2020 KOHO Review: Spend Less, Save More, Budget Better

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KOHO is the best budgeting and saving app available in Canada! Earn free cash back on your spending, reach your financial goals faster, and finally stick to a budget. In this KOHO review, we go through all the pros and cons of this fintech tool.

Enter the code MONEYAFTERGRAD when you sign up for KOHO and receive 1% bonus cash-back on all your purchases for 90 days! KOHO review

KOHO Review Summary

We cover everything in this KOHO review, and I mean absolutely everything. You can read it top to bottom, or just click on the topic you want to know more about.

Keep reading or jump directly to a section below:

    1. Is KOHO a debit or a credit card?
    2. How KOHO works
    3. How to get your KOHO card
    4. Setting up your KOHO card
    5. Earning cash back on all your purchases
    6. The Perks of KOHO Premium
    7. Joint Accounts for everyone!
    8. The luxurious KOHO Metal Card
    9. Downsides of KOHO
    10. How to get the most out of KOHO

It’s easy to see why KOHO is our favorite fintech app!


Is KOHO a debit card or a credit card?

KOHO is powered by Visa, but it is not a credit card. KOHO is more or less a prepaid Visa card, but I hate calling it that because it leaves out all the awesome unique features of the app.

KOHO card

KOHO essentially functions as a debit card with all the conveniences (and none of the drawbacks!) of a credit card. Unlike a credit card, you cannot spend money that you don’t have. You can only spend cash you’ve actually loaded onto your KOHO card.

Not only are you forced to plan and budget your spending, but you also have to grapple with the reality that the money eventually runs out! If you love the rewards and convenience of credit cards but don’t want to go into debt, KOHO is the perfect solution.

Are there fees? 

There are no fees for using KOHO! I know, it seems too good to be true but it’s not. Your regular KOHO account is free, your cash back is free, your perks are free.

The only fees you’ll encounter are 1) if you subscribe to KOHO Premium or 2) you use your KOHO card when traveling and have to pay normal FX fees for using it abroad.  Staying home and sticking to the basic KOHO account? No fees for you!

Then how does KOHO make money?

People ask me this ALL the time. Canadians are wary of fintech in general, so an awesome no-free, free cash-back card can raise some suspicions. It has to be too good to be true, right? It’s not.

While at first glance you may assume KOHO is a data-grab for your spending behavior, it’s actually a lot simpler than that. KOHO makes money the same way all payment cards make money: transactions.

Credit card companies charge fees of 2-3% of transactions to merchants who accept cards like Visa. This is why you’ll often see small stores accepting only cash or debit. They don’t want to pay merchant fees!

KOHO makes money on these merchant fees for every transaction where you use your KOHO card. That’s it. KOHO wants you to use your KOHO card when you spend money, so they get the merchant fees, and in exchange they provide you with a beautiful, useful app and cash-back for your trouble.

How does KOHO work?

KOHO helps manage both your spending and your saving. It functions as both a spending tracker and a bank account.

You load money onto your KOHO card by either directly depositing it from your paycheque, sending it as an e-transfer, or transferring from a linked bank account. Once your money is loaded onto your KOHO card, you can use it anywhere credit cards are accepted.

KOHO card

Your KOHO is linked to the app, which will track and categorize your spending, as well as give you cash-back and help you reach your savings goals.

How to get your KOHO card 

      1. Sign up for KOHO using the code MONEYAFTERGRAD
      2. Add money to your KOHO account via direct deposit, e-transfer or linked bank account
      3. Add your KOHO card to your digital wallet and use with Apple Pay, or wait for your KOHO card to arrive in the mail
      4. Make a purchase!

KOHO Review

That’s it! Once you start spending with your KOHO card, your purchases will be recorded and categorized in the app. You’ll start earning cash-back right away, and can work towards your savings goals!

Setting up your KOHO card

Once you’ve signed up for KOHO, you want to make the most of it. Here’s how to get started with your KOHO card. 

Add money to your KOHO Spendable

When you load your KOHO card, you’re depositing money into your Spendable. This is the money you have available to spend. There are 3 main ways to add money to your KOHO card:

      1. Direct Load (aka. Direct Deposit)
      2. eTransfer 
      3. transfer from a linked bank account

The direct load (direct deposit) function is the best way to get money on your KOHO card. By setting up direct load from your paycheque to your KOHO card, money will automatically be deposited to your card when you’re paid. I personally allocate $1,000 from each paycheque to be direct deposited to my KOHO card.

However, your employer may not allow direct deposit. If an employer doesn’t allow money to be deposited directly to KOHO, you’ll have to use the direct transfer or e-transfer features in the app. This can delay getting your money onto the card. Nevertheless, my experience with the e-transfers is they are always approved same day. They usually happen within a few hours of making the request.

Depositing funds to KOHO from a linked bank account takes a longest. They say in the app it takes 3-5 business days, and I’ve always found it takes closer to five days than three. I hate waiting for money to be loaded onto my KOHO card this way, so I strongly recommend you set up Direct Load or use the eTransfer option.

