Personal Finance

KOHO Review

Overall Ranking

5/5

Overview

Affordability

5/5

Ease of Use

5/5

Rewards

5/5

Tools

4/5

KOHO Prepaid Mastercard® is a free pre-paid, reloadable card and integrated app that gives real-time insights into your daily spending. This no-fee card functions like a chequing account but with the benefits of a credit card, even giving you cash back on all your purchases. Learn whether the KOHO card is right for you.

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  • Saving money
  • Budgeting
  • Cash back rewards

In Canada, there is no shortage of “FinTech” apps that claim to help you control your spending. Some connect to your bank account to import your transactions and help you budget in real-time, while others send a friendly text message when you are overspending. But most of these apps fail in one key way – they don’t have any way to limit your spending. They can tell you when you’ve blown the budget, but they can’t stop you. That’s why tools like the KOHO – a free pre-paid, reloadable card and integrated app that lets you earn cash back – can be the perfect addition to your financial arsenal. Keep reading to learn more in this KOHO review.

What is KOHO?

Monthly account fees, overdraft fees, transaction fees – all of these charges add up to make Canada one of the most expensive places to bank in the world. In 2017, founder Daniel Eberhard sought to help Canadians save money on banking fees by creating KOHO – a free chequing account with a card and app.

It’s a cross between a chequing account and a credit card. Much like a chequing account, you deposit money into your KOHO account and then spend that money whenever necessary. Like a credit card, you can use your KOHO card anywhere Mastercard® is accepted, and get cash back and other benefits on your purchases.

The big difference: unlike a credit card, it’s your money – you’re not using credit. So that means you’ll likely be more careful with your spending and save more money. In fact, the average KOHO user saves roughly 7% of whatever money they load into their account.

How KOHO Works

The card is a Prepaid Mastercard®, and you use it as such. It’s easy: just create an account and add money to your KOHO account via Interac e-Transfer from your regular bank account or by setting up automatic payroll deposits.

Then, use your KOHO card to make purchases either in person or online. It works the same way as debit or credit. Use your KOHO card to pay for coffee, groceries, and your monthly bills – wherever Mastercard® is accepted.

Once you start spending, the KOHO app lets you analyze your spending, set savings goals, and check your balance. Once your transactions have posted to the app, you’ll accumulate 0.5% cashback on all of your purchases.

Key Features

Although KOHO isn’t a credit card and won’t help you build your credit score, it has excellent benefits for a preloaded debit card. Here are some of the top benefits of using a KOHO card:

  • Free: There is no annual fee to sign up for a KOHO card, which means it’s cheaper than using a regular chequing account with a monthly fee. There are no account fees, no card replacement fees, and Interac e-Transfers and ATM withdrawals are free.

  • 0.5% Cash Back: With KOHO, you earn 0.5% cash back on all purchases. This cash back increases to 2% with KOHO premium.


  • Savings: KOHO isn’t just about spending – it’s also about saving. You can earn 1.20% interest on your KOHO Earn Interest balance. You will even be able to set savings goals and automatic deposits to ensure your targets are met on time. And it’s free!

  • Round-Up: Supercharge your savings goals by having KOHO help you save every time you make a purchase. You can set this feature to round up every $1, $5, or $10 and saving the difference towards your savings goals.

  • Stellar App: Use the KOHO app to check your account balances, transfer money, reload your KOHO card, or set up automatic bills payments.

  • Apple Pay: If you forget your wallet or don’t enjoy carrying cards, KOHO’s Apple Pay functionality means you can link your KOHO card to your iPhone and pay for purchases in-store directly with your phone.

  • Financial Coaching: If you take the time to set up direct payroll deposits, KOHO gives you access to financial coaching. This service is free and provides you with coaching on a variety of topics, including debt repayment, saving, and budgeting.

  • Joint Accounts: You can now open a joint account with KOHO so you and your partner or family members can earn rewards even faster and take advantage of all of the standard KOHO perks, including high-interest savings accounts and free Interac e-Transfers.
  • Earn up to 2% cash back on purchases

  • Earn interest; No fees

  • Apple Pay compatible

  • Free financial coaching for select customers

  • Round Up tool helps turbocharge savings


  • Can’t be used to build a credit score

  • Daily limit of $3,000 on purchases, $600 at ATMs

  • No RRSP, TFSA, or RESP accounts

KOHO Premium Cost

KOHO also offers a premium subscription service, KOHO Premium, that offers you additional benefits for a fee. For an annual fee of $84 (or $9/month), you’ll increase your cash back earnings from 0.5% to 2.0% on every dollar you spend on groceries, restaurants, and transportation. On top of this, KOHO waives their foreign transaction fees, which can amount to up to 2.5% on purchases made in foreign currency.

