A lot of people have been asking about STACK, and how it—har dee har har—stacks up against other prepaid cards in Canada, so I tried it out for a month to deliver a full STACK review.
I put it through its paces too, and made sure to try it out for in-person, online, and even international purchases. My STACK card took me from Starbucks to a new top from Aritzia to the Chipotle in Watertown, NY (#exotic) on a trip to see family.
That last one was a big deal, and I was happy to have STACK in my wallet when we visited, because one of the biggest differentiators of STACK is that they offer no foreign exchange fees for free. However, the card is more than just that, even though it’s a pretty sweet feature, so keep reading for my full STACK review.
And as a bonus, if you sign up using the links in the post, you’ll get a $25 cash bonus as soon as you activate your card! Speaking from experience, it really does hit your card as soon as you activate it, which is amazing.
NOTE: This review is based on my own experience using STACK. The links in this post are affiliate links, so I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you if you sign up.
- What is STACK?
- Who can use STACK?
- Who should use STACK?
- How do you open a STACK Card?
- How do you put money onto a STACK Card?
- What’s the best part about STACK?
- What’s the worst part about STACK?
- Should I use STACK or KOHO?
- How much does STACK cost?
- Overall STACK review
What is STACK?
STACK is a prepaid Mastercard that you use with a companion app for iOS or Android to manage your money. You load money onto your STACK card, and then you can use the card to pay for anything in the same way you’d use a regular Mastercard.
STACK is a no-fee card, and comes with some key features that are big perks for a free card. One of the biggest ones is that they don’t charge foreign exchange fees, which is an immediate savings on any transactions in a foreign currency—most cards will charge at least 2% of each foreign transaction, which can add up on vacations or when shopping online across borders.
They also offer an automatic savings program you can customize in the app, which lets you round up every purchase on the card by a set amount and save it for a goal. You can choose to round up every purchase by $1, $2, $5 or $10, and put the money towards your goal. As an example, if you chose $2, and you bought a latte for $5.25, the total “cost” would be $7.25, and the extra $2 would go towards your savings goal.
The app does even more than that, including a way to look back and analyze your spending, and can help you stay on track with your budget by making it easy to check in and see how much you have left to spend.
Who can use STACK?
STACK is available for Canadians in all provinces with the exception of Quebec, so if you’re of the age of majority in your province elsewhere, you can sign up right now.
Who should use STACK?
Prepaid cards are a great fit for some baseline reasons. They help you stay on budget since you can’t really borrow on the app, but they still have all the same flexibility as a credit card, and they’re accepted everywhere.
That said, STACK’s particular card is the best fit for a few use cases.
If you’re going to travel, or you travel frequently. STACK’s banner perk is definitely that they don’t charge any foreign exchange fees. Many mainstream credit cards will charge 2% or more on every foreign transaction, and even KOHO, a competing prepaid card, charges 1.5% on their basic card (although their premium service, KOHO Premium, offers no foreign exchange fee for $9 a month or $84 a year). If you’re a frequent traveller for work or for pleasure, and you’re looking for a card that makes it as easy and cheap as possible to avoid foreign exchange fees, STACK is fantastic.
If you can take advantage of their reward partners. Instead of a flat cash-back rewards program, STACK offers a variety of reward programs with specific brands and merchants. You can check out the whole list on their website, but if you see a lot of offers you think would be useful, that may balance out not having cash-back or rewards on your regular spending.
If you need to load your card with cash. I think this is a truly beautiful feature that STACK has added to their card: you can load it using cash at many in-person locations. Credit cards are harder to access for many people who are underserved by the banking community, and the ability to load cash onto a credit-card-like-tool and use it as one is a great feature for many Canadians. You can’t do this on other pre-paid cards, so if you often have cash you’d like to use on a card, STACK is a great fit.
How do you open a STACK Card?
You can open an account with STACK in just a few minutes online. They’ll ask you some questions about your identity to make sure you’re you, and once you’re set up with an account they’ll get your card in the mail.
You’ll have to wait until your card arrives to set up a PIN, but once you have an account you can log into the app and start to explore. You can even load money ahead of time, and once your card is available you’re off to the races.
