Using Your Suica Card and Pasmo Card

If you were trying to get your Pasmo or Suica card to help you get around a little bit more easily in Japan, I hope tutorial articles were easy enough to follow, and I hope you have your new Pasmo or Suica Card in hand. Now that you have it, what exactly can you do with it? How exactly do you use a Pasmo card? How do you use a Suica card.

Pasmos and Suicas follow the exact same guidelines so we’ll just look at one type of card as an example. Let’s examine four aspects of using your Suica or Pasmo card: 1) charging your card, 2) using your card to ride the train, 3) making purchases with your Suica, and 4) checking your balance.

How to Add Value to Your Suica Card

Remember the machine that you purchased your Pasmo or Suica from in the previous tutorials? You’ll use the same one to add value to your card.

Step 1. Touch the Pasmo or Suica button in the lower left panel, once again. This time instead or choosing the new card option, we’ll chose charge. Or on some machines you can start by touching charge in the lower left corner. If you get confused, touch the English option in the upper right corner

Step 2. Select the amount you want to add. I’m pretty sure that 1000 yen is the minimum amount of value you can buy.

Step 3. Touch the receipt button if you need one, then insert your cash.

Step 4. Take your newly charged card!

How to Use Your Pasmo and Suica Cards At the Train Station

This is the main function of your Pasmo or Suica care, and probably the easiest to use. To use your card at a train station, simply touch your card to the IC reader on the ticket gate panel, and the gate doors will open.

If you hear a simple beep, and see the blue light blink, you’ve done it correctly. If you hear “bing bong,” and the IC reader turns red, it meant you probably don’t have enough value left on your card. Don’t panic if this happens, it’s an easy fix. Simply walk over to a fare adjustment machine (all of the train stations will have them somewhere near the ticket gates), insert your card, pay the difference, touch your card to the panel once more and go through.

*Note: The IC chip in your card is pretty strong, I don’t even have to take my cart out of my wallet. I simply touch my wallet to the IC chip and I’m able to go through.

How to Make Purchases with Your Suica

Many vending machines, convenience stores, and shops in general will allow you to use your PASMO or Suica cards. In general, a great way to find if a store will use your Suica is either to ask the clerk, or (more discreetly) see if there is a PASMO/SUICA scanner at the checkout counter.

When making the purchase, just show your card to the clerk, and he’ll show you where to touch your card. Simply touch your card to the sensor, and that’s it. SUPER CONVENIENT (if you have money on your card, anyway)

How to Check Your Pasmo/Suica Balance

So are your wondering whether or not you have any money left on your card? You want to save yourself the embarrassment of trying to use a spend card, right? Well there are several ways to check your balance:

1) Train Station Information Booth: Go to the information booth and just say “Sumimasen, balansu wa nan desu ka?” “すみません、バランスはなんですか?” like you’re asking a question.

2) Vending machine: This is probably the simplest way to go. If there’s a vending machine, you can touch your card to the sensor, and it will tell you just how much you have. If you don’t have enough, just wait, the sensor will reset on it’s own, not charging your anything.

3) At the store you’re shopping at: Ask that magic question again, “Sumimasen, balansu wa nan desu ka?” and they’ll let your touch your card to the sensor, showing your account balance.

4) Train Station Ticket Gates, Charge Machines, or Fare Adjustment Machines
When you touch your card to the ticket gate, the rectangular display farthest from you will show two numbers: the top number is your balance and the bottom is how much the current trip cost you.

Charge machines, will display how much money is on your card before you insert any money, and fare machines will do the same. The charge machine is better to use because usually people at the fare machines are in a bit of a rush.

**I also want to say I heard about a special feature with Docomo (one of the larger cell phone companies in Japan) cell phones, or was it au?, that links your card to your cell phone. You can check your balance and all that stuff, but don’t quote me, I’m still learning about the cell-phone PASMO/SUICA card link.

How to Use Your Pasmo/Suica Video

Just in case any of the pictures or instructions managed to confuse you, the video should simplify things for you. ENJOY!!

As both cards also have nearly the exact same two main functions, 1) riding the train more efficiently and 2) making purchases, they are both pretty straightforward once you get the hang of them. If you have any questions, let me know :) and I’ll do my best to help.

Donald Ash

P.S.-Other lesser-known potential uses for a Suica or Pasmo might include the following: a shuriken, an eye patch, a pharmaceutical grade “powder refiner” (nothing illegal…I’m talking like protein and stuff), a makeshift spoon, a makeshift knife, a bookmark, a shaver, a bullet repellent (DO NOT actually try that, you may be dreadfully disappointed.

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  • CluelessTraveler

    Will the gate only show insufficient funds when you exit the station? When you enter how would it know as I thought the card worked by recording you entering a station, then exiting a station and calculating your fare upon exiting? Thanks

    • Donald Ash

      Cool name, Clueless Traveler.

      The card will signal whether you’re entering or exitign the station. If you don’t have enough money on your card to make a trip, the touch panel will “bing bong” you. It will also show you what your balance is so you’ll know exactly how much you’re working with. I think the card works just how you’re saying it does, it does calculate the entering and exiting station, but if you go further than what you balance will allow, you get that signal. Great question.

    • thejapanguy

      I don’t know why I have never seen this question. It’s a good one.
      You will get the insufficient funds “bing bong” whenever your funds are insufficient, entering or exiting the ticket gate.
      Thanks for your question.

  • afiqah

    So what is exactly the different between those two cards?

  • Lessa Traboco

    I accidentally stumbled on your website while doing research for my trip to tokyo this may. Ive been to japan before, but only at the kansai area. Very helpful. :) thanks!

  • happyzippy

    Really clear detailed instructions on how to a Pasmo/Suica card. The video was definitely helpful. Thanks

  • Qwerty

    I put my suica card in my phone case so i can use it more conveniently and it doesnt read my suica card, i had to take it out to be able to read my card. :(

  • Peter Harper

    Are there any area limits to the use of each card, or can they be used all over Japan. e.g. Suica is issued by JR East is it limited to JR East territory. I will be travelling as far north as Sendai and as far south as Tanegashima.

  • mye

    Is the machine only accepts cash? Will you be able to use credit card to purchase/charge a suica/passmo?

  • Bje

    Can 2 people share one pasmo? Can the excess money in the Pasmo be refunded at the end of the trip?
    I have been contemplating whether to get Pasmo or the JR pass. I really cant decide.. Arriving in Kansai airport, and staying near Osaka Namba station. Visiting Kyoto, Nara, Kobe (for the kobe beef) and possibly Nagoya. Pls give your thoughts on this.Tnx!! btw, video was informative!

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