When you’re looking at prepaid credit cards in Canada, you’re likely deciding between KOHO and STACK. They’re the two leaders in the Canadian prepaid card space, and they both come with apps and extra perks to help you manage your spending and save more money.
But if you compare just their websites, they seem pretty similar to the average person.
To help you figure out whether KOHO or STACK is the best prepaid card for you, I have had accounts with both for the better part of a year, and I have been using KOHO for even longer as part of my personal financial management kit.
So let’s dig into what differentiates these two options for a prepaid credit card.
NOTE: You can also check out my full STACK review and KOHO review to get more information on each and how they work. Also, if you do sign up using my referral code for KOHO, you’ll get perks, and I’ll get a small commission at no cost to you. Based on my experiences with STACK, I am no longer an affiliate for them and will not earn anything if you choose to sign up with them through these posts.
KOHO vs. STACK is VISA vs. Mastercard
First and foremost, one of the easiest ways to differentiate between KOHO and STACK is that KOHO is a Visa prepaid card, and STACK is a Mastercard prepaid card. Generally speaking, it’s rare to find a store that doesn’t accept both VISA and Mastercard, but if you know there’s a store you frequent that only accepts one or the other, that should be a big part of your decision.
Two examples that came up when I asked people for questions about comparing KOHO and STACK was whether they worked at Costco and No Frills, both of which universally accept Mastercard but often don’t take VISA.
Can I use KOHO or STACK in Quebec?
KOHO is now available to Quebec residents, although they are still in the process of translating the app experience. You can use the app in English for now, and get support in French.
STACK is not available in Quebec at this time.
Do KOHO and STACK offer cash back?
KOHO offers a flat cash-back rate of 0.5%, the same as you might expect from a credit card on all purchases, and you can earn extra cash back for referring your friends to KOHO. They also do have a rewards section similar to STACK’s, where you can get deals on products, but they have a more narrow range of offers that are a bit more focused on building your overall financial health—and again, it’s on top of their flat-rate cash back on every purchase. Plus, with the new KOHO Save feature, you’ll earn 1.2% interest on anything in your KOHO account — including your cash back rewards.
Bonus: Earn an extra 1% cashback for your first 90 days on KOHO by signing up with code HALFBANKED.
STACK does not offer what most people think of as a traditional cash-back program. They call their rewards cash back, but they offer a network of different rewards—instead of on every purchase in a category, the way you’d expect of a cash-back program. They advertise it as “instant cash back,” but it directs you to their rewards program, which offers two types of rewards: a percentage off your order, or cash back. If it’s a percentage off your order, you’ll see the discount when you go to pay. If it’s a dollar-based reward, like $1 for every $10 you spend, that’s when you’ll see cash back applied to your STACK card.
To understand which program is best, you also need to consider how much you’re actually going to spend on the card. If you spend $1,000 a month on your KOHO card, 1.5% cash back is $15, which is what you’ll earn with the extra 1% cash back for 90 days when you sign up with my code. If you sign up for KOHO Premium with code HALFBANKED, you’ll earn 3% for the first 90 days—which gives you $30 per $1,000 you spend.
So one or two deals you can use through STACK to save money might be the best fit for you in terms of total rewards, if you find deals that fit with what you want to buy anyways. Just because it’s not actually “cashback” doesn’t mean it’s not a solid reward—it just depends on your situation and your purchase preferences.
KOHO also offers a selection of partner offers with different rewards, but their selection is more limited. I love that they’ve focused more on rewards and offers that will help you level up your financial life, like a Wealthsimple Save account and discounts on Willful wills.
How do I put money onto my KOHO or STACK card?
Both KOHO and STACK will let you load money onto your card using Interac e-Transfer, direct deposit from your payroll, or by linking your main bank account.
STACK offers two additional ways to add money to your card. You can load cash onto your card at participating retail locations, including Canada Post and Shell gas stations, but you’ll need to load at least $200 at a time, and a maximum of $500 at most locations—although you can load up to $3000 in cash at the post office.
How does KOHO or STACK help me save money?
STACK’s saving feature is very simple. They offer a roundup savings program, and you can choose to roundup every purchase to the nearest $1, $2, $5 or $10. The roundup amount is put aside towards a savings goal you can set in the app. You can have one savings goal at a time.
