Best Travel Credit Card: Stack Mastercard + Koho Visa Card

When planning my trip to Europe, I wanted to save on financial transaction costs and get a fair conversion rate on exchanging into Euro’s and Swiss Franc.  When I did my research for which credit cards are the best for travel, the Stack Mastercard came up in the results.  I poked around some more and found another card called the KOHO Visa Card.  Both had an app, so I signed up for the two free cards.  My Daughter also signed up for them to use for all our purchases on our trip.

 

Here is the information on both cards below. (open to view)

STACK Mastercard

The STACK Mastercard is relatively new to Canadians, but let me assure you, it’s one of the best cards to enter the market in the last few years. First off, the STACK Mastercard is not a credit card, it’s actually a prepaid Mastercard. You load your funds via Interact E-Transfer that gets loaded automatically within a couple of minutes.  You can have your payroll department push part of your pay to it and use can use it to track disposable income of how you spend your money if you want to split your savings and use it to fund a goal like a trip.  It was launched in Canada by a Toronto Financial Tech company and it has a partnership with People’s Trust that has close to 7 billion of assets under management.  You can connect it to Apple/Samsung pay.  For some reoccurring payments via Paypal, Apple, Spotify, etc you can connect it to stack so you will never get a NSF fee if any transaction is not funded.

What makes the STACK card really appealing is that it has no foreign transaction fees. To simply put it, there is no cheaper way to get cash in a foreign country using an ATM or paying for things and using it for all of your spending.  You save the 2.5% foreign transaction fee.  

STACK Mastercard benefits

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No ATM fees (ATM provider may charge a fee)
  • Discounts at a variety of merchants.  140 of them currently.
  • Spend in over 150+ local currencies with worldwide acceptability of Mastercard and Zero Liability Protection.
  • Free Stack to Stack Transfers
  • Virtual Card so you can spend without plastic.  Use the app to freeze the card at anytime.
  • Use stack for virtual pay (Apple, Fitbit, Samsung) and pay with your device.
  • Free replacement card
  • Canadian banking details for Payroll deposit
  • Access to exclusive experiences
  • Real-time notifications, balance updates after transactions or auto loading of funds via app.
  • Spending analysis
  • $5 free when you sign up with my referral link
  • Won’t hurt your credit score (or help it either)

At first glance, the STACK Mastercard doesn’t come with a lot of benefits, but that’s because you’re probably comparing it to regular credit cards. As mentioned, the STACK card is not a credit card, it’s a prepaid option that lets you manage your money better.

If you sign up to STACK with this mobile referral link, you’ll get $5 when you activate your card. This offer is $5 more than the standard referral of $20 which a great incentive to get you started. Note that you must click this link via your mobile device for it to work.

What’s also interesting about the STACK Mastercard is how it encourages you to save. With every purchase, you can round up to the next $1, $2, $5 or $10 and put it towards your savings goals. Within the app, you’ll see your weekly spending habits so you’ll know where your money is going. STACK basically wants you to own your weekly spending, so you won’t have any issues mastering your monthly or annual budget.

(Above you can see I was credited $2 and $1 for a purchase at Starbucks and McDonalds)

As for the rewards, the STACK card doesn’t use a cash back system as many other credit cards do. Instead, they offer curated rewards which are often more valuable. For example, one of the early rewards was a yearly membership to Amazon Prime which has a value of $79. I also saw a promotion with Foodora where you would get $15 off your first purchase, that could be a 20%, 30%, or even 50% return depending on what you ordered.

 

How the STACK Mastercard compares to others

STACK is pretty unique so there aren’t many comparables. As mentioned, you could use your regular debit card, but you would be hit with that 2.5%-3.5% foreign ATM fee and possibly additional ATM fees.

You could compare the STACK card to say the CIBC AC Conversion Card. That card allows you to load funds in 10 different currencies. The rates are competitive, but CIBC still adds a bit of markup. With any non-supported currency, the usual 2.5% fee would apply. CIBC also charges $3.50 – $5 per withdrawal, so even this card adds a lot of fees over time.

HOW TO OPEN A STACK ACCOUNT

Opening a new STACK account is easy…it took me only about 3 minutes total.

You will need your phone to download the STACK app and create an account after entering your basic personal details.

After you receive your card in the mail, you can activate it and load funds using either Interac e-Transfer, direct payroll deposit, or free STACK-to-STACK transfers. Additionally, you can choose to load cash up at a participating Canada Post or retailer with your STACK QR code.

Since the STACK Mastercard is not a credit card, you do not need a good credit score to sign up.

KOHO REVIEW

 

If you haven’t heard of KOHO, it’s a Canadian reloadable Visa card and app that gives you real-time insights on your spending while helping you reach your financial goals by automating some of your savings. This no fee card even gives you 0.5% cash-back on your purchases which is amazing since most prepaid cards give you nothing for your spending.

