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What are KOHO and Stack?

KOHO and Stack are two Canadian Fintech companies with a new, “digital first” take on financial services. Both services combine a free prepaid, reloadable card with a mobile companion app to track your spending and manage your money. KOHO and Stack accounts are a bit like chequing accounts, but with some of the added benefits of a credit card.

Like a chequing account, you need to add money into your KOHO or Stack account before you can spend it using your card. You can add money through an e-Transfer from an existing bank account or through a direct deposit from work.

You get a reloadable prepaid Mastercard® with KOHO and reloadable prepaid Mastercard® with Stack. These prepaid cards can be used to pay for anything wherever Mastercard® are accepted, worldwide. When you make purchases, you get cash back and other perks like you would if you used a credit card. And, since you aren’t tapping into any credit, you can sleep easy knowing you’ll never spend more than what you’ve loaded into your account. Perfect for those who are working on reigning in the overspending.

KOHO and Stack are not banks. They hold any money you load into your account at Peoples Trust, a federally regulated and CIDC-insured company, and work with Mastercard® to process payments when you buy things. KOHO and Stack can help you save on fees, earn some cash-back rewards and get some important insights on how you spend your money.

At a glance

Comparison chart
KOHO Stack
Monthly Account Fees $0 $0
Foreign Exchange Fees 1.5% 0%
Rewards (Up to 5% extra cash back with partnered merchants) Impressive discounts at various retailers
Automatic Savings Round up towards saving goals Round up towards saving goals
Referral Bonus Up to 50 referrals per referrer.Per each referral, both referrer and referee will get $20 if the referee make their first purchase within 30 days of registration. $5, 10, or $15 for referrals
Mobile Apps Android, iOS Android, iOS
Digital Wallet Apple Pay, Samsung Pay Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay
Payment Processor Mastercard® Mastercard®
Security - Lock your card in-app - Lock your card in-app- MasterCard Zero Liability Protection
Other Pay Bills, Send Interac e-Transfers, Free Joint Account, Paid Extra Account options Pay Bills

Account and service fees

Traditional low-cost chequing accounts charge $4 a month and limit the maximum number of monthly debit transactions before tacking on surprises like overdraft fees. Credit cards charge annual fees and interest on unpaid balances. As an alternative to traditional banking, KOHO and Stack are free to join- there are no monthly account fees and you can make as many transactions as you like at no additional cost.

Neither company will charge you to withdraw cash from an ATM, terms apply, with a prepaid card though you may be on the hook for a fee charged by the ATM provider. Where credit cards typically charge a 2.5% fee on foreign currency transactions, Stack and KOHO charge 0% and 1.5%, respectively.

Apply for KOHO Here

KOHO and stack features

Both KOHO and Stack give you the ability to track your spending in real-time and provide data insights to help analyze your spending habits. Since the services use prepaid cards (and not credit cards), you don’t need a good credit score to sign up and it takes less than 5 minutes to join once you’ve downloaded the app. While these services won’t help you build up your credit score, they will give you some of those sweet credit card style rewards.

Rewards and referrals

With the free KOHO Easy version, you earn 1% cash back on groceries, transportation, and up to 5% extra cash back from select partnered retailers. For example, at the time of this article (subject to change), you can get 4% cashback from Altitude Sports and 5% cashback from Greenhouse Juice Co. If you refer KOHO to a friend, $20 is awarded to both the person who initiates the referral and the recipient of the referral if the referee make their first purchase within 30 days of registration. Each cardholder is limited to a maximum of 50 referrals ($1,000 worth of referral bonuses) for the lifetime of their KOHO account.

Instead of a flat rate cashback program, Stack offers exclusive discounts with over 140 retail partners. For example, you can get $5 off a $40 purchase at Indigo or $1 off $10 worth of groceries. The idea is that you’re getting instant cashback for things you were already going to buy. If you refer Stack to a friend, you’ll get $5 for each of your first five referrals, $10 for your next 5, and $15 for each referral after that. Each friend will get $5 for signing up.

Automated savings

Both KOHO and Stack let you automate your savings to help reach goals faster. You can customize the app to automatically round up every purchase to the nearest $1, $2, $5 or $10 and add it to your savings. For example, if you buy Timmies for $2.25, the automatic round-up would set aside $0.75, $1.75, $2.75 or $7.75 depending on which option you choose.

Notable KOHO features

KOHO outshines Stack in several areas; you can pay bills and send Interac e-Transfers. KOHO also offers free Joint Accounts to easily share finances, an optional paid KOHO Essential version, and a paid Extra Account where you get access to all the following benefits for $9/month or $84/year (save $24):

  • 2% cashback on groceries, eating & drinking, and transportation
  • 0% on foreign transaction fees

Apply for KOHO Here

Notable Stack features

Notable Stack Features
Source: Stack

  • Impressive discounts at participating retailers
  • 0% Foreign Exchange fees
  • Free version only

Support

A service is as only good as its support and both KOHO and Stack have their bases covered. KOHO support is available through in-app chat, via email or by phone on Monday to Friday from 9AM-9PM EST and on Saturday-Sunday from 9AM-5PM EST. Stack support is available through in-app chat, via email or by phone on Monday-Saturday from 9AM-9PM EST and on Sundays from 12PM-8PM EST.

What do they look like?

Notable Stack and KOHO Features
Source: Stack and KOHO

KOHO and Stack apps are similar in function, just different in execution. Each view of your rewards, savings and spending insights are intuitive and give you the information you need right at your fingertips.

Notable Stack and KOHO Features
Source: Stack and KOHO

Security

KOHO and Stack hold all money that you load onto your prepaid card with Peoples Trust, a federally regulated and CIDC-insured bank. If anything were to happen to either company, your money would be safe and returned to you by Peoples Trust.

If you happen to misplace your card, you can freeze it straight from the app, at any time and from anywhere in the world. Your KOHO Prepaid Mastercard® and Stack Mastercard® are covered by Zero Liability Protection which means that you’ll never be held accountable for fraudulent, unauthorized transactions made with your card.

Is this for real?

You might be wondering- free account, rewards, an app to help save money with a card that keeps it safe- this is great but what’s the catch? Surprisingly, there isn’t one.

Frankly, these services are aimed at millennials who like to go out. The bet is that the target market will choose a free service and use the prepaid cards to buy lots of things. KOHO and Stack make money by taking a cut of the transaction fees every time you use the prepaid card.

As people spend more on their prepaid cards, their partners (Peoples Trust and Mastercard®) will see greater returns from a higher volume of transaction fees. To them, it’s a win-win-win.

So, should I use KOHO or Stack?

Overall Winner: KOHO

KOHO and Stack want to empower Canadians to make smarter decisions with their money. They also want to help you avoid bank and credit card fees.

Based on features alone, KOHO has the upper hand. While they charge 1.5% on foreign transactions (if you do not have KOHO Extra), you can earn cash back, send e-Transfers, and offer a joint account.

If you’re a frequent traveler, Stack’s 0% on foreign transactions and higher discounts might appeal to you more. One card might fit your needs better than the other depending on your personal situation.

Regardless of which service you choose, a KOHO or Stack prepaid card will give you the control of a debit card paired with the rewards of a credit card. If you’re into that kind of upside, with none of the downsides, it may be a good enough reason to make some room in your wallet.

Sign up and try out KOHO today.

Learn more about KOHO by reading our complete review.

About the Author

Daniel Teo

Daniel Teo

Author

Daniel Teo is a personal finance expert and travel writer based in Toronto. With a passion for financial literacy and a wanderlust that has brought him to over 30 countries, his stories touch on what’s possible when you achieve financial goals. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, CBC and on BNN.

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