Japanese banks to link e-money with popular Suica transit card

Linda J. Dodson

TOKYO — Japan’s three megabanks look to link their digital currencies to East Japan Railway’s popular Suica smart transit card, hoping to expand their customer bases by improving convenience.

Mizuho Financial Group unit Mizuho Bank last year rolled out its J-Coin Pay platform, which can be used for money transfers and cashless payments, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group is reworking plans for its MUFG Coin digital currency. But the banks lag behind startups that jumped on the trend earlier, such as SoftBank Group unit PayPay.

JR East has issued roughly 80 million Suica cards so far, targeting train riders. But Suica cannot be used for transfers involving bank accounts. A tie-up with the banks would offer its users added convenience.

The initiative will be organized by cryptocurrency exchange DeCurret, which will establish a forum to discuss the tie-up. The megabanks and 10 or so other companies, including JR East, are expected to participate, and representatives from the Financial Services Agency, the economy ministry and the Bank of Japan will attend as observers.

Discussion topics will include developing a platform to enable J-Coin Pay users to pay with Suica cards, as well as such security measures as recording transaction information via blockchain.

The plan is to set out a road map to implementation as early as autumn, but there will be hurdles to overcome. Allowing two-way transfers between digital wallets and bank accounts will require expanding deposit insurance and strengthening safeguards against money laundering.

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