Using KOHO with Apple Pay

You’ll receive a physical KOHO card in the mail, but you can also add your KOHO card to your digital wallet and use it for Apple Pay. You’ll be able to add your KOHO card to your Apple Wallet directly from the app.

From there it’s ready to go and you can use it anywhere tap is accepted. Since adding my KOHO card to my Apple Wallet, I hardly ever carry my physical card with me. I love the convenience of having everything in my phone!

What is the virtual card for?

When KOHO added the virtual card, I didn’t understand it at first. Why did I suddenly have two KOHO cards in my app? But then about a year into using my KOHO card, I lost my physical KOHO card and had to lock it. Every automatic bill I had scheduled to that card bounced, even though there was money in my KOHO account. It was then I realized the power of the virtual card!

Your virtual KOHO card lets you access your money in your KOHO account, even when you don’t have your physical card. This makes it the best option for any online purchases or recurring bills. use my KOHO Virtual Card for regular bills like Netflix, and websites like Amazon.

Your physical KOHO card number will work for these as well, but I prefer to use the virtual card for any digital purchases and keep my physical card for physical purchases!

Earning cash-back and saving $$$

KOHO will give you cash-back on your spending, and also help you save more money. YES, you read that right: cash back even though this is not a credit card! 

KOHO Power-Ups are free money!

The biggest perk of KOHO is earning cash-back on all your spending. You’ll earn 0.5% cash-back on all your purchases with a regular KOHO card, and 2% cash-back on certain categories with KOHO premium. You can earn additional cash-back at certain retailers, which you can see listed in the app. Your cash-back will accrue as your KOHO “PowerUp”. KOHO Power UPs

KOHO Premium is $9 per month or $84 per year. It gives you plenty of perks, including the bonus 2% PowerUp rate. Whether it’s a worthwhile investment for you depends on your spending behavior. We run the numbers in our post, KOHO Premium’s Major VIP Perks, so check it out to see if it will be best for you!

You can cash out your PowerUp at any time, and opt to add it back into your spendable or put it towards a goal. I personally like to leave my PowerUp untouched until it hits ~$25, then I transfer it to a savings goal. This is completely free money, so it’s a great Debt Snowflake or extra for savings, depending on your financial goals. 

Use KOHO RoundUps to supercharge your savings

The KOHO RoundUps feature is optional, but you should definitely use it! KOHO will round up your purchases to the nearest $1, $5, or $10 and that money will accrue in your RoundUps.

Unlike PowerUps, this isn’t free cash — it’s money you’ve put onto your KOHO card allocated a different way. However, it still feels like unexpected money, because you don’t even notice it taken from your KOHO Spendable. 

KOHO RoundUps

I round all my purchases on KOHO up to the nearest $5. This is a small enough amount that I don’t notice it taken from my Spendable. But it still accrues really fast! Like the KOHO PowerUps, I like to let my KOHO RoundUPs accrue to $25, then add to a goal. 

Capturing your spending insights to change your behavior

When you spend money with your KOHO card, the KOHO app will track and categorize your purchases. This happens instantaneously! I see the KOHO alert pop up on my phone, telling me how much I spent and where as soon as I tap the card to pay for something.

KOHO Spending Activity

If KOHO has guessed wrong in assigning a purchase to a certain category, or you want to put your purchase under a different category for your own records, you can do that easily within the app.

You’re also able to add any categories to better reflect your spending behavior and your personal budget. For example, I added the category “Baby” for any purchases I make for my daughter. 

Looking at your habits

The more you use KOHO, the smarter it gets. It provides data on your average weekly and daily spending behavior. It calculates how much you usually spend in a typical week or day, and then gives you a projected average. KOHO will let you know if you’re above or below average for the week or month. You can then adjust your behavior accordingly!

KOHO Spending Behavior


Tracking my spending patterns in KOHO helps me identify patterns in my behavior, and also helps me reign it in. I try to have at least two no-spend days per week. With KOHO I can make sure I’m hitting my target.

KOHO Review: savings goals and more!

Hands-down my favorite feature of KOHO, and what really inspired this KOHO review, is the micro-savings goals. Directly in the app, you can set a savings goal and allocate a small daily, weekly, or monthly amount towards it. This can be as little as a few cents. Every day or week, it will be taken from your spendable and put towards your savings goals.

KOHO Savings Goals KOHO Savings

If you’re like me, finding an extra $500 in your budget is hard but saving $3 per day is not. I’m a huge fan of saving on a daily or weekly basis. However, this isn’t as easy to do with a regular bank account.

When you try to save daily or weekly with a traditional bank, you end up with a whole lot of transactions. Moving money from your chequing account to your savings account frequently makes it harder to read your bank statements. Since KOHO has this feature built right in, money gets moved from your spendable to your savings goals without cluttering your feed.

In 2018, I saved over $4,000 with KOHO. In 2019 I think I might double that number!

What is KOHO Premium?

KOHO Premium is the paid tier of KOHO. It provides extra benefits and perks to users for a fee of $9 per month (or $84 per year).

