People in Taiwan Can Ride the Subway and Pay for Snacks With Poké Balls

Illustration for article titled People in Taiwan Can Ride the Subway and Pay for Snacks With Poké Balls
Image: EasyCard

The NFC-powered payment cards used to pay for public transit in Taipei, Taiwan, are so popular that not only have other businesses (like convenience stores) started accepting them, they’re also available in endless shapes and sizes, including an official Poké Ball-shaped smartcard that lights up when you’ve successfully made a purchase.

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Taipei’s EasyCard was first released back in 2002, and over the past 18 years has grown in popularity because is it not only a quick and easy way to make payments without the need for entering a PIN, but also because it can carry a limited balance so if you lose it, your life savings isn’t at risk. Because it’s essentially nothing more than a plastic card with a small NFC chip embedded inside, the EasyCard now exists in many forms, including the Poké Ball, which was born from a partnership with Niantic last year.

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When the Poké Ball EasyCard officially went on sale in Taipei last year it was limited to just 3,000 units, and at just $11 each it sold out almost immediately, to the surprise of no one. The company eventually sold 14,000 of them, but it still did not meet the demand, so it’s bringing the Poké Ball EasyCard back for another limited run in 2020. Pricing and specific availability haven’t been revealed just yet, although the NFC Poké Ball is expected to show up for preorder from Taiwanese online retailer PChome 24h sometime in mid- to late October.

What does this mean for Pokémon collectors outside Taiwan? Not much. The EasyCard Poké Ball would undoubtedly make a nice addition to a collection given its scarcity, but even if your local public transit system has moved to NFC payment cards, the chip inside the Poké Ball is going to be programmed for the EasyCard system, and probably blocked so it can’t be rewritten or reprogrammed for other purposes.

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