KOHO Premium: A Perfect Travel Card for Your Next Trip

As a longtime user of KOHO to manage my fun budget, it’s no surprise that I was excited to try out KOHO’s new Premium service—but what was a surprise was how perfectly it fit what I needed for my most recent vacation.

And I only found out about it because I recommended KOHO to the friends we travelled with to Italy. They asked me what credit card I planned to use on our trip in order to minimize foreign exchange fees and keep my money safe, and I told them I planned to load up my regular, no-fee KOHO card and bring it with us for a few reasons.

  • It’s easy to track transactions and report anything suspicious—or pause the card—from within the app.
  • It’s a prepaid Mastercard, so it’s accepted everywhere that Mastercard is, and I can load up my vacation budget on the card ahead of time (that way, it’s harder to go over budget).
  • The foreign exchange fee was lower than my other cards.
  • I didn’t need to sign up for and get approved for one of the few travel cards that comes with a low or non-existent foreign exchange fee.

And while it wasn’t available to us at the time, KOHO users can now take advantage of the new KOHO Save feature that will pay you 1.2% interest on any money you leave in your account.

After they signed up, one of my friends messaged me asking what KOHO Premium was all about, and did I already have it? I didn’t, but I was intrigued—and it turns out, KOHO Premium was even better than my original plan to use my KOHO card while travelling.

Not yet a KOHO user? Sign up using promo code HALFBANKED and you’ll receive a $20 cash bonus in your account when you make your first purchase within 30 days of registration.

KOHO Premium has no foreign exchange fees

Foreign exchange fees on most credit cards in Canada can run you between 2% and 3% on every transaction, which is a bummer on top of most of the less-than-favourable exchange rates we tend to pay as Canadians. There are a few credit cards out there that offer 0% exchange fees for travel, but they’re often premium cards that require a high credit score and a hard credit check to sign up for.

KOHO’s base foreign exchange rate was already competitive at 1.5%, but with KOHO Premium, you pay 0% in foreign exchange fees for purchases you put on the card. That’s a rare perk, and a perfect one for travel.

2% cash back on eating and drinking, groceries, and transportation

One of my favourite parts of travel is the food. I’m here for the cafes, the pubs, the restaurants, the food tours, the wine… I am here to eat my way through a new country, and I very much did that in Italy. KOHO Premium lines up perfectly with that, because in addition to charging 0% on my foreign transactions, they also added multiple categories of spending that earn 2% cash-back immediately.

With KOHO Premium, I earned 2% cash-back on all of my restaurant purchases while on vacation, and even better, I can redeem that cash-back instantly within the app, any time I want. I’ll still earn 0.5% back on all other categories, but quite frankly, 60% of my vacation spending was restaurants.

I know, because KOHO told me. I can see a detailed view of my spending by category in the app, which makes it easier to understand my actual vacation spending habits.

Monthly or yearly fees (that you can cancel anytime)

Instead of paying an annual fee for a service I wasn’t sure I needed, KOHO Premium offers you the option to pay $9 a month for Premium service to try it out. You can opt for annual fees and pay $84 a year—a $24 savings, and still lower than most premium credit cards—but you can also pay monthly, and cancel anytime.

Track and manage your spending

I am no vacation-budgeting robot, and I have been known to go full YOLO on vacation—especially when travelling to somewhere I don’t visit often. I build that knowledge into my savings efforts for vacation, with the understanding that I’m likely to indulge a bit more than usual. However, in an ideal world I’d still like to know if I’m “having fun on vacation” levels of spending, or “we’re not going to be able to pay our bills next month” levels of spending.

That’s where KOHO Premium really shines, because you get access to the same perks and services that come standard with your regular KOHO card. You can see all of your spending in the well-designed app, you’ll be able to easily check your available balance, and when you run out of money, that’s it. Since it’s a pre-paid card, you can’t spend more than you intended (although you can always load more money onto your card mid-trip, which I did).

And while sure, you may want to have a backup card in your wallet in case you end up in a tight spot, that’s best kept for emergencies. For day-to-day planned vacation spending, KOHO Premium will help you stay as on-track with your budget as you want.

See foreign transactions in Canadian dollars

This was something I didn’t even realize would be important to me, but a small detail that became a huge perk while we were in Italy was that every notification of a purchase showed us the total in Canadian dollars.

It’s easy—at least for me—to set a vacation budget in Canadian dollars, and be wildly off-base when I total up my spending in foreign currency at the end of a trip. This way, every time I spent 10 euros on a glass of wine (again, I was there for the food!) I got notified of not only how much that had cost me in Canadian dollars, it also showed me how much I had left.

Get alerts for every transaction

Finally, if you’re at all worried about security while you’re travelling, KOHO Premium (and quite frankly, KOHO in general) is a great option because the app makes it so easy to keep tabs on transactions. You’ll get a notification for each amount that goes through, and if you see something fishy, you can pause the card in seconds from the app without ever picking up the phone and calling someone. The same goes for if the card gets lost, so you can focus on worrying about the bigger things that hopefully didn’t get lost with it (ahem, like a passport).

KOHO Premium should go on your next trip

While I didn’t just bring my KOHO Premium card on vacation, I did use it as my primary and preferred way to pay while in Italy for all the reasons covered here. We took some euros in cash as well, which was a great call for a few situations where credit wasn’t an option. We each also had a backup credit card just in case, but most of my spending was on my KOHO Premium card. Plus, to be clear, there was not a single place that accepted credit where my KOHO card didn’t work!

Travel isn’t the only reason KOHO Premium is a great service, but it was the reason I fell absolutely in love with it. And while this post focused on KOHO Premium, a lot of the perks I mentioned as great for travel are equally great and available with a regular, no-fee KOHO card, like 1.2% interest on your account balance, notifications and keeping you on track with your budget.

And remember, if you’re convinced and want to give KOHO or KOHO Premium a shot, use promo code HALFBANKED when you sign up to get a $20 cash bonus in your account when you make your first purchase within 30 days of registration.