The train network in Tokyo and the metropolitan area is very complicated. I sometimes find international tourists who are at a loss in front of ticket vending machines. I've never seen such Japanese recently. Does every Japanese understand complicated Tokyo's train network? No, almost of all Japanese were freed to understand the train network, thanks to SUICA and PASMO. These prepaid cards are also available for international tourists. I usually recommend PASMO card for my guests.
SUICA cards are provided by JR East and PASMO cards are provided by the other railroad company including private railroad company and subway company. JR East used to be a part of the Japanese National Railways. They operate SUICA cards alone. The other railroad companies operate PASMO cards together. The function of both cards is almost the same. There is a difference when you return your card. JR East collects a margin to return and settle SUICA cards. But the other companies don't collect a margin from returning and settlement for PASMO cards.
You can get these cards from ticket vending machine at a station. You can only get SUICA card at JR East stations and only get PASMO card at the other companies stations. You need to choose 'Blank' card, not 'Personalized.' Five hundred yen is included as a deposit. When you paid 3,000 yen to get a card, you could use 2,500 yen for transportation fee. You can add more money to your card at ticket vending machine. You can add to your SUICA card at JR East stations or the other companies stations. You can also add to your PASMO card at any companies' stations including JR East.
You can use both cards for any companies train fee and bus fee. And also use them to purchase at convenience stores and some vending machines for beverages. At a case of train, you need to hold your card over a ticket gate machine when you enter a train station. And you need to hold over again when you go out a station. You can check how much money is being charged when you go out.
At a case of bus with advance payment (buses in Tokyo are almost in this case), you need hold over once when you get on a bus. At a case of deferred payment (buses in rural area), you need hold over twice when you get on and get off. Please look carefully how other Japanese acts, and do as the same.
At the end of your tour in Japan, you will return your card and settle charged money. There is a difference between two kinds of cards when you return. The case, there is 1,000 yen charged money remained on your card. JR EAST will pay back 1,280 yen. Five hundred yen is deposit, 780 yen is pay back and the company collects 220 yen as a margin. This is the case of SUICA. The case of PASMO, private railroad company will pay back 1,500 yen. They don't collect a margin. You don't have to consider how much you should charge to your PASMO card because you don't have to pay a margin when you return it.
The case there is 100 yen on your SUICA card. JR EAST will pay back 500 yen as deposit. JR East collects 100 yen as a margin. It is better to use all your charged money before you return your SUICA card. You can use all of charged money on SUICA to pay at convenience stores and you can pay by cash for lack amount of money.
Ticket Office, or 'Midori no madoguchi'
The place you return your SUICA card is JR East Ticket Office, or 'Midori no madoguchi.' Please ask at a manned ticket gate if you couldn't find the office. It would take time when the Ticket Office was crowded. Please give yourself plenty of time to return your SUICA card.
At the case of PASMO, returning place is a manned ticket gate of any railroad company without JR East.
Please enjoy visiting a lot of places with your SUICA or PASMO!