Three of Japan’s largest private railway operators – Kintetsu Railway, Hankyu Corporation, and Hanshin Electric Railway – announced plans to introduce a contactless credit card payment system at station ticket gates by the end of 2024.
This is after Tokyo Metro and Tokyu Corp also announcing plans to roll out contactless payments.
The new system will allow passengers to tap compatible credit cards or smartphones linked to a payment card on readers installed at ticket gates to pay their fare. Accepted cards are expected to include Visa, JCB and other major payment networks.
According to railway officials, the goal is to increase convenience, especially for foreign visitors coming for the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo. Travelers would no longer need to obtain transportation IC cards or paper tickets to ride trains. Popular IC cards such as Suica had been discontinued recently.
Contactless credit card transit payments are already common in cities like London and New York. But the three firms would be among the first rail operators to implement the technology in Japan.
In addition to benefiting tourists, the system could allow the companies to offer personalized discounts or rewards to passengers who shop at retail locations owned by the railways and pay using the same registered card.
The contactless fare payment launch aims to capitalize on the widespread adoption of capable credit cards in Japan – Visa estimates over 100 million cards issued since 2019 support the feature.
While mainly targeted at visitors initially, the convenience may prompt more local commuters to embrace contactless payments for their daily transit needs.