Welcome Suica vs Regular Suica Card: What’s the Difference?

When tourists travel to Japan, many of them purchase a Suica card for convenient transportation. However, starting from June 8, 2023, Japan ceased the sale of unregistered Suica and unregistered Pasmo cards. From August 2, 2023, registered Suica and registered Pasmo cards have also been discontinued, and the resumption date is yet to be determined. Aside from using the mobile version of Mobile Suica, a special IC card called “Welcome Suica” designed for visitors to Japan, which has been available since September 1, 2019, can still be used. So, what are the differences between the Red Welcome Suica Card and the original regular Suica card?

Color and Card Design of Welcome Suica and Regular Suica

Picture from:JR East

The regular Suica card features a silver background with the left half adorned in the signature color of JR East Japan: a grassy green hue, while the bottom right corner displays the iconic Suica character, a little penguin.

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Picture from:JR East:Welcome Suica

On the other hand, the design of the “Welcome Suica” card differs from the standard green Suica card, featuring a predominantly red and white pattern. Against a white background, you’ll find the same design as the regular Suica card, but in red, adorned with white sakura blossoms. The red symbolizes the sun, while the white represents cherry blossoms – fittingly, these are also the colors of the Japanese flag. Notably, the “Welcome Suica” card does not display the small penguin character on its face.

Purchase Locations for Welcome Suica and Regular Suica

As previously mentioned, the regular green Suica card, both named and unnamed, is currently unavailable for purchase, with no fixed date for its restoration. Except for limited availability in Aomori, Morioka, and Akita regions, the card cannot be obtained in other areas across Japan.

On the other hand, the red “Welcome Suica” is still available for purchase in limited locations, but it’s important to note that there are purchase restrictions.

【Welcome Suica Purchase Locations】

– Station Tabi Concierge (Station Service Centers) at Narita Airport Station, Terminal 2 Station, and Haneda Airport Terminal 3 Station.
– Welcome Suica-exclusive machines at Narita Airport Station, Terminal 2 Station, and Haneda Airport Terminals 2 and 3.

Special Note: “Welcome Suica” is only available at the two airports in Tokyo, and it is not sold at Haneda Airport Terminal 1. If you need to purchase a Suica card, be sure to do so at the airport! You won’t find any Suica cards available once you reach the city of Tokyo!

【Welcome Suica Purchase Restrictions】

– Limited to 1 card per person.

Validity Period of Welcome Suica and Regular Suica

The red “Welcome Suica” has a validity period of 28 days. It starts counting from the first time you use the card and becomes invalid on the 28th day automatically. If your stay in Japan exceeds 28 days, you will need to apply for a new card after the red Welcome Suica expires, as you cannot extend the validity of the old card. However, visitors can certainly take this Suica card back home as a souvenir of their time in Japan.

On the other hand, the regular green Suica card typically doesn’t have an expiration date as long as it’s consistently in use. It only becomes invalid if not used for ten years.

Period Pass for Welcome Suica and Regular Suica

A period pass, which is equivalent to a monthly or seasonal pass in English context, allows unlimited travel on specific trains within a designated area for a certain period of time. In Japan, these passes usually come in durations of one month, three months, and six months. There are also distinctions between commuter passes for school and work commutes.

For the regular green Suica card, if you want to convert it into a period pass, you just need to visit the station’s green window, fill out an application form, and pay the required fee.

However, the red “Welcome Suica” is designed specifically for tourists and comes with certain limitations, including its 28-day validity period. Because of these restrictions, it’s not possible to convert the Welcome Suica into a period pass.

Deposit and Card Return for Welcome Suica and Regular Suica

When obtaining a new regular green Suica card for the first time, you need to prepay a 500 yen deposit. For instance, if you deposit 2000 yen, only 1500 yen can be used for travel or purchases, and the remaining 500 yen is held as a deposit, which will be refunded when you return the card.

Upon card return, in addition to getting back the 500 yen deposit, the balance remaining on the card will also be refunded. However, a handling fee of 220 yen will be deducted from the refund amount. So, the total amount refunded will be: 【550 yen deposit + card balance – 220 yen handling fee】. If the card balance is less than 220 yen, the entire balance on the card will be used to cover the handling fee, and the 500 yen deposit will be refunded.

Unlike the green Suica card, when obtaining a red Welcome Suica, you don’t need to prepay a 500 yen deposit. Instead, the entire initial top-up amount can be used as fare or for shopping.

Although the “Welcome Suica” doesn’t require a 500 yen deposit upon issuance, it also doesn’t offer balance refunds. This means that regardless of whether you return the card before or after its expiration date, the remaining balance on the card will not be refunded.

Hence, before leaving Japan or before the Welcome Suica expires, make sure to use up the remaining balance on the card to avoid losing out.

Welcome Suica and Regular Suica Cards have Identical Usage


For instance, when adding value to both types of Suica cards, you can only choose from these rounded amounts:

  • 1,000 yen
  • 2,000 yen
  • 3,000 yen
  • 4,000 yen
  • 5,000 yen
  • 10,000 yen

You cannot add, for example, 1,500 yen. (On a side note, if it’s Mobile Suica, you have the option to add 500 yen.)

Furthermore, both cards have a maximum balance limit of 20,000 yen.

When using the card for transportation or shopping, the process is entirely the same. Just tap the card on the ticket gate or payment machine at the store with a sound of “beep”, and you’re all set for travel or shopping. From the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to the southernmost point of Fukuoka, including Kansai regions like Osaka and Kyoto, wherever Suica cards can be used, “Welcome Suica” can also be used seamlessly.

「Welcome Suica」Official Website(English)

Suica Official Website(English)

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