updated 12:24 am EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Passbook card is refillable at Apple Stores, debuted in Japan
One day after the service initially debuted in Japan, the new "iTunes Pass" Passbook card is now available in the US and Australia. The iTunes app on an iPhone or iPad can now issue an "iTunes Pass" card for Passbook to users who click on the "Redeem" button in the iTunes app. Once in place, users can bring the device to their nearest Apple retail store, where staff can take money and instantly add it to the Passbook card by scanning the card, which in turn credits the users' iTunes account.
The current method in which iTunes Pass works is somewhat more cumbersome than simply buying and scanning an iTunes Gift Card using an iPhone camera or using a credit card to add money to an account, but may represent the beginning of an effort by Apple to reduce its use of the plastic cards as part of an environmental effort. Most iTunes cards that are scanned for their value are then thrown away, though the material used in them is a plant-based plastic and, in theory, recycleable.
The awkwardness of the present system may also be an attempt to hide a future Apple expansion of Passbook into mobile payment systems, as has been rumored to be underway for some time now, or an effort by Apple to increase Passbook use by shifting it to be able to display current balances or redeem iTunes gift cards in the way iTunes itself can currently. The Japanese website for the feature explicitly mentioned that iTunes Pass is not available in Brazil, China or Turkey," suggesting that the feature could be coming soon to many other countries.