Suica and ICOCA: Key Differences Explained

The Suica and ICOCA cards are highly popular contactless IC cards in Japan, providing a convenient way to pay for public transportation, shopping, and vending machines. These cards, issued by JR (Japan Railways), are compatible with subways, buses, and private railways in both Tokyo and the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, etc.).

A notable feature of the Suica and ICOCA cards is their interoperability, allowing a Suica card purchased in Tokyo to be used seamlessly in the Kansai region, and vice versa.

Acquiring Suica and ICOCA cards is easy; they can be purchased from ticket vending machines or JR service counters. When using them on subways, buses, or private railways, users simply need to tap their card on the reader at the ticket gate, and the fare is automatically deducted, eliminating the need to buy a separate ticket.

 Updated on July 1st, 2024 Japan discontinued the sale of registered/unregistered Suica and registered/unregistered Pasmo cards on June 8, 2023, and August 2, 2023, respectively.
As of January 12, 2024, foreign tourists can purchase unregistered Suica cards (the green regular version) at JR East Japan Travel Service Centers (駅たびコンシェルジュ) located in Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, or Ueno stations.
Buying A Suica card in Tokyo: Suica Card Revival from 2024?
The red Welcome Suica card, exclusively for visitors to Japan, is sold at Haneda Airport Terminal 3.
Can I Use ICOCA Card in Tokyo? Is ICOCA Accepted in the Kanto Region?
Suspension of Suica and Pasmo Physical Cards: Use Mobile Suicafor Cardless Travel

Benefits of Using a Transportation Card in Japan

Utilizing a transit card in Japan offers unparalleled convenience! With no need to purchase a ticket for station entry or exit, you can effortlessly tap your card.

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Upon entering or exiting a train station, simply swipe your card at the ticket cutting machine, and you’ll hear a direct beep (swipe the card to touch the sensor), eliminating the ticket purchase, insertion, and retrieval process. NFC contact swipe cards ensure smooth operation without any jams, allowing you to maintain your pace without slowing down intentionally.

Common to Almost All Ground Transportation

With Suica and ICOCA, you can conveniently use your card for JR trains, private trains, municipal trains, and public transportation, eliminating the need to visit a ticket counter or machine for every trip.

However, there are certain areas in Japan where your transit card may not be accepted, so it’s advisable to conduct some research or inquire with the staff before boarding the bus.

Saving Money on Transportation

You can get a discount with Suica and ICOCA! For example, you can get a 5% discount when using Suica on subways and buses in Tokyo. In the Kansai region, you can get a 5% discount on regular trains on the JR line with ICOCA.

You Can Use It for Train Rides and Shopping

You’ll often find the Suica and ICOCA logos in many stores, indicating that you can use either card (matching the logo) for purchases. Using them is straightforward; simply place the card on the store’s card reader to make payments.

Moreover, Suica and ICOCA are accepted in vending machines, with many of them supporting both cards. When you spot the Suica or ICOCA logo, it means you can use your transportation card to buy drinks, snacks, and other items.

These transportation cards are extensively utilized in Japan, even in parking lots displaying the IC logo. The accessibility of these cards has been expanding lately, allowing you to travel across Japan with ease.

You Can Check the Details of Use

If you need to check your card balance, you can do so on trains, subways, convenience stores, and more. It’s a good idea to verify your balance before boarding a train to avoid any issues at the ticket gate if you’re unsure about the remaining funds on your card.

Furthermore, you can print out usage details at the station’s ticket machines. This allows you to review your boarding and exit stations along with the fare charges, providing an organized record of your travels.

Easy to Get

The process of obtaining a Suica or ICOCA card is simple. You can purchase one at the multifunctional ticket machines in major JR stations or at the ticket counter.

For long-term residents in Japan, there are additional options available. You can link your card to regular ticket purchases or upload it onto an NFC-enabled cell phone for direct swiping at the station.

If there’s a balance left on your card after your trip, you can receive a refund.

However, there are some things to keep in mind. If you have more than 220 yen left on your card, a refund fee of 220 yen will be charged, and the remainder will be given back to you. So, it’s best to spend the remaining balance at the green window when returning your card, such as at a convenience store.

Suica and ICOCA Differences

Suica and ICOCA

Suica and ICOCA are both IC cards, which are commonly used prepaid cards for transportation and shopping in Japan. Although they have similar features, they also have some differences.

Regional Differences

Suica is mostly used in Tokyo and surrounding regions, whereas ICOCA is mostly used in Western Japan, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and so on.

Different Issuing Companies

Suica is released by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), whereas ICOCA is released by West Japan Railway Company (JR West).

Different Purchase Methods

Suica can be purchased at JR East ticket vending machines, designated counters at JR stations, and convenience stores.

ICOCA can be purchased at JR West ticket vending machines, designated counters at JR stations, and convenience stores.

Other Differences

Suica can be used to pay at particular stores and facilities in the Tokyo area, such as convenience stores, vending machines, and laundromats.

ICOCA can be used to pay at particular stores and facilities in the West Japan area, such as convenience stores, vending machines, and buses.


To sum up, it is suggested that you purchase a Suica card if you plan to travel in the Tokyo area/Kanto and an ICOCA card if you plan to travel in the West Japan area/Kansai. Additionally, since the functions of both cards are similar, you can also choose based on current promotions or purchasing channels at the time of purchase.



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