- Automated savings and insights
- Cardless payment
- Zero monthly fees for a standard account
- A referral program
KOHO is an exciting concept that offers its customers a reloadable Visa card and an app that provides spending insights and helps you manage your finances. In this KOHO review, we take a look at several aspects of this Canadian offering. But first, here’s our short verdict:
KOHO is a great alternative to the big banks of Canada. It doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking, but no fees, cashback, budgeting tools, and distinct Visa cards are more than enough to lure in younger crowds that are adept at digital banking.
About KOHO bank
KOHO is based in Canada. It’s a fintech company that has partnered with Peoples Trust (a federally regulated company) and Visa to enable it to hold funds that are loaded onto your card. As well as these trusted partners, KOHO is also backed by investors Power Group and Portag3.
It was founded by Daniel Eberhard who is also the CEO and a group of investors. The company is based in Vancouver, Canada.
Why is KOHO so special?
KOHO was founded with the intent to disrupt the Canadian banking system by offering mobile-only banking with little to no fees. It’s looking to attract the young Canadian crowds that are used to doing everything online and aren’t keen on doing things the old way.
This independent fintech is battling big banks that have an oligopoly in the banking market of Canada. Big banks also launched their digital accounts and the market is finally heating up.
The company is distinguishing itself from other players on the market by offering its clients colorful Visa cards, a competitive interest rate, cashback, early payroll, budgeting features, and other interesting things.
Pros and cons
- Early payroll
- Budgeting tools
- A choice of different card designs
- Credit builder
- Free ATM withdrawals
- Unresponsive customer support
- Expensive metal card
- Deposits aren’t CDIC insured
- 1.5% foreign transaction fee (free account)
KOHO offers you a choice between a free account, the Premium account at $84 per year or $9 per month (with a free 30-day trial), or a free KOHO Joint account.
- No monthly fees
- 0.5% cash back
- Free Visa card
- Virtual card
KOHO Premium ($9/m or $84/y)
- No monthly fees
- 2% cash back
- Free Visa card
- Virtual card
- No fx fees
- 1 free international ATM per month
- Price matching
- Financial coaching
KOHO Joint (Free)
- No monthly fees
- 0.5% cash back
- Free Visa cards
- Virtual cards
- Shared savings goals and budgeting
Whether you opt for the entry-level KOHO account or the KOHO Premium option it will typically come down to your spending. If you spend a lot on your card, the KOHO Premium fee can work out well when considering a 2 percent cashback offer on items such as food and drink, groceries, and transport.
If you travel a lot, KOHO Premium can also be a good idea because there are no foreign transaction fees, which isn’t usual for standard credit cards. Try to calculate if you will at least break even by taking the KOHO Premium option.
As far as the KOHO Joint account goes, this can make sense for you and a partner, but that doesn’t mean only a ‘significant other’. You might also like to share a KOHO Joint account with a business partner.
How to open a KOHO account
As you might expect from one of the new generations of fintech companies, KOHO is a digital-only offering. To open an account, you head to Koho.ca, review the accounts they have on offer, and select the account you want.
Choose from four different card designs that include Sunkissed Skinny Dip, Frozen Cherry Soda, Gilded Cotton Candy, and Bluberried Caviar. Provide all the necessary details, and you can be done in five minutes.
How to add funds to the KOHO account
The options for adding funds include e-Transfers, your existing bank institution, or direct deposit via the app, using an information form before your payroll department pays directly into your KOHO account.
e-Transfer is the easiest and quickest way to get money on your KOHO account. In summary, you’ll load money onto your KOHO account by sending an e-Transfer from your existing bank account.
Here’s the step-by-step:
- In the KOHO app, you’ll see all the information you need to send an e-Transfer by tapping the $ symbol > Add funds to your account > Load via e-Transfers
- There, you’ll see a unique email address, a security question, and a security answer
- Log into your bank account on a desktop or mobile app
- Go to the “send an e-Transfer” section and add KOHO as a new contact
- Enter the unique email address, a security question, and a personalized security answer found in your KOHO app
- Press Send
KOHO.ca mobile app
The KOHO mobile app’s beauty is that it allows you to manage several aspects of your account centrally. It is also the place to take tighter control of your finances, as the app will enable you to set savings goals and take a handy overview of your purchases.
While the signup process might take longer than you expected, life gets much easier once you are on the KOHO mobile app itself.
KOHO might be seen by many as more of a current account option, rather than a place to put savings. But the ability to ‘stash’ spare change away with the RoundUps feature and use automated savings can help you build your savings as you monitor your spending.
Earn 1.2% interest on your entire account – from your savings to your spendables and everything in between. This is an annual rate, which will be calculated daily and paid out monthly to maximize your earnings that you can access at any time.
To start earning interest, you’ll have to set up a direct deposit which can be a paycheque, client invoice, government payment, and others. Once you receive your first direct deposit in your KOHO account, click ‘Earn interest’ to start earning 1.2% interest.
Opening a KOHO account won’t affect your credit score in any way – positively or negatively. But, KOHO does offer you an option to improve your credit score. For $7 per month, KOHO will report your progress to a major credit bureau that can help you improve your score in six months.
