STACK Review: Should You Use It?

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 originally tried it out for a month to deliver a full STACK review.

For my original review in the summer of 2019, I 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.

Based on those experiences, I initially wrote a decent review. STACK wasn’t my favourite prepaid card, and I wasn’t the right audience to use it full time, but it was fine and seemed to work well. At the time, I was comfortable being an affiliate for them.

However, that changed this past week. I logged into my STACK account, to check my remaining balance, and saw that a savings goal I had previously set up to test the app had disappeared—including the balance that had been in the goal.

There was no note, or indication that the money had been put back into my balance, and I noticed this on the weekend—when no one was available to offer support.

When I did hear back from STACK, the support process was cumbersome, and when I asked how to remove money, they directed me to an ATM—which would only let me remove money in increments of $20.

I am so disturbed that a financial app would have had a known issue of savings disappearing from my view in the app—even if they were still there—and not considered it a critical issue by notifying me in some way. I closed my account in that same interaction, and will not be recommending STACK going forward. I have a lot of trust in financial tech tools, but as I learned this week, that trust is easily broken, and I no longer have it with STACK.

NOTE: I am no longer an affiliate for STACK, because I do not recommend them. I will not earn any money if you click through and sign up through the links on this page.

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 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 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 card is designed to be a fit for some specific use cases.

If you’re going to travel, or you travel frequently. STACK’s big 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. 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 does that.

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 right now.

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. 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.

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 is a fix I found after contacting support. 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 quickly. 

Payroll direct load is good if you want STACK to become your default card, but since it is not CDIC insured I don’t recommend making it your core money management tool.

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 an 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 rare to find a card that offers no foreign exchange fees for free, although the upcoming Wealthsimple Cash cards are offering that (not yet launched). That also makes it an option 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 KOHO 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?

Outside of the fact that their in-app experience has lost my trust by completely deleting a savings goal without notice, I find their positioning of a cashback program disingenuous. It’s primarily a discounts program, and not a flat rate cashback program like you might expect from other cards that use the term cashback. That doesn’t mean some people won’t find it 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, and I disagree with their choice to term it cashback when that’s a commonly-used and understood term in the credit card industry. 

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. 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.

At the highest level, STACK does work well for travel and cross-border online shopping because they offer no foreign exchange fees as a free service. KOHO offers really great everyday cashback and savings features, so it makes for a great card for everyday use—and if you’re spending more than a few hundred dollars in foreign currencies every month, you’ll likely earn more than their $9 a month fee in true cashback.

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 fine 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. 

All that said, I still no longer recommend them because I no longer trust them with my money.

STACK Prepaid Mastercard Review
  • Fees
  • Savings Features
  • Rewards
  • App Experience
  • Flexibility
3.4

A prepaid card designed for travellers

STACK is a prepaid credit card that offers no foreign exchange fees.

Pros

No foreign exchange fees, and an app to help you stay on track with your spending.

Cons

In-app experience with glitches that make it difficult to trust.