Suica or Pasmo: What’s the difference?


If you are new to Japan, you might not know what Suicas and Pasmos are, but they are prepaid smart cards (IC cards). This payment system allows for smoother payment and alleviation of congestion during rush hours. They also branched out to be able to be used in transactions of payment for taxis, buses, vending machines, various stores such as convenience stores (combini).

These prepaid smart cards are actually very useful for foreigners as well because you don’t need to worry about figuring out ticket prices for train rides. It can help get rid of one more thing to worry about when walking around the complex train stations and train lines. Suicas and Pasmos will help cut down on a lot of precious time that could be wasted. Especially when you are a tourist and don’t have very much time to do the million things in Japan that you want to see, eat and do.



There are many benefits for owning a Suica or Pasmo:

Firstly, it will be a great time-saver. You will never have to stand in front of the huge complex map of Japan’s train lines, trying to find the station of your final destination and figuring out the cost of each ticket. This will clear up more time for you to explore Japan.

Secondly, it cuts down on train costs. For every ride, depending on the price of the train ride you can get around 1-10 yen off. It is not much but it adds up over time.

Thirdly, it is very flexible. If you accidentally beep in the wrong entrance you can just beep back out. But this only works if you realize quickly after you beep in due to the timer system. This flexibility also allows you to change your mind on your final destination. If you see something interesting through the window, you can just hop off whenever you want to.

Fourthly, if you are an exchange student or working, there are commuter passes that gives discounts for cheaper train rides. This allows for free train rides between the location of your needs. For example, between the station of your school and your home. It will be prepaid and will last for a select amount of time from a couple weeks to six months.

Fifthly, it is very easy to buy and recharge. Anyone can buy one and you don’t need any form of identification to buy the most basic type of Pasmo called the Blank PASMO card. Pasmos and Suicas can also be charged at stores such as convenience stores.

Lastly, it can be used for payment of other services and goods other than train rides. It can be used for taxi rides, buses, stores such as convenience stores, parking lots, and station lockers.



Location of Purchase: Any JR station

Refundable Deposit Fee: 500 yen

Returning Fee: 220 yen

Methods of Charging: Only with cash and Suica credit cards

Where it can be used: Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata, Hokkaido, Tokai, West Japan and Kyushu areas




Location of Purchase: Private station (Any station that isn’t JR)  

Refundable Deposit Fee: 500 yen

Returning Fee: 0 yen

Methods of Charging: Only Cash

Where it can be used: Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata, Hokkaido, Tokai, West Japan and Kyushu areas



The difference between Suicas and Pasmos are mainly the returning fee and credit cards. Suica has a returning fee of 220 yen while, Pasmos don’t require a payment when returning the card. Suicas can be charged with credit cards, but only with a Suica credit card. Suicas may be better for people who are staying in Japan for longer periods of time where they can connect their Suica credit card with their Suica IC card, to never needing to line up at the ticket machine for charging, and to never be embarrassed at the ticket gate when forgetting to recharge your card

Pasmos may be better for tourists and people who are in Japan for a shorter amount of time. Because there will be less of a need to charge, and there is no returning fee. This means that all the money you have left in your card and the deposit fee will be fully reimbursed back to you when returning the card.

But Suica is introducing a new “Welcome Suica Card” in September 2019 that is aimed for tourists where there will be no deposit fee and valid for 28 days.