Suica is one of the main transit payment cards in Japan. It has a cute and fun design and works in lots of places aside from train stations. Apple supports using your Suica via Apple Pay, and has a great support article on how to set that up. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.
I live in USA and traveled to Tokyo recently. I used an iPhone X (supported) and followed all the steps in the support article, including setting my device region to Japan. But when I went to add a new card to Apple Pay, I never received the prompt to add a Suica.
After a couple of pleasant calls with Apple support, it sounded like the problem was that I had an Apple Music subscription, which locked my iTunes account to USA. I tried canceling that, but you have to wait for the thing to expire, and my trip would be over by then.
Luckily, there is another way.
Adding a Suica Card to Your Phone Without a Physical Card
Download the Suica app from the App Store. This lets you create a new, virtual Suica card directly from your phone.
The app is in Japanese though—you’ll have to know how to navigate that (that’s why it has a low rating in the English App Store).
Here’s a visual guide, in case you don’t know Japanese.
- Click the plus button in top-right.
2. Make a new “unregistered” card. That’s what I did at least.
3. Hit next, in the top-right.
4. Don’t let a little popup stop you! がんばって下さい！
5. Pick the initial value of your card.
6. Pay with Apple Pay. You know what to do from here.
Enjoy Payment Heaven
For an extra-smooth experience, if you have a supported Apple Watch, you can now move your Suica over to that.
But wait—there’s more! You can also designate one of your virtual Suica’s to be your “express” card. You must do this.
Not “must” like it’s necessary. “Must”, like, you have no idea how amazing this is.
When you have an express card active, you don’t need to do any work at all to activate your Suica before using it. No fumbling with a double-tap on the wide button on your watch. You just waft your watch past a reader when it’s time to part with money, and it automatically flows through the ether. A truly magical experience of commerce.
Don’t believe me? Look.
Did you see how freaking fast that was?
And that’s just the start. You can refill your Suica account directly from your watch. No need to ever go to a charge machine. And it works everywhere. 7-11. Family Mart. Restaurants. Vending machines. This is incredible. This is the future. And it’s already arrived in Japan.
If you’re interested in this topic, check out Joel Basset’s Apple Pay Suica Guide for much more detail.