Even though I’ve personally used KOHO as a prepaid credit card for over a year now, I’ve never done a full KOHO review—and trust me, it’s not because no one has asked.
That’s why it’s high time I took this conversation out of DMs and onto the blog, because quite frankly, I love KOHO. I started using it over a year ago now, and it has been a key part of how I manage my money ever since.
Without further ado, let’s get into this KOHO review and talk about the specifics of who can use it, who should use it, and the best (and worst) features.
NOTE: I personally use KOHO on a day-to-day basis to help manage my spending, so this review is based on my experiences with them. If you sign up with code HALFBANKED, you will receive a $20 cash bonus in your account when you make your first purchase within 30 days of registration.
- What is KOHO?
- Who can use KOHO?
- Who should use KOHO?
- How do you open a KOHO Card?
- How do you put money onto a KOHO Card?
- What’s the best part about KOHO?
- What’s the worst part about KOHO?
- Should I use KOHO or STACK?
- How much does KOHO cost?
- Overall KOHO review
What is KOHO?
KOHO is a prepaid Mastercard that you use with a companion app for iOS or Android to manage your money. You load money onto your KOHO card, and then you can use the card to pay for anything in the same way you’d use a regular Mastercard — and yes, it’s accepted everywhere that a normal credit card would be.
KOHO offers a free card that gives you 0.5% cashback on all your purchases, a variety of savings tools to help save more, and clear insights into your spending in their app.
They also offer a paid service, KOHO Premium, that gives you 2% cashback on three purchase categories (groceries, transportation, and eating and drinking), no foreign exchange fees, access to a personal comparison shopping service, and financial coaching in their app. KOHO Premium costs $9 a month or $84 a year.
Who can use KOHO?
Anyone in Canada who is of the age of majority in their province can use KOHO—yes, that now includes Quebec! They note in their FAQs that the app is still in the process of being translated, so for now it’s an English app experience, but you can get help in French.
Who should use KOHO?
I’m a big fan of using a prepaid card for a few reasons. They help you stay on budget by limiting your spending to what’s on the app, you don’t pay interest since you can’t carry a balance, but they still have all the same flexibility as a credit card, and they’re accepted everywhere.
That said, I think KOHO is the best fit for a few different situations, based on my personal experience.
If you need a tool to keep you on track with specific budget categories. I use KOHO to manage my “fun” spending, because I got tired of tracking it manually, and when I put that category of spending on a credit card, I almost always went over what I had planned. Not in any big way, but enough that I noticed. See, if I’m out shopping and I see a great deal, my credit card doesn’t give me any reason not to get it and justify that I’ll just “spend less next month.” With my KOHO card, I load my fun budget onto the app twice a month, and if I’m out shopping I can quickly see exactly what’s left on the card—which is a much better and easier way for me to stay on track and not overspend my budget.
If you’d like some help making sure you have cash available for bigger purchases. KOHO’s savings features are really fantastic, since they work first and foremost on saving small amounts daily, instead of big chunks when you get paid (like a traditional automatic savings contribution) or just on roundup features alone. You can set and forget multiple goals in the app, and they’ll save automatically—and you can turn on roundups to help get you to your goal faster. It’s really one of the most flexible ways I’ve ever seen a company offer savings programs, and I love it.
If you plan to use it to manage a big chunk of your budget. Oddly, while KOHO is fantastic for managing specific parts of your budget for the reasons I mentioned, it also really shines when you use it for most of your routine spending. That’s because the more you spend on the card, the more cashback you’ll earn. It likely can’t compete with most credit cards when it comes to rewards for that spending, but if you’re currently using your debit card for most of your day to day spending, it’s definitely going to earn you more. Plus, KOHO offers the ability to set up bill payments directly from your card, so you can really manage a huge portion of your regular spending in app—and you’ll get all the insights into your spending.
If you’d like to use a joint account. KOHO pitches itself as an alternative to a bank, and while I personally still like the flexibility of an online bank, they really are getting close with their features, which includes a full joint account option. If you want to share finances with someone, you can open a joint account with them using KOHO and make it easy to track your spending together with two cards that can make purchases from the same shared account.
How do you open a KOHO Card?
You can open an account with KOHO in just a few minutes from your computer or phone. Once you get the app, they’ll ask you some questions about your identity to make sure you’re you. Then when you’re set up with an account they’ll get your card in the mail.
