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KOHO Review 2023

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Are you tired of paying steep banking fees while earning a meagre interest rate on your savings? Or maybe you’d like to collect rewards points from your everyday spending without relying on a credit card. If so, consider opening a bank account with KOHO.

But what is KOHO, exactly? And how do its services stand up to banking giants like RBC, TD, and BMO? KOHO offers a reloadable prepaid Mastercard that makes day-to-day banking both affordable and financially rewarding.

In this article, we’ll explore what KOHO has to offer and whether it’s worth signing up for their products.

What is KOHO?

KOHO is a Canadian fin-tech company founded in 2014 in Vancouver. While technically not a bank, KOHO offers banking services through its prepaid Mastercard, which functions as a spending and savings account. KOHO maintains a partnership with People’s Trust, which is a federally regulated banking institution that holds the money its customers deposit into their KOHO bank accounts.

Now, a prepaid card isn’t the same as a credit card. Instead of spending borrowed money, you load a prepaid card with your own money before you can use it. As a result, your spending is limited by how much you have loaded in your account at any given time.

KOHO’s prepaid Mastercard service combines the earn rate of a high-interest savings account, the spending power of a no-fee chequing account, and a credit card rewards program. So, it offers a way to help you escape hefty bank fees, boost the returns on your balance, and earn some extra cash from your day-to-day spending.

The KOHO card also offers a variety of other features. These include an app to track your spending, a virtual card to streamline online shopping, round-up savings options, and compatibility with mobile wallets.

As KOHO is partnered with Mastercard, you can use your KOHO card to make purchases anywhere that Mastercard is accepted.

Overview of KOHO features

Cash back partners

KOHO’s cash back rewards program operates on a tiered model, meaning earn rates differ based on the spending category a purchase falls under.

The most lucrative spending category is KOHO’s partner brands. By charging a purchase at one of these merchants to your KOHO card, you’ll earn up to 5% cash back. And this rate is on top of your card’s regular earn rates (which range between 0.25% and 2%, depending on which KOHO account you have). That means you could collect up to 7% cash back with a single purchase.

Here’s a list of some of KOHO’s retail partners and the extra cash back you’ll earn on qualified purchases:

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  • Altitude: 4%
  • Contiki: 5%
  • Baskin Robbins: 5%
  • Branch Furniture: 2%
  • IQ Food Co.: 2%
  • Natura Market: 2%
  • Open Farm: 4%
  • Pizza 73: 3%
  • The Last Hunt: 2%
  • Well.ca: 1.5%


What is KOHO offering in the way of interest?

With a KOHO account, you’ll earn interest of between 0.5% and 4% of your entire balance, depending on which subscription plan you choose. These rates easily eclipse what regular chequing accounts offer and are comparable to savings accounts from top-tier Canadian online banks like EQ Bank and Tangerine.

Interest on your balance accrues daily the moment you deposit funds in your KOHO account, and your earnings are paid monthly.

Credit building

If you’re looking to repair or establish your credit, spending and saving money using your KOHO Mastercard won’t do you any good, since it’s a prepaid card. However, to fill this gap, KOHO offers the Credit Building program.

When you enrol, you have two ways to build up a positive credit history:

  1. Credit building. This option will allow you to open a line of credit with KOHO and make timely payments based on an amount suitable for your budget. KOHO will report each payment to Equifax, one of Canada’s two credit bureaus. You could see a considerable improvement in your credit score in as little as a few months.
  2. Flexible credit building. Instead of taking out a line of credit, you can set aside a lump sum of your own money (anywhere from $30 to $500) to function as a secured loan. You can withdraw the funds as needed and repay the amount at the end of the month. Each on-time payment will contribute positively to your credit score.

KOHO allows you to choose both options simultaneously, so you can double your credit-boosting power.

The KOHO Credit Building program costs between $5 and $10 per month, depending on which account you use. As a bonus, you get access to complimentary financial coaching from KOHO’s in-house accredited financial counsellor.

Interest-free overdraft protection

For those who occasionally find themselves short on cash, KOHO offers Cover, an overdraft protection feature for $5 a month.

By signing up for this service, you’ll receive access to a $50 overdraft limit. If you consistently repay the borrowed funds on time, that limit will gradually increase, up to a maximum of $250. And unlike the overdraft protection you get with a regular bank account, which accumulates interest, your overdraft coverage with KOHO is entirely interest-free.

However, you cannot access Cover simply by requesting it — you have to unlock this feature first. Keeping your account active and using KOHO’s other services will increase your chances of becoming eligible. You can do things like:

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  • Set up direct deposit
  • Use your card for daily spending
  • Pay bills through your account
  • Enrol in the Credit Building Program
  • Upgrade your account to the Extra plan

Once you qualify for Cover, you’ll receive an invite from KOHO

Referral program

KOHO will pay you a $20 referral fee for inviting a friend to create a KOHO account, and your friend will earn a $20 fee themselves once their application is approved.

The process is straightforward: Log into your account and locate your referral code under the Perks Tab. Then, share this code with your friend so that they can enter it during registration. Once your friend’s KOHO account is up and running, they have to make a purchase within 30 days for the two of you to collect the $20 reward.

Digital and physical card

KOHO cards come in digital and virtual versions. Once KOHO approves your account, you’ll have instant access to the virtual card through the KOHO app (click the card icon in the top right-hand corner of the home screen).

Like many digital spending cards, the KOHO virtual Mastercard has solid security features to protect your financial details from thieves. For example, it generates a unique card number each time you conduct a transaction.

To streamline payments and add an extra layer of security, you can add your KOHO virtual card to Google Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay.

The physical version of KOHO’s card, which you’ll receive in the mail once you’ve set up the account, is ideal for in-store purchases.

