KOHO is to Canada what N26 and Bunq are to Europe. A modern, independent, nearly fee-free mobile-only bank. In this article, I review KOHO and share my experience using it.
Canada has a decent number of very stable banks and credit unions. Most of their products are very expensive, however, and few are suitable for long-term travellers. KOHO is the first “real” challenger bank to come to market and the most suited to our lifestyle, in my opinion. See my Canadian banking guide for other options.
The KOHO account comes in two flavours, free and premium. Both include a MasterCard debit card, unlimited Interac and K2K transfers (KOHO2KOHO), free global ATM withdrawals, add-on savings accounts, virtual cards and bill payments. The free account offers a 0.5% cashback (for all purchases) but there is a 1.5% forex fee for transactions in any currency other than the Canadian dollar. The premium account offers a 2% cashback for purchases in the food, drinks, groceries and transportation categories and the same 0.5% cashback as the free account for all other purchases. Most importantly, the premium account has no forex fee.
As its name implies, the free account is free while the premium account costs 9 CAD monthly or 84 CAD annually.
Opening an account takes only a few minutes and for most users, it will only involve a credit soft pull. If you have no Canadian credit history, you will be required to upload two digital documents bearing your name and address (bank statement, credit card statement, CRA statement etc). Do note that you must sign up using the KOHO app, available in all major app stores.
You can start using your account as soon as it is approved by adding your virtual card to Apple / Google / Samsung Pay. The physical debit card takes 1-2 weeks to be delivered.
Deposits are held at CDIC-insured People’s Trust, the same Vancouver-based trust company that powers Stack and a number of other fintech. I would not recommend holding all your savings with KOHO but for day-to-day amounts, the risk is very small.
My experience with KOHO
While I am Canadian, I have been living overseas for many years and up until recently did not use Canadian bank accounts frequently. That changed in 2018 when I set up a number of companies in Ontario.
I have been using my KOHO account for a while now and I am happy to report that my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. For sure there have been a few issues and frustrations but as with all fintech, you need to go in with the right mindset and a degree of patience. In the end, the product you get more than makes up for those issues and frustrations.
Do note that the debit card from KOHO (and Stack) does not work in all countries. For security reasons, transactions in high-risk countries are blocked.