I like this process because it gets you familiar with the app as soon as possible, which makes onboarding and getting your card set up a lot easier when it arrives. When you get your card, you’ll need to call in to activate it and get your PIN, but don’t worry: it’s an automated system, you don’t need to talk to anyone.
Once you have your PIN, you’ll need to buy something using your PIN in person within 24 hours to confirm it. I’ve never needed an excuse for a trip to Starbucks, but if you do, it’s a good one.
How do you put money onto a KOHO Card?
You have three options to load money onto your KOHO card: e-Transfer, payroll direct deposit, and linking a bank account.
e-Transfer is hands-down the fastest and easiest way to load money, and it’s the one I personally use. I like that I can choose how much to load, and add extra money anytime if I need to, and the money is available within hours. Plus, when KOHO deprecated the ability to accept email money transfers, they understood that it meant that Tangerine users like me would need to pay $1 for each Interac e-Transfer. They will now reimburse the $1 transfer fee on Tangerine Interac e-Transfers if you ask (nicely!) in the message of the transfer.
(Nicely is just my advice, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t deny the reimbursement if you weren’t nice, but I mean, it can’t hurt.)
What’s the best part about KOHO?
There’s a lot that I love about using KOHO in my day-to-day life, but my hands-down favourite feature is the savings options.
With KOHO, you have two mechanisms to save more money towards a goal, and you can save for multiple goals at a time.
- You can set a goal with a timeline, and KOHO will automatically move over a small (or not-so-small, depending on the goal) amount every day so that by the end of your timeline, you have the money you need for the purchase. I love that this is a savings mechanism that isn’t tied to your spending behaviour.
- You can turn on automatic roundups, and customize them to roundup every purchase to the nearest $1, $2, $5, or $10. You can cash out your accumulated roundup cash at any time, and add it to either your spendable money or to a goal of your choosing.
I’ve found these to be a totally painless way to save up for purchases that I know I’m going to make, and have the money available when I need to make them. When you’re ready to spend, you can easily move the money from your goal to your spendable money on KOHO with a few clicks, directly in the app.
What’s the worst part about KOHO?
People have gotten mad at me for writing about how KOHO Premium was a great fit for my last vacation, because they argued that I should have used STACK to get no foreign exchange fees for free instead of paying the $9 a month for KOHO Premium. (Yes, my inbox is the weird and wild west.)
However, it’s a somewhat fair point, and if you’re looking for a fault with KOHO, it’s that they don’t offer everything 100% for free. You can pay for extra cashback on three categories, no foreign exchange fees, and extra services.
But there are two reasons why I think that as far as faults go, this isn’t a big one. First of all, I am all for transparency around how financial companies make money, and paying directly for services you value is a good thing in my books. Secondly, thanks to the extra cashback on KOHO Premium, I ended up earning over $30 in cashback while on vacation thanks to the boatloads we spent at restaurants. It more than offset the $9 monthly fee for Premium, and it’s cashback I wouldn’t have earned with the alternative people got mad at me for not using.
So yes: KOHO doesn’t offer all of their features for free, and you need to figure out if the features in Premium are worth it for you.
Should I use KOHO or STACK?
When it comes to prepaid card options in Canada, you’re likely considering using KOHO or STACK. It’s a good question, and while they’re pretty similar, there are some defining features of each one that makes them better suited to different use cases.
At the highest level, I think KOHO is the best fit for day-to-day spending and money management because of their savings features and flat-rate cashback, while STACK does shine for travel and cross-border online shopping because they offer no foreign exchange fees as a free service. I will also say that after extensive experience with both, the user experience of KOHO—including the app, but extending to the overall experience and the care put into each element of it—is far better.
However, that’s only scratching the surface, and you can read my full KOHO vs. STACK comparison post to get all the nitty-gritty details.
How much does KOHO cost?
You can use a regular KOHO card, and the companion app, for free. If you want to upgrade to KOHO Premium, it’ll cost you $9 a month, or $84 a year (a $24 saving over paying monthly).
Final word: What’s my KOHO review?
If you’re looking to try a prepaid card, KOHO is a great option if you want help saving up for your goals or managing your budget. Getting started is as easy as installing the app and following the prompts, and then waiting for your card to show up in the mail.
KOHO Prepaid Mastercard
A great prepaid card for everyday use
KOHO is a fantastic prepaid Mastercard for anyone who wants access to cashback on every purchase, excellent savings features to help you save more without noticing it, and a great in-app experience.