KOHO offers more flexible savings options. You can set multiple savings goals at a time, or stick to one—it’s your call. When you set a goal, you choose a savings amount, and a timeline for your goal. You can start the goal from $0, or add funds from your spendable money to kick-start it. Then, based on how much you have left to save and the time you have left to save it, KOHO will move over small amounts from your spendable every day to make sure you have the money available when you need it.
On top of that, you can also use a customizable roundup feature to help stack up a bit more cash to save for your goal. Whenever you want to, you can redeem your roundup savings into the goal of your choice. Each goal will let you customize whether extra contributions will move up your savings timeline, or reduce the amount you need to save to hit your original goal.
But if you want to watch your savings grow on their own, look out for the new KOHO Save feature. You’ll earn 1.2% interest on your entire balance (including your cash-back rewards), which is 24 times more than you’d earn with a traditional savings account at one of the big banks. It’s basically like combining your pre-paid card with a high-interest savings account, and it’s totally free as long as your KOHO account is set up for direct deposits.
Can I load cash onto my STACK or KOHO card?
STACK allows you to add cash to your card at many retail locations, including Canada Post. You’ll need to load a minimum of $200 at a time, and the maximum amount varies by location.
KOHO has no current features to load cash directly onto your card.
How much do STACK and KOHO cost?
Both STACK and KOHO pitch themselves as low-cost alternatives to a traditional bank or credit card. STACK is a free card, and all of its features are included in the free tier. What you see is what you get.
While KOHO has a full free option that includes the new KOHO Save feature, it also offers KOHO Premium if you want to upgrade your card. For $9 a month, or $84 a year, you get access to more features, like no foreign exchange fee (which is free on STACK), help with price comparison shopping, and 2% cash back on groceries, dining, and entertainment.
My experience travelling with KOHO Premium is that if you’re spending a few hundred dollars or more in the additional cashback rewards program (ahem, like dining out on vacation) you’ll actually be better off paying for KOHO Premium than going with STACK, because you’ll earn far more than the $9 monthly fee in rewards you can use instantly. Read more about my experience travelling with KOHO Premium.
Does KOHO or STACK offer joint accounts?
If you want to share finances with someone—whether that’s your partner or a roommate who you want to split some groceries with—you might be wondering about joint accounts.
KOHO offers a true joint account, so you can each put money into an account and both people can spend from that account using their cards. You can also do free KOHO-to-KOHO transfers with anyone else who has an account if you’re not ready to dive into a full joint account—but when you are, the option is there.
STACK does not offer joint accounts, but they make it easy to split any bill with anyone who also has a STACK card. Every purchase has a built-in “Split the bill” button, and it even shows up in the notification for the purchase, so this is a regular use case for STACK users.
What are the signup bonuses?
Both STACK and KOHO offer bonuses when you start using their cards. I am no longer an affiliate with STACK, so there are no rewards through links in this post. Some affiliate links might offer a $5 bonus.
KOHO’s signup bonus and process is a bit different. When you sign up using the code HALFBANKED, you’ll get an extra 1% cash back for your first three months of spending. You’ll be able to cash out those rewards at any point, as soon as you earn them, so if you’ve got more than $500 to spend over the next few months, you’ll earn more in cash back than you would with the $5 bonus from STACK.
Is KOHO or STACK right for you?
If all of these feature breakdowns still have you scratching your head, here’s my review of which prepaid card is right for the two main use cases you might be considering.
If you want a great card to help manage your everyday, routine spending, and you’d like to earn cash back on every purchase (and interest on every dollar in your account), I recommend using KOHO. It offers more robust savings functionality, 0.5% cash back on all purchases (and 1.5% for the first 90 days with code HALFBANKED!), 1.2% interest on your entire balance, and the app is more focused on helping you optimize spending you want to be doing on a regular basis. I still personally use, love, and most importantly trust KOHO.
If you travel a lot, spend frequently with companies who participate in the rewards program, or have a lot of friends who already use it, STACK might be a better fit, but I no longer recommend it after a poor experience with them losing my savings goal in the app. No foreign exchange fees without paying an annual fee is unique to them, and they make it dead-simple to split the bill with other STACK users—but they don’t offer a flat rate of cashback, so if you’re mostly spending locally, the perks aren’t as useful.
That means that for me, my KOHO card is the one that will be staying in my wallet long-term, since travel isn’t as big of a concern for me, and I mostly use my card on day-to-day purchases in my regular currency.
But if you take away anything from this post, or this blog in general, it’s that personal finance is personal. Perks and features on any financial product have to make sense for your life and how you want to use them!