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 tested them both for at least a month. Full disclosure, I used KOHO for over a year before writing this, but fully switched to STACK for a month to give it a true test drive and make the best, most informed recommendations I could.
So let’s dig into what differentiates these two great 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 codes or links for either KOHO or STACK, you’ll get perks, and I’ll get a small commission at no cost to you.
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 cashback?
KOHO offers a flat cash-back rate, the same way you’d 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 cashback on every purchase.
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 cashback program. Instead, they offer a network of different rewards, but not on every purchase. They advertise it as “instant cashback,” but it directs you to their rewards program, which offers two types of rewards: a percentage off your order, or cashback. 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 cashback applied to your STACK card.
But here’s the thing: 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 $1000 a month on your prepaid card, 0.5% cash back is $5. 2% cash back on the same amount is $20.
So one or two deals you can use through STACK to save money might actually be the best fit for you in terms of total rewards. 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 (but I do 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.
However, if you’re into lowering your bank fees, you might use Tangerine for your day to day banking, like I do—which works much better with a specific situation on KOHO than it does on STACK.
Related: Read my full Tangerine review to understand why I think it’s the best online bank in Canada.
If you choose to load your card using an Interac e-Transfer from Tangerine, like I do, you’ll be charged $1 for each transfer. KOHO will reimburse you that fee if you add a note to your transfer, but STACK won’t, so you’ll need to pay $1 every time you load your card or find a different way to add money. Since e-Transfers are my preferred (and most flexible) way to add money, that’s a big factor for me.
How does KOHO or STACK help me save money?
STACK’s saving feature is very straightforward. 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.
Personally, I like that KOHO’s focus is on saving sustainably, and it’s not entirely tied to making purchases and relying on roundups.
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, they also offer 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% cashback on groceries, dining, and entertainment.
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. If you sign up for STACK using this link, you’ll get $25 added to your account as soon as you activate your card, which is an awesome perk. I can confirm it really does hit your account as soon as you do it, like magic.
KOHO’s signup bonus and process is a bit different. When you sign up using 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 $2,000 to spend over the next few months, you’ll earn more in cashback than you would with the $25 bonus from STACK.
However, I don’t necessarily think signup bonuses should be your top concern when choosing a card—but they don’t hurt!
Is KOHO or STACK right for you?
If all of these feature breakdowns still has 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 cashback on every purchase, I recommend using KOHO. It offers more robust savings functionality, 0.5% cashback on all purchases, and the app is more focused on helping you optimize spending you want to be doing on a regular basis.
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, I recommend using STACK. 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!