  • Mobile Suica registration e-mail address
  • An e-mail address you want the password reset sent to, this can be the same as the Mobile Suica registration e-mail

Once you have this information ready, go to this Mobile Suica Password Reset form. Follow the screenshot example below and enter the information. After entering the information click or tap on the button to verify the information, if all looks good click or tap the send button at the bottom of the verification screen.

You will receive a Mobile Suica password reset message from info@mobilesuica.com, messages can take up to 2 hours to arrive. Be aware that Mobile Suica issues password resets daily from 9:00 to 20:00 Japan Standard Time (JST), if your request arrives outside of those hours, it will be processed the next day.

After you obtain a new password from Mobile Suica, login to Suica App using the new password. You can then change the password in Suica App, follow the screenshots below:

In the event that Mobile Suica Support requests that you contact them to remove the security lock on your account you only have 2 options, both of them require Japanese language ability:

For either option have the following pieces of information ready:

  • Last name, first name in Katakana
  • Birthdate
  • Mobile Suica registered device phone number
  • Mobile Suica account ID
  • Suica card ID number
  • Suica card ‘Shikibetsu’ ID: this is the same as your Apple ID or slightly different with an ‘_1’ or ‘_2’ appended at the end


When using the chat option you type a request such as ‘Mobile Suica account has a security lock that I want unlocked.’ The next step is passing though a few canned support responses before being connected to an online support person. They will then ask you to confirm your account with the above information. Confirm to the support person that your Mobile Suica account has a security lock that you want unlocked.

Apple Pay Suica Auto-Charge Confessional

I have a confession to make to my brothers and sisters of the Apple Pay Suica Super Smart Shopping League (Apple Pay 4S): I never used Suica Auto-Charge. Until now.

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.