Pay for both transport and shopping with one card!
Prepaid IC cards!

The secret to travelling like a local in Japan? Picking up a Suica or PASMO, a reloadable IC or smart card, which allows you to pay for both transportation and shopping, completely cashless. All you need to do is tap it against the cardreader. In recent years, regions across Japan have rolled out their own IC cards, and more and more foreign travellers are catching on to this convenient secret too.

Within those regional options, the Tokyo area’s Suica and PASMO cards are a great choice, and here we’ll give you a breakdown of where to get them and how to use them. If you’re thinking of travelling to Japan, read on!

First up, let’s have a look at what sets these IC cards apart.
What are IC cards?
Prepaid transportation IC cards are reloadable smart cards, which allow you to pay for your fare on public transport such as trains. Besides being created for transportation, the card functions as a prepaid e-wallet, meaning you can pay for anything from your shopping to the parking lot with the card, as long as it’s charged.

The first transport IC card in Japan was the Suica, which was created for the JR East service area in 2001. Ever since, regions across Japan started launching their own version of this handy card, and from 2013, 10 regional IC cards were linked so they could be used outside of their originally designated area. No more need to buy a new IC card when moving from Osaka to Tokyo, for example.

Regional IC cards include Kitaca for JR Hokkaido, Suica for JR East, TOICA for JR Central, ICOCA for JR West, and SUGOCA for JR Kyushu. Non-JR-issued passes that may still be used elsewhere include PASMO, issued by transportation providers in the Greater Tokyo area; PiTaPa, a collaboration between transportation providers in the Kinki region and Kansai; Hayakaken, by the Fukuoka City Transport Bureau; and nimoca, by West Japan Railways.
How to use an IC card
IC cards are primarily used when travelling on public transport instead of paper tickets, and when possible to pay for goods with electronic money. Note that as it’s a prepaid card, you’ll have to charge it before use - the card does not allow you to travel or purchase anything if your balance is too low.
Travel the smart way
You’ll use your IC card when passing through the ticket gates at stations, or when entering or exiting a bus. There’s no need to head to a ticketing machine to buy a paper ticket if you have one of these nifty cards - it’s truly the smart way to travel. Using them on a bus or train has a slightly different procedure though, so we’ll walk you through those.
At the station ticket gates
Touch your charged IC card on the blue-lit card reader, located on the right side of the ticket gates. When you hear a short beep or double-beep, the gates will open and you can pass through. If you didn’t touch your card correctly or your balance is too low, the gate will beep much louder several times in a row and the card reader will flash red. In the former case, touch your card again; in the latter, you’ll have to recharge your card.
Ticket gates
Card reader on the ticket gates
On a bus
When using your IC card on a bus in Tokyo, simply tap the card on the card reader box next to the driver, and the fare will be automatically deducted (flat fee). In some cities and prefectures, such as Kyoto, it may be the opposite way, and you only pay when leaving the bus.
Use your IC card to shop!
Although the IC cards started out as prepaid transportation cards, you can also use them at places as varied as shops, vending machines, parking lots, and coin lockers. To check whether you can use your IC card, check whether there’s a sticker close to the till, ticket machine, or on the doors (example shown below).

*Note: Not all goods can be purchased with e-money. For details, please inquire at the store.
How to use the e-money on your IC card differs slightly per venue. To avoid confusion, check out the examples below on how to use your IC card at a shop and at vending machines. For both of these, checking whether you can actually use your specific card is key.
Coin lockers with IC cards
At a shop
1. When using your card at convenience stores and other shops, tell the store clerk you’d like to pay by IC card at the till.
2. Then, check the total amount, and touch your card on the designated card reader.
3. When you hear a quick beep, the transaction has finished. Your new balance will be shown at this time too.

