SUICA

SUICA - A Tokyo public transport ticketing system. Suica can also be used in other locations and for other purchases.

Suica (スイカ, Suika) is a rechargeable contactless smart card used as a fare card on train lines in Japan. Launched in November 2001, the card is usable currently in the Kanto region, at JR East stations near Sendai and Niigata, and in the Kansai region on JR West. The card can also be used interchangeably with JR West's ICOCA card in the Kansai region and also will be used with JR Central's TOICA starting from spring of 2008. The card is also increasingly being accepted as a form of electronic money for purchases at stores and kiosks within train stations. As of April 2007, over 20 million Suica cards were in circulation.

Card Name

Provider

Area

Suica

JR East

JR lines in Hokkaido, Sendai, Tokyo & surrounding prefectures, Niigata and JR West

Pasmo

Public transport organisation in Tokyo & surrounding prefectures

Most trains, buses in Tokyo & surrounding prefectures including JR lines

Icoca

JR West

Sendai, Tokyo & surrounding prefectures, Niigata, Tokai, Osaka & surrounding prefectures, Okayama and Hiroshima

Pitapa

Public transport organisation in Osaka & surrounding prefectures

Most trains, buses in Osaka & surrounding prefectures including JR lines

Since Suica is completely interchangeable with the Pasmo card (see for the complete listing of companies and lines that accept Suica) in the greater Tokyo area, it is supported on virtually any train, tramway, and bus system (excluding various limited and Shinkansen trains, as well as a few local buses as the system is still in the process of being extended to all routes).

Suica Services

Usage of the card involves passing it over a card reader. The technology allows for the card to be read at some distance from the reader, so contact is not required. Many people leave the card in their wallet and just pass the wallet over the reader as they enter the ticket gate.

The balance on the card is displayed when you enter the ticket gate this way. The minimum fare is needed on the card when entering the train system, which is not deducted at that time. The balance is also displayed whenever the card is inserted into the ticket or fare adjustment machines as well. A travel record is stored on the card, and can be displayed or printed out at the same place where one can purchase and reload the Suica cards.

On exit, the card is again passed over the card reader. At this time the fare is deducted from the remaining balance from the card and the new balance is displayed.

The card can also be used to store a commuter pass. This is available for purchase from regular ticket vending machines and allows a Monthly, 3-monthly or Annual pass for travel between two JR stations to be stored on the card.

On occasion, when traveling to a station where Suica is not supported, the card must be handed over to the staff at the exiting station, so that they can calculate the remaining fare and return a slip of paper which must be given to the staff at the next station where Suica is used. Since the system keeps track when a card enters and leaves a station, if the records show that the card had entered a station but not left (due to the situation such as described above, or technical malfunctions), the station staff can reset the card.

Suica Points of Purchase

These cards are available at card vending machines at the train stations that allows Suica. A new card costs 2,000 yen, which includes a 500 yen deposit that will be refunded if the card is returned. The remaining 1,500 yen is immediately available for train rides, and more money can be charged on to the card (in 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 4,000 yen, 5,000 yen, and 10,000 yen increments), up to a card maximum of 20,000 yen, at similar ticket vending machines or fare adjustment machines displaying the Suica logo inside each station.

Types of Suica Cards

Suica cards are sold by three railway companies

Suica card: sold by JR East
View Suica card: sold by JR East
Rinkai Suica card: sold by Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit (Rinkai Line)
Monorail Suica card: sold by Tokyo Monorail
A Suica card works as the standard prepaid Suica card (with user's name available on it) which can be used to ride trains in the place of paper tickets, or it can become the Suica commuter pass for unlimited traveling between two destinations for work or school. The Suica commuter pass also doubles as a prepaid Suica card for purchases or tickets outside of the normal commute route.

The VIEW Suica card pairs the prepaid Suica with a credit card. Various types exist, including at least one available through JR and View, and others such as the Bic Camera Suica. These function both as a pre-paid Suica as well as a regular credit card, and provide an auto-charge feature to prevent exhausting the Suica balance unintentionally. The automatically recharged amount is added to the user's credit card bill. Thus, these cards have two balances: a prepaid Suica balance and a credit balance for which monthly bills are sent. Thus, store-related cards like the Bic Suica card can include fully three separate functions: serving as a store point card, a general use Suica, and as a credit card. Any credit purchase (restricted, in the case of Bic, to JCB) adds a small amount to the available points on the store point card. Yet another type of Suica card offered by Japan Airlines (JAL) that is called JALCARD Suica. In addition to having Suica and credit card functionalities, a JALCARD Suica card can also function as an electronic boarding pass for a JAL-operated domestic flight in Japan at an airport that offers the JAL IC service.

Ticket gates return an error when the scan encounters more than one compatible card. Although it is intended that each person have only one Suica card, many people have more than one. Further, since the introduction of Pasmo in March 2007, more people have at least one of each. Consequently, JR has begun, and intensified since March, an awareness campaign to discourage commuters from storing multiple cards together. Incompatible cards, such as Edy, seem to have an inconsistent effect on a machine's ability to read the card which may depend on the reading device.

(Article based on Wikipedia article and used under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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