I do have to share that I ran into a few tricky parts when getting set up on STACK, as clear as they try to make the process. I didn’t set up my app until I was also holding my card in hand and getting it activated, which was the source of my confusion.
To activate your card, you’ll need to call in and get your initial PIN (don’t worry, it’s an automated system and you don’t have to talk to anyone!)
Once you close the app and reopen it for the first time, it’ll ask you for a PIN. Since I had just set up my card’s PIN by phone, I was surprised that I kept getting locked out of the app using the PIN I assumed was all set up.
It turns out, the PIN for the app isn’t the same as the PIN for your card, but there’s an easy fix. When you see the PIN prompt in the app, just click “Forgot PIN” and it’ll take you through setting a new one once you log in with your password.
How do you put money onto a STACK Card?
You can load money onto your STACK card by Interac e-Transfer, payroll direct load, Visa debit, or cash load.
Interac e-Transfer is the fastest option, and loaded almost instantly, but you’ll need to watch out for any fees your bank charges on e-Transfers. I use Tangerine, and since their free option is an email money transfer, not an Interac e-Transfer, I’ll need to pay $1 each time I want to use this option.
Payroll direct load is good if you want STACK to become your default card, or if you want to set up a portion of your paycheque to go to this card directly with your HR team at work (or whoever issues your paycheque).
I’ve never used Visa debit so I can’t speak to that process, and while I haven’t loaded cash, I think it’s a great option if you often have cash you’d like to use on a credit card. The one thing to watch with the cash option is that there’s a minimum and a maximum: you need to load at least $200 in cash at a time, and you can only load $500 at most locations (you can load up to $3000 cash at Canada Post).
What’s the best part about STACK?
It’s unheard of to find a card that offers no foreign exchange fees for free. If you’re travelling and want the benefits of a prepaid card and app while on the road, without paying anything to avoid foreign exchange fees, STACK is hands-down the winner for this. It’s also a winner if you spend a fair bit at online stores that charge you in USD (or another currency but let’s be real, cross-border shopping is a Big Deal in Canada).
Speaking of those benefits, I recently travelled with a prepaid card as my main method of payment, and I’d do it again for a few reasons. Knowing that I could freeze the card if I needed to with the touch of a button in the app gave me a huge amount of peace of mind, and seeing every transaction in the app as soon as it went through kept me on track with my budget without having to dig through email notifications or log in to my banking app.
What’s the worst part about STACK?
Personally, I don’t love their rewards program. It’s more discounts driven, and not a flat rate cashback program like you might expect from other cards. That said, just because it’s not right for me doesn’t mean some people won’t find it hugely valuable—it’s just not a program I see myself getting value out of, since I don’t see any discounts or deals I’d take advantage of.
I also wish their savings feature didn’t just offer roundups, and also allowed you to set a time and dollar amount and save for it regularly with small daily amounts of money—so if you had 100 days to save $50, STACK would move $0.50 over every day, and roundups could get you to the goal faster if you wanted to. As it is, saving is directly tied to purchases and there aren’t other savings mechanisms in the app.
How much does STACK cost?
STACK is free! You get access to all of their features and programs for $0 a month, and there are no upsells in the app or locked features. The only thing you’ll need to watch out for is any fees your bank charges to use Interac e-Transfers each month, if that’s how you prefer to load up your prepaid STACK Mastercard.
Should I use STACK or KOHO?
When it comes to prepaid card options in Canada, you’re likely considering using STACK or KOHO. 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, STACK does shine for travel and cross-border online shopping because they offer no foreign exchange fees as a free service. On the other hand, KOHO offers really great everyday cashback and savings features, so it makes for a great card for everyday use.
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.
Final word: What’s my STACK review?
If you’re looking to try a prepaid card, STACK is a great option if you travel fairly frequently, you shop online across borders a fair bit, or you often would like to load cash onto your card. The process of signing up is fairly straightforward, and using a prepaid card is a great tactic to manage your budget.
STACK Prepaid Mastercard Review
A great prepaid card for travellers
STACK is a fantastic way for travellers to stay on budget and save on foreign exchange fees while they travel, and the prepaid card gives you security along with the ease of use of a credit card.
No foreign exchange fees, and an app to help you stay on track with your spending.
No flat-rate cashback on every purchase.