*Note that using both cash and e-money in the same transaction may not be possible at certain shops.
At a vending machine
1. First, select your item by pressing the button below it.
2. Then, touch your card against the designated card reader - as soon as you hear a quick beep, the transaction has been processed.
Besides the examples above, you can also pay with e-money at parking lots, coin lockers, taxis, certain restaurants, and more. Just remember to top up and how to use the card, and you can go virtually cashless on your trip.
How to charge your IC card
The IC card comes with an integrated chip which stores all your balance information, and to use it, you’ll need to charge it beforehand. Here’s how.
Automated ticket machine
You can charge your card at several different machines inside the station: regular automated ticket machines, special multi-function ticket machines, and fare adjustment machines.
Ticket machine screen
Charge button (pink)
To charge, insert your card into the machine, and press the charge button. Note some machines will automatically redirect you to the charging page after inserting your card. The most modern machines don’t require you to slot in the card; instead, just place it on top of the designated card reader.
You can charge up to a maximum of ¥20,000, with charges available per ¥1,000 note. Some ticketing machines such as metro stations accept charges in ¥500 increments; they might also give the option to charge upwards of ¥10. Note ¥1 and ¥5 coins are not accepted anywhere.
Choose your desired top-up amount and select the button.
You can also charge your IC card while already inside the ticket gates. If your balance turns out to be too low to pay the full fare when trying to exit the ticket barriers, you can charge your card at a Fare Adjustment machine, located close to the barriers. The charging process is the same as other ticket machines.

Simply keep your card topped up in this way, and you’ll be able to smoothly travel between stations, and even pick up something at a convenience store along the way, all with a single IC card.
Checking your card balance
At the ticket barriers at some larger stations, your remaining card balance will be displayed along with the deducted fare when you tap in and out. Keep an eye out, as you’ll be able to remember when to top up this way. Alternatively, you can check your card balance by inserting it into a ticket machine.
Tokyo’s favourite: not just one, but two IC cards!
The Greater Tokyo area, which includes Tokyo, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, is where two of the most-used IC cards are from: Suica and PASMO. Here, we’ll give you some background information on each card, and how to buy and use them at Haneda Airport.
Suica ([Swee-kah])
Suica is issued by JR East, and is a transport IC card which can be used on public transit including railways and buses, as well as for shopping at certain stores. The word Suica, which sounds like ‘watermelon’ in Japanese, actually stands for “Super Urban Intelligent Card” - much more hi-tech than a piece of fruit. It’s also supposed to evoke the feeling of being able to get swiftly (sui sui [swee-swee] in Japanese) from A to B.
Commuter Pass Suica
By 2018, Suica had the largest user base of all IC cards in Japan, with a total of 71.61 million cards issued. Beyond the Tokyo area, the card can be used all across Japan too. There are several types of Suica, including a Commuter Pass Suica (which allows unlimited travel on a set route, paid per month), My Suica (a personalised Suica card), and the Suica Card (anonymous Suica card). The latest addition is the Mobile Suica, which is loaded onto your smartphone in place of a physical card.
*Some shops may not accept Suica.
PASMO ([Pas-moh])
PASMO, on the other hand, is the IC card issued by and primarily used for the Tokyo Metro network. The name PASMO is a mix of ‘Passnet’ and ‘motto’, or ‘more’. ‘Mo’ in Japanese means ‘too/also’ as well, so to promote the card, the phrase “Densha mo basu mo Pasmo” (Pasmo, for both trains and buses) was used.
It’s the second-most popular card in Japan, with a total of 36.28 million cards issued. Like Suica, the card can be used across Japan, so if you want to make your life just a little bit more convenient, one of these passes is an essential purchase.
Commuter Pass PASMO
There are four main types of PASMO, which include the blank PASMO (anonymous card) named PASMO (personalised with your name), commuter pass (for point-to-point travel on a set route, used by commuters), and a special integrated (ittaigata) PASMO, which integrates a credit card and auto-charging system (for residents only). Children can use a special named child PASMO or a commuter PASMO to qualify for children’s fares, for which you’ll need to show an ID with which staff can verify their age.
Go shopping at Haneda Airport with your IC card!
At all terminals of Haneda Airport’s domestic and international wings, you can shop with a PASMO and Suica. The passes are not sold in the same locations, however, so we broke down where to go to buy each card. Pick one up as soon as you arrive, and you’ll be able to use it during your entire trip!
Where to buy a PASMO
1. Tourist Information Center, International Passenger Terminal, 2F Arrivals Lobby
2. Keikyu Line Tourist Information inside the International Passenger Terminal
3. Automated ticket machines inside Keikyu Haneda Airport International Terminal Station
4. Automated ticket machines inside Keikyu Haneda Airport Domestic Terminal Station (Terminal 1, Terminal 2)
Where to buy a Suica
1. Automated ticket machines inside the Haneda Airport Terminal 1 Tokyo Monorail Station.
2. Automated ticket machines inside the Haneda Airport Terminal 2 Tokyo Monorail Station.
3. Automated ticket machines inside the Haneda Airport International Passenger Terminal Tokyo Monorail Station.
To make your trip hassle-free, get yourself an IC card - just tap and you’ll be on your way.