Finally, premium members can take advantage of KOHO’s price match guarantee, which states they will credit you the difference between the price you paid for an item and the lower price available elsewhere.

Here’s a run-down of the benefits of KOHO Premium:

  • $84 (or $9/month)
  • 2% cash back on groceries, restaurants, and transportation
  • Waived foreign transaction fees
  • Free financial coaching
  • Price match guarantee

How Does KOHO Compare?

KOHO is not a credit card, so it doesn’t have many direct competitors. In fact, there is only one other financial product in Canada that is like the KOHO card, and that’s the STACK Mastercard. The STACK Mastercard is a prepaid Mastercard that you load with funds via Interac e-transfer – very similar to the KOHO card. Like the KOHO card, the STACK card has no foreign transaction fees. This card also has a $5 sign-up bonus.

A similar type of card to the KOHO card would be a secured credit card, which requires you to secure your credit limit with a cash deposit. These cards aren’t exactly the same as the KOHO card, because the cash deposit is held in trust, and your purchases are considered debt that must be paid off every month. Because they are a debt tool, secured credit cards are a good option to establish or rebuild your credit, whereas the KOHO card cannot help you achieve this goal.

It’s also different from the best budgeting apps, although it can be used to help stay in the black.

Signing Up For KOHO

The process of signing up for KOHO takes about five minutes. The first step is to enter your email address and password to create your account. If you have a referral code, which can earn you bonus cash back, enter it on the first screen.

The second screen requires you to enter basic information about yourself, including your full name, occupation, and phone number. Pressing “submit” will take you to the third screen, where you can choose your KOHO card’s colour scheme from three available options.

Finally, you’ll need to confirm your home address as it appears on your photo ID to have your KOHO card mailed to you.

Once you’ve finished creating your account. KOHO will text you a link to their app in the App Store or Google Play Store. Once you log in via the app, your account setup will be complete.

Promo: Sign up and get a $20 instant cash bonus (once you load your account and make your no minimum first purchase within 30 days) right to your KOHO account with our link or YOUNGANDTHRIFTY referral code.

On May 16, 2022, the KOHO Prepaid Mastercard® updated their product offering from Visa to Mastercard®. New users will receive a Mastercard® from this date forward while existing users have the option to make the switch until October 2022. A new KOHO Physical Mastercard® will be sent to the user within 10 business days once a request is received and during this time period users will be still be able to utilize all of the features available in the KOHO mobile app.

FAQs

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Is KOHO a Credit Card?

Although you use your KOHO card to make purchases and earn cash back, KOHO is not a credit card. Any purchases made on a credit card is technically debt until paid off in full. In contrast, the KOHO reloadable Visa card is a prepaid card – which means you fund the card with cash before using it. Since the card is prepaid, you’ll only spend the cash you already have, effectively giving you a debit card that you can use to earn cash-back rewards.

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Do I Need a Regular Banking Account to Use Koho?

Most likely. Sure, KOHO is great for everyday banking: you can pay bills, send unlimited free e-Transfers, make purchases online or in-person (wherever Mastercard® is accepted), and deposit e-Transfers from other KOHO users instantly. But you’ll probably need another backup bank account for additional banking needs, such as using paper cheques.

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Is KOHO Safe?

KOHO isn’t a real deal bank, but there are mechanisms in place to safeguard your money. When you load money on your card, it is held in partnership with Mastercard® and People’s Trust, which is a CDIC insured, federally regulated institution.

Final Call: Is KOHO Worth it?

If you want to earn cash back but have a hard time staying on budget when using a credit card, KOHO’s prepaid, reloadable Mastercard® could be an excellent option. Offering no fees, built-in tools to help you save money, and earn cash back rewards up to 2.0%, KOHO is hands-down one of the best prepaid cards available on the market.

One downside is that a KOHO card won’t help you build your credit score like the best credit cards for bad credit. Another consideration: you can get a cash back rate higher than 0.5% by using one of the best cash back credit cards in Canada, and many on our list have no annual fee. Also, frequent travellers may not want to lose out on turbocharging their travel rewards and instead prefer to one of the best travel credit cards in Canada. But overall, if you’re looking to keep tabs on your spending and get cash back rewards, KOHO is a great choice.



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