KOHO or Stack: Who Should You Make Room For in Your Wallet?

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Last updated on May 16, 2022 Comments: 21

Picture this- you’ve got a late-night case of the munchies and you’ve got it bad. You put in an order, but you have a choice to make before you can win the hunger games. Which card are you going to pay with: your debit card or your credit card?

You know that your debit card gives you control over your money- you can only spend what you have, though you might get knocked with bank fees. A credit card can land you with sweet rewards or cashback but might come with an annual fee and a nasty surprise if you don’t pay off your balance in full every month.

What if you had a third card up your sleeve?

You could go with a prepaid card. Start-ups like KOHO and Stack have burst onto the scene to provide a new payment option that gives you the control of a debit card combined with some of the perks typically reserved for credit cards.

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

  KOHO Stack
Monthly Account Fees$0$0
Foreign Exchange Fees1.5%0%
Rewards0.5% cashback (Up to 5% cashback with select retailers)Impressive discounts at various retailers
Automatic SavingsRound up towards saving goalsRound up towards saving goals
Referral BonusN/A$5, 10, or $15 for referrals
Mobile AppsAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
Digital WalletApple Pay, Samsung PayApple Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay
Payment ProcessorVisaMasterCard
Security- Lock your card in-app
- Visa Zero Liability Protection
- Lock your card in-app
- MasterCard Zero Liability Protection
OtherPay Bills, Send Interac e-Transfers, Free Joint Account, Paid Premium AccountPay 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 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. Finally, KOHO will reimburse you up to $3 to cover your bank’s Interac e-Transfer fee if you load your prepaid card with more than $20. Stack, won’t.

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 KOHO, you earn 0.5% cashback on all purchases with no limit on how much cash back you can earn. You can also earn up to 5% cashback from select retailers. For example, 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. 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

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 and a paid Premium Account where you get access to all the following benefits for $9/month or $84/year (save $24):

  • 2% cashback on groceries, restaurants, and transportation
  • 0% on foreign transaction fees
  • Price matching
  • Free financial coaching

In addition, KOHO has a new feature called Early Payroll, where you can opt to get $100 of your paycheque 3 days before it’s direct deposited into your KOHO account. This is an early payday of $100 just when you might need it most. KOHO will get their money back when your next paycheque gets processed. Simple.

Apply for KOHO Here

Notable Stack Features

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?

What does KOHO look like?

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.

What does Stack look like?

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, they provide cash back on every purchase, 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.

Learn more about KOHO by reading our complete review.

Apply for KOHO Here

 

Recommended read: Mogo vs KOHO: Which Is the Best Prepaid Card?

Author Bio

Daniel Teo
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.

Article comments

21 comments
Ray says:

Had the card for 3 years, without any issues. Used the card mostly while traveling outside of the country, however between bill payments and small purchases in Canada I ensured the card had transactions going through on a monthly basis. I have excellent payment history with credit cards and have never had an issue, but I can’t say the same about Stack who after 3 years of using the card abruptly closed the card without a reason other than to state it’s within the cardholder agreement without elaborating to any specific reason for closure. I did call Stack to discuss this and the agent who took the call had no idea why it was closed either other than to state it was another department that made the call. Perhaps being bought by Credit Sesame created a new set of rules. I would have liked to have an understanding why the account was closed, but considering they can hold your funds for 45 days, I would suggest any person doing business with a non financial institution be weary of how much they deposit knowing that they are not governed by the same set of rules that an actual bank has. I did make a complaint through the channels (ombudsman) but the reality is that in the Cardholder Agreement, it states they can close your account without a reason. Good luck to anyone who does business with them. Thankfully Koho is a much different company.

Daniel from GreedyRates says:

Hi Ray,
That does seem really strange that they’d cancel the card on a customer that’s using it on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing your experience; appreciate the word of caution here. Thanks.

Saj says:

I used Stack card abroad thinking it will be hassle free but the transaction at the retailer’s terminal got declined even it had enough funds and I had to complete purchase with cash. After a few days, my Stack card got charged with the retailer it was declined. I escalated it but Stack couldn’t do anything for it and I had to bear the loss. Stopped using it completely

Daniel from GreedyRates says:

Hi Saj,
That’s super frustrating! Thanks for sharing your experience with our readers. I hope it wasn’t a significant loss.