KOHO Benefits

  • No annual fee
  • 1% cash back bonus for 90 days with O8ZXKFJR referral code
  • Powered by the Visa network and accepted worldwide.
  • Pre-load your budget and spend with cashback with 0.5% cash-back on all purchases
  • Automated savings goals by rounding up each purchase to the nearest $1, $5, or $10 for a side goal.  Sock away spare change automatically to save for a trip.
  • no hidden fees for e-transfer, nsf or monthly fees.
  • lock your card in app.
  • Use KOHO to pay bills, send free e-transfers, pay your credit card bill.
  • Real-time spending insights, transactions & more on mobile app.  Balance updates after each purchase.
  • Partnered with Federally regulated bank to hold your funds and have it backed up.
  • Offers a joint spending account, besides the regular free individual account.
  • Canadian banking details so payroll department can set up payroll deposit.
  • ApplePay compatible

KOHO is a reloadable Visa card so it can be used wherever Visa is accepted. You won’t improve your credit score by using KOHO, but you’ll only spend money that you have available.

There are a limited amount of benefits that come with this no fee card, but that’s not a bad thing since the idea here is to help you understand your spending. That being said, you’ll earn 0.5% in “power up” cash-back on all purchases you make which is impressive since this isn’t a credit card.

Every purchase you make can be rounded up to the nearest $1, $5, or $10. This microsavings is then applied to your savings goal e.g. concert tickets, a new tv, a vacation etc. The idea is that you won’t notice this small transaction, but they’ll add up pretty quickly. You can set up as many savings goals as you want with an amount and KOHO will estimate how long it’ll take you to reach those goals. It’s basically teaching you delayed gratification.

How KOHO works

With KOHO, you get a physical card that comes with a chip and PIN so your information stays secure. The Peoples Trust Company is partnered with KOHO so know that your funds are being securely held.

To load funds onto your KOHO card, all you need to do is send an e-transfer or link your bank account to your card. Your money will show up and be ready for use shortly after. Since you can only spend what you have, you never need to worry about going into overdraft.

What makes KOHO interesting is that it acts like savings account which tracks your spending. With the app (available on the App Store and GooglePlay), you’ll get instant notifications about your purchases and what categories you’re spending your money on. What’s interesting is that you can create custom spending categories so you know exactly what you’ve spent money on.

You’ll even get tips on spending your spending patterns relative to other KOHO users. For example, you may get a tip saying that coffee at McDonald’s is cheaper than Starbucks or a cable plan will cost you less with Rogers compared to say Bell. Those are just random examples to give you an idea of what kind of tips you’d get.

As you continue to use KOHO, you’ll get data on your spending patterns. It’ll show you your average spending for the day or week is. If the app sees that you’re spending above average, you’ll be alerted which will hopefully encourage you to spend less.

 

STACK vs. KOHO

Accounts fees

Both KOHO and STACK have no account fees and no minimum balance requirement. You also get unlimited e-transfers with both prepaid credit cards.

STACK uses the Mastercard network and has no foreign exchange fees and no ATM withdrawal fees. KOHO uses the Visa network and charges 1.5% for any purchases made in a foreign currency. That said, if you upgrade to KOHO Premium which costs $84 a year, you get no foreign transaction fees and some additional benefits.

Both cards don’t charge any fees for using an ATM, however, the ATM provider may charge you a one-time fee to access cash from their machines.

Winner: When it comes to fees, STACK Mastercard comes out on top since they don’t charge any foreign exchange fees. This feature alone makes STACK one of the cheapest ways to get foreign currency when travelling.

Rewards earned

With KOHO, you earn 0.5% cash-back on all your purchases. This is amazing since you’re earning rewards even though KOHO isn’t actually a credit card. KOHO also has a few offers from time to time.

STACK doesn’t offer cash-back, instead, they focus more on perks and offers. Some recent offers include a free Spotify membership, $1 off $10 at Esso, $150 off Contiki trips, and $2 off purchases of $25 or more at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Winner: STACK technically comes out on top since their offers are worth significantly more than 0.5% but that only applies if you can take advantage of the offers. Some people may prefer the straight 0.5% that KOHO offers.

 

Security

Both STACK and KOHO are partnered with Peoples Trust where your funds are held. Peoples Trust is a regulated financial institution with $7B in assets so that gives you an extra layer of security but technically speaking, both KOHO and STACK aren’t covered by CDIC.

STACK cardholders would have access to Mastercard’s zero liability coverage which protects you from unauthorized purchases while KOHO has Visa’s zero liability as a standard benefit.

Winner: It’s even

Final thoughts

There’s really no clear winner since both cards are similar. I would say for traveling… go with STACK since it offers no foreign exchange fees with some useful rewards, but STACK and KOHO are prepaid cards and aimed at people who want to manage their money better while earning some rewards.  Great for someone that does not have a credit card that needs to purchase plane tickets and also don’t want your spending going out of control with using credit and wracking up a balance.  I saved close to $100 on my trip with not paying foreign transaction fees.

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