How to really use Suica card machines

In this post we’ll quickly cover how to use the Suica card machines @ Japan train stations – not too much in depth stuff – just the most basic but important things to know.

A photo of one of the machines:

  1. To use English tap the small square blue button in the upper right corner of the touch screen. This takes you to a screen with more large touch-screen buttons – such as buy new Suica, add fare to Suica, etc. Once on this screen, tap the touchscreen button for the type of transaction you want.
  2. Note most machines have a combo of physical + touchscreen buttons.
  3. To cancel any transaction, press the small plastic round red button on the left on the top panel (just to the left of the white down-pointing arrow).
  4. When you first buy your card, you inser bills in the bottom right black slot. The slot will light telling you to put your $ in. Once you put ¥ in and press the purchase button on the touchscreen, the machine will spit your new Suica card out of the bottom left black slot. Take your card. You can now use it – at the IC turnstyles in stations, at coin lockers (newer ones anyway), and in some convenience stores to buy stuff at checkout).
  5. If you want to use coins for any transaction, in addition, drop them in the coin slot on the right side of the machine (the one with the rectangular yellow border around it.
  6. If you need to add ¥ to your Suica later, first tap English again (if you need English), then insert your Suica into the top left slot (the one with the yellow border around it on top). A green light may also flash around the slot telling you where to insert your card. Once the machine sucks your card in, there will be buttons for the amount you want to add. Tap the button onscreen, then insert bills and/or coins as described above. The amount will be added and your cards’ new total will be displayed. Once the machine adds your ¥, tap the done button and it will eject your card. Take your card and you are done.
  7. There is also an option purely to check your Suica’s current balance – follow the onscreen instructions on the machine.

That’s it – you won’t use most of the other controls on the machine – hell, we still don’t know what most of them are for.