Your only task is to ensure that there’s $7 in your account to cover the subscription fee. By making these $7 payments on time your credit score should improve. You can track your progress in the app on the Credit Building page.
KOHO provides up to 5 percent cashback in some outlets. The rate for KOHO Premium is 2 percent for groceries, eating and drinking, and transportation, with 0.5 percent for standard KOHO account holders.
The 2% cash back on these three categories alone can offset your $9 per month Premium account fee.
To make it easier to budget and save some money, KOHO will categorize your spending so you can instantly see a breakdown of where your money is going. You can find this on the Spending tab, under Insights.
See exactly how much you are spending on groceries, eating and drinking, entertainment, transportation, retail, and health & life maintenance. If you notice any one of your purchases was categorized inaccurately (either on your Activity or Insights), simply click into the transaction item, tap on the category icon of that purchase, and select the correct category. Or create a new one.
Keep an eye on your budget and learn where the money is going.
If you’re always strapped for cash a few days before your payday, KOHO offers you $100 up to 3 days before your payday for free. There’s also the option to pay $5 and get the $100 at any time over the next 15 days.
The $100 will be debited automatically the day your paycheque goes into your account. To avail of this Early payroll feature, you’ll have to set up a direct deposit. To set it up:
- In-app, click the $ symbol > Set up direct deposit > and download the direct deposit void cheque. Then, ask your payroll department to have all or a portion of your paycheque go directly to your KOHO account.
- Make sure your employer is using the exact information that is on your direct deposit form. The payee name on the direct deposit must match the name on your KOHO account.
- Check that the direct deposit will be within your KOHO account’s velocity limits.
KOHO account comes with some limits. We’re only going to list the most important ones here.
- Maximum Card Balance – $20,000
- Daily Limit per transaction – $3,000
- Daily Limit – $3,000
- Monthly Limit – $30,000
- Daily Max Transactions – 15
- Daily ATM Limit – $600
- Daily Max ATM Withdrawal Limit – 5
- ATM Transaction Limit per Withdrawal – $300
- Monthly ATM Limit – $3,000
KOHO jumped on the metal card bandwagon with their limited edition Gilded Cotton Candy card. While looks are subjective, the price is not. $159 is way too much for a metal card and is a turn-off to many people that are thinking of getting a metal card.
Granted, if you refer two people to KOHO and they sign up and make a purchase within 30 days, the metal card will cost you $50. Still too expensive though especially because it doesn’t come with any additional benefits.
Find metal card alternatives in our comprehensive metal cards overview.
KOHO.ca for travel
As mentioned above, KOHO Premium holders will not be charged foreign transaction fees on their purchases and get a free international ATM withdrawal per month. With a regular KOHO card, you can still expect to save about one percent in transaction fees.
That being said, there is an extensive list of around 50 countries where your KOHO card won’t work, including some EU countries like Slovenia and Romania, but also Russia, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, India, Turkey, and others.
Who owns KOHO?
KOHO was founded in 2014 by Daniel Eberhard, Jonathan Bixby, Joshua Bixby, and Mike Benna. Its headquarters are in Toronto, Canada.
The company raised more than $113 million from 7 rounds of funding. The last corporate round brought in £70 million in March 2021.
It has 16 investors that include Drive Capital, Portag3 Ventures, TTV Capital, Greyhound Capital, National Bank of Canada, and others.
How is KOHO regulated?
KOHO is not a bank. It’s a fintech or an e-money institution. Therefore, it has partnered with the Peoples Trust – a federally regulated, CDIC-insured banking institution.
Is my money safe with KOHO?
Although the funds deposited into the KOHO account aren’t insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), your funds will be returned to you by Peoples Trust Company. That’s KOHO’s partnering bank that holds your funds. Canadian banks are, in general, the best place to keep your money when the going gets rough.
As with almost any digital bank, customer service can make or break the app. In the case of KOHO, customer service seems to be a bit slow lately. As fintech companies go through a great expansion, they trail in the number of support agents. Hopefully, KOHO will realize this quickly and hire additional workforce.
Formerly known as ING Direct, the company was acquired by Scotiabank in 2012 that rebranded to Tangerine in 2013. They have many different savings accounts, chequing accounts, investment products, and lending products.
Founded by the Meridian Credit Union, Motusbank is offering a full service that includes saving and chequing accounts, investing, loans, and mortgages. Their chequing account has no monthly fees, free access to 43,000+ ATMs in North America, and CDIC insured deposits up to $100,000.
The EQ Bank was founded in 2016 by Equitable Bank. It offers completely digital banking with many different savings accounts, international money transfers, and mortgages. There are no monthly or hidden fees and free transactions and no minimum bank account balances.
The bottom line
For those who are just starting to budget and need a little helping hand, KOHO can fit the bill. It allows you to keep your spending money separate from money, which you need for monthly outgoings such as bills, making organizing your finances that bit easier.
Most users use KOHO for the fun kind of spending while still keeping a regular bank account. But, If you’re down to have your paycheque deposited directly and you never need to write paper cheques, you can use KOHO for all your chequing account needs.
Adrian Volenik is a fintech enthusiast who loves testing and reviewing digital banking apps and financial products in general. How many digital banking accounts can one man have? Not enough, if you ask Adrian. As his wallet will soon explode if he doesn’t cut back on the number of cards.