Pasmo Cards in Tokyo: The Lowdown

Kylie Van Zyl

Pasmo cards, like Suica cards, are the answer to the prayers of anyone who has ever frantically patted themselves down for small change upon approaching a train-station ticket turnstile, or confidently produced a paper ticket only to find it’s a shop receipt.

A Pasmo machine, pink and easily recognized. | Photo by Hans-Christian Psaar

What is a Pasmo card?

Pasmo cards are IC cards rigged up for prepaid use in the Tokyo metropolitan area’s subways, trains, buslines and streetcars. They are easy to get hold of and use, and their coverage is great: they work on both JR (Japan Railways) and private train lines in and around Tokyo.

It may be vast, but you can navigate the whole Tokyo subway system with a Pasmo card. | Photo by OiMax used under CC

Where can I use a Pasmo card?

You can use your shiny new Pasmo card anywhere in Tokyo, and anywhere where Suica cards are accepted. They also give you access to transport networks in popular destinations outside the Tokyo metro area, such as Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka.

Can I use a Pasmo card on the Shinkansen?

Unfortunately, they aren’t easy to use on the Shinkansen, so if you’re planning on going hither and thither between cities, consider opting for a JR Pass instead.

Where can I buy a Pasmo card?

You can buy a Pasmo card at almost every train station, subway station or bus depot in Tokyo. You can buy one online, or as soon as your feet hit Japanese soil at Narita Airport or Haneda Airport, thereby equipping yourself with the means to merge seamlessly into the Tokyo public transit network. Most short-term visitors to Japan can get by with a blank Pasmo card, but if you’ll be staying for longer or if it’s unlikely anyone but you will ever need to use your card, consider opting for a named Pasmo card.

Photo guide for purchasing a blank Pasmo card

Pasmo Purchase Instructions
Buying a Pasmo card is simple and straightforward. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

When you buy a new blank Pasmo in Japan, ¥500 will be taken off your first loaded balance (so if you load ¥2,000, you’ll only have ¥1,500 available for fares until you reload, sort of thing).

How to load a Pasmo card

The machines are available in and outside of ticket gates with, for those of us who slacked off in kanji class, instructions available in English. Pasmo cards can also be charged at shops and (up to ¥1,000) on buses. Cards can be topped up in increments of ¥1,000, and the maximum charge amount is ¥20,000.

It’s really straightforward: insert your card, select the “charge” option and your amount, insert your money, and roll out of there with your recharged card like the smooth urban operator you are. Unless you try to use your credit card, that is: Pasmo cards can only be reloaded with yen, in cash. You can, however, register for auto-charging with Pasmo; if you do, it will auto-charge as you pass through a gate when it runs out of cash. That’s not recommended for short-term visitors, though. One potential drawback for those travelling en famille is that, because Pasmo cards use adults fares, children can’t travel with them.

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Photo guide for charging your Pasmo card

Pasmo Recharge Instructions
Loading up Pasmo cards is easy as pie. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

How do I return a Pasmo card?

If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to take your Pasmo card home as a signifier of your globetrotter status, you can return your Pasmo card at a service desk or at the machines themselves. There’s no charge, and you’ll get your ¥500 deposit back. Kaching!

To see how Pasmo stacks up against the Suica card, see our handy comparison guide. You can also find more information on the official Pasmo site.

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This post was written in November, 2018 and last updated in October, 2019. Information was correct at the time; however, it is subject to change without notice. The article was a joint effort with Lily Crossley-Baxter.

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Filed under: Getting around, Transport
Tags: Bus, Commute, Commuter Pass, Convenience, IC Cards, Metro, Pasmo, Pasmo Cards, Pass, Subway, Tokyo, Train, Trains, Trams, Transit, Transport
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