Tony says:

Can you make an anonymous purchase with either of these cards? For example, when I use a Vanilla prepaid card, I don’t have to enter my real name or address, it will accept any information I put in those fields.

Paul says:

Can I load any of these cards online from my simpli account.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Paul,
Unfortunately no. Stack’s Mastercard is digital for the most part (although you can also request the plastic to go along with it) where you pay for purchases through your phone using the Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Fitbit Pay capabilities of the Stack or KOHO app, so even though you can likely load your Simplii account to the Stack and KOHO app to track your spending, (similar to budget apps like Mint) you need the Stack and Koho apps to use their digital credit cards. They may work with other digital wallets once you have the physical card, but they are at their best in conjunction for the Stack and Koho apps.

Fredylyn Tingzon says:

I have both. I can’t say I have a favourite. I use Stack mostly for gas purchases. However, in your chart, Stack can also do interact e-transfer not only to pay bills.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Fredylyn,
I’m a big fan of Stack. Particularly it’s ability to utilize Interac e-transfer, so I have to agree with you.

Mike says:

It has been noted that the Stack Card doesn’t charge for out of country ATM fees. What about Canadian bank ATM’s such as CIBC, Royal or TD?

Aaron Broverman says:

The stack website says that they don’t charge fees at any ATM. However, they note that the ATM vendor/bank may still charge you fees for the transaction.

Mike says:

I signed up for Stack and tried to transfer money from my Bank via Interac. My bank held the funds and I had to phone them to release. I replied to Stacks email to let them know to reprocess but they did not respond. Two hours later there was nothing done so I cancelled the transaction and had to pay a $3.50 service charge from my bank. I approached Stack with this information and they refuse to refund the fee. Apparently there were issues with Interac but I was not informed of this. Probably won’t be continuing with this as they couldn’t handle a simple communication issue. I would have held off on cancelling if they had just let me know there were issues with Interac. Might be a good card but what if there’s a serious issue in the future.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Mike,
I’m sorry this happened to you. I know of other users where everything was fine. But I agree with you, until the issues with interac are fixed, that significantly lowers the stock and flexibility of this card. Hopefully yours is an isolated incident.

MIke says:

Aaron,
I was able to load the card successfully but on another occasion the interac transfer was delayed. This time I waited and it went through the next day. I suspect that there might be a delay on weekends but can’t be sure. So far so good and I now realize that this is a great card to have if you use Simplii as their client card is interac only and is not a Mastercard or Visa Debit card. I needed to send cash to a relative in another country using an online service and was not charged a cash advance fee by Stack.

Aaron Broverman says:

That’s awesome Mike, I’m glad you figured out what the issue was. I think the delay will be ironed out eventually as Stack gets older and more established in the market. Perhaps their fintech bandwidth is being out-paced by the number of users who now have their cards, which causes these annoying delays. Stay patient, it will go away.

David says:

I use KOHO and Stack Card.
I prefer the Stack with its own visa debit card.
Winner is Stack mastercard because most merchant website VISA Debit and Mastercard Debit accepted no issue for Stack card.
KOHO don’t take as a payment accept on mastercard debit merchant enabled.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi David,

I’m kind of confused by your comment. Do you prefer Mastercard debit capabilities or Visa debit capabilities?

Steve says:

Stack also has zero fees for out of country ATM withdraws, KOHO charges a fee

Mike says:

Daniel: Thank you for the informative article. I noticed on the Stack site that you can load their card with cash via LoadHub at certain variety stores. Is there typically a fee for this service? I couldn’t find out on the site. Also, is there a desktop web based logon to check the card status as opposed to a mobile app?

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Mike,
Yes, you can login to your account through get stack . ca Also, load stations are subject to fees but you have to look at the terms and conditions of the website for the vendor providing the service to find out what exactly those fees are.

Mike says:

Thanks Aaron. I suppose the Interac option makes the most sense anyway.