KOHO app

The KOHO app allows you to manage your financial activities and customize your account features. Here are some other things you can do through the app:

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  • Check your balance.
  • View your transactions.
  • Transfer funds to another account.
  • Set up automatic bill payments.
  • Access free financial coaching.
  • Lock your card should it get stolen or misplaced.
  • Track your cash back earnings.
  • Set up a budget.
  • Activate KOHO’s RoundUps feature, which instantly bumps your purchases to the nearest $1, $2, $5, or $10, depositing the excess amount directly into your savings account.

KOHO reloadable Mastercard plans

There are four different KOHO prepaid Mastercard accounts to choose from. Here’s an overview of what perks and features you can expect from each plan.


The KOHO Easy account is a basic, no-frills, prepaid account. It’s perfect for frugal spenders, as there’s no annual fee to pay, nor are there any monthly maintenance fees, NSF fees, ATM fees, or transfer fees.

A foreign exchange fee of 1.5% applies to international transactions, but this is still better than most credit cards, which generally charge 2.5%. The maximum daily outbound e-Transfer limit is $3,000.

You earn 0.5% interest on the money in your account. Under KOHO’s rewards program, you earn 1% cash back on grocery and transportation purchases and up to 5% from KOHO-affiliated merchants.

KOHO Essential

KOHO Essential offers the same benefits as the Easy account but kicks things up a notch.

You earn 1.5% on your entire balance and garner extra savings on your spending through cash back. In addition to the 1% rate on groceries and transportation and 5% rate at select merchants, you collect 0.25% on all other purchases.

The Essential account comes with a $4 monthly fee, which is still far more affordable than most chequing accounts that charge a fee.

KOHO Extra

The KOHO Extra account has a $9 monthly fee. Still, the higher price tag could be worth it if you’re a heavy spender.

The cash back rate on grocery, dining, and transportation purchases is 2% and 0.5% on everything else. The account pays a 2% interest rate on your idle funds.

As a bonus, KOHO waives all foreign currency conversion fees under this plan — an attractive perk if you’re an avid traveller.

KOHO Everything

The Everything account is KOHO’s most lavish prepaid Mastercard plan.

If you’re up for paying a $19 per month fee, you’ll collect 2% cash back on your grocery, dining, and transportation purchases and 0.5% cash back on all other payments. There are no foreign transaction costs to worry about and you earn 4% interest rate on your entire balance.

How to make an account with KOHO

You can sign up for a KOHO account online. First, you’ll provide an email address and choose a password. Then you have to provide some personal details, including your full name, address, and phone number. You’ll also need to upload a valid form of identification, like a driver’s licence or passport, so that KOHO can verify your identity.

Next, you’ll get to select from one of four colour schemes for your card and agree to KOHO’s terms of service.

Once your account is registered, you can use the virtual card immediately. That includes making online purchases at any merchant that accepts Mastercard. To access your virtual card, log in to the KOHO app and click the card image in the top right-hand corner. You can also add the KOHO virtual prepaid card to your digital wallet.

To get a physical card, click the card icon on KOHO’s home page, select “Get a Card,” and follow the instructions to place an order. Your card will arrive in the mail in about 10 days.

If you require assistance with your account, you can contact KOHO customer service 24/7 via phone, email, or the app.

How does KOHO make money?

As an online company, KOHO has fewer overhead costs than traditional brick-and-mortar banks. As a result, it can afford to charge lower rates (or in some cases, no rates at all) for its services.

KOHO primarily generates income from the monthly account fees for its Extra account subscriptions. It also collects an interchange fee each time customers conduct a purchase using their prepaid Mastercard. This fee is paid by the merchant, not you.

Is KOHO safe?

While KOHO operates entirely online and doesn’t have any physical branches, you can access and monitor your funds using the KOHO app or website.

KOHO works in partnership with Peoples Trust, a Canadian trust insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). The Peoples Trust holds finances on behalf of KOHO, meaning that your money is safe in the unlikely event that KOHO goes out of business. Despite not holding customers’ funds directly, because KOHO is partnered with a CDIC-insured institution, up to $100,000 of your money is insured.

Pros and cons of using KOHO


  • Four different subscriptions plans to choose from

  • Earn up to 5% cash back on purchases from select merchants

  • No transaction fees (except for foreign transaction fees on the Easy and Essential plans)

  • Earn interest on your savings account and spending account

  • Compatible with mobile wallets like Apple Pay

  • RoundUp feature accelerates your savings

  • Physical and virtual versions of the prepaid card are available

  • Access to built-in budgeting tools

  • Cash withdrawal


  • Daily spending and deposit limits

  • Low ATM withdrawal limits for Easy and Essential accounts

  • Won’t help you improve your credit score (without Credit Building program)

  • Monthly fees apply to higher-tier accounts

  • Interest earnings are fully taxable (KOHO doesn’t offer TFSAs or RRSPs)

  • Out-of-network ATM fees

Our final thoughts

KOHO is a good choice if you’re looking for a banking package that makes your money go further. Its prepaid Mastercard provides an enticing mix of zero-dollar transaction fees, a generous cash back rewards program, and a high rate of return on your balance. The built-in budgeting tools, integration with digital wallets, overdraft protection, and other features are nice touches that can help you manage your spending and make online shopping convenient.

While KOHO’s hybrid spending and savings account won’t help you repair or establish your credit score like a credit card, its affordable and flexible Credit Building Program makes up for this deficit. Another thing to remember is that KOHO isn’t a traditional financial institution, so it’s limited in its services. You’ll have to look elsewhere to open a TFSA, RRSP, or RESP, or obtain a mortgage, line of credit, or other loan. Still, KOHO’s perks and features are tough to beat if you want to get the most out of your day-to-day banking.

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