KOHO Premium

Features of KOHO Premium (in addition to what they get with a regular KOHO Account):

  • 2% cash-back on groceries, eating & drinking and transportation. Groceries include both small merchants and large chains. Eating & drinking includes all restaurants, food delivery, bars, coffee shops and more. Transportation includes public transportation, Uber/ Lyft, taxis, gas, highway tolls, parking and more.
  • No fee on foreign exchange transactions. The big banks charge 3% per transaction and the regular KOHO charges 1.5% (still a great deal!). However, for KOHO Premium this drops to 0%. KOHO uses Visa’s stated exchange rate with no spread for currency translation.
  • Free financial coaching. Users will get money tips and can set up sessions with a financial coach to create a budget or ask any questions they have about taxes, investing, debt and more.
  • Price-matching. Users can send in recent past receipts made online with KOHO and KOHO will search to see if they could have gotten a better deal. If so, we will credit the difference in price to their account.
  • Higher “velocity” limits, meaning that users can now take out $400 at an ATM per transaction, for a max of $800 per day. Their account balance can also be $40,000 instead of $20,000.

Is KOHO Premium worth it?

Figuring out if KOHO Premium is worth it is pretty easy. Since they’ll be giving you 2% cash-back on groceries, eating & drinking, and transportation, you just have to determine if you spend enough in those categories to justify subscribing to KOHO Premium. Since KOHO Premium offers you 2% cashback, so all you need to do is determine how much you need to spend to breakeven on the fee. Since the bonus is 1.5% higher than the regular 0.5% offered by KOHO, that’s the number we’ll use. 
Calculation: $9 monthly fee / 0.015 bonus cash-back = $600 (if you pay annually this drops to $467!)
If you spend more than $470 to $600 on food and transportation on your KOHO card, it’s worth it to pay for Premium and start earning more cashback. It’s also worth noting that when you sign up for KOHO with my code MONEYAFTERGRAD, you’ll earn a bonus cashback for 90 days. That means with Premium you’ll get 3% cashback on everything. Every single category of spending. 

KOHO Joint Accounts for anyone

One of the more unique perks of KOHO is you can have a joint account with anyone, not necessarily a romantic partner!

If there’s anyone you share expenses or financial goals with, be it a roommate, sibling, or a friend, a KOHO Joint Account is one of the best ways to manage money between two people. Want to know more? Check out our full article on KOHO Joint Accounts!

The luxurious KOHO Metal Card

Metal cards are typically reserved for luxury credit cards with ludicrously high annual feels (think the Black American Express Centurion). KOHO designing it for your regular daily spending is the kind of perfectly responsible bougie-ness I live for. 

new koho metal card

The new KOHO metal card only comes in one color: “Gilded Cotton Candy”. Looks like roses and champagne to me, I’ll take seven. The card weighs 16g, so you’ll definitely notice it in your pocket!

How much does the KOHO Metal Card cost?

KOHO itself is a free app (unless you opt for the premium subscription) but the metal card has a bit of a price tag. At $159, the cost might seem a little steep for many users, but the number has meaning. $159 is the average Canadians spend on bank fees per year! Since KOHO charges you $0 in fees, you actually have this pocket change to spare. Why not treat yourself to a metal card?

Want the metal card but at a plastic price? Refer two friends to KOHO and your cost drops to only $50 (that’s $109 in savings!). Both past and future referrals count, so if you’ve already recommended friends and family to KOHO in the past, the lower price for the card is already coming your way!

Downsides and limitations of KOHO in review

KOHO likely won’t replace your bank account and credit card, but it is an excellent complement to these things. Nevertheless, it does have some drawbacks (hey, I did say this was a brutally honest KOHO review!):

It’s not a credit card, so don’t use it for large pre-authorizations

KOHO isn’t great for things like booking hotel rooms or other reservations. Often these will put a pre-authorization on your card for $400+. In KOHO, this will be deducted from your spendable. This could leave you on a super strict budget if you didn’t load much to your card.

Likewise, because KOHO isn’t a credit card, it doesn’t build credit, so if you were hoping to build or repair a damaged credit score, it won’t help you with that.

Why haven’t I received my KOHO card in the mail yet?

One major downside that keeps cropping up with KOHO is some people sign up, then never get their cards. If you’ve signed up for KOHO, you should receive your card in the mail within a week or two.

If you have not, contact KOHO support in the app and get them to send you a new one. In the meantime, add your KOHO card to your digital wallet and use with Apple Pay. 

KOHO REVIEW: how to get the most out of KOHO

Honestly, you’ll enjoy the benefits of KOHO as soon as you start using it, but there are some additional “hacks” I personally use that can make it work even better. My KOHO review is not complete without the secrets to really make it work for you!

Why not try…

      • aim for a certain number of “no spend days”, like one per week or 10 per month
      • treat your PowerUps and RoundUps like another micro-savings tool. Don’t cash out until you have enough to buy something you’re saving for!
      • making one of your savings goals something practical, like a boost to your Emergency Fund or Retirement savings, and try to save at least $1 per day. Once you hit this goal in KOHO, cash out the goal and transfer the money to your appropriate account.
      • link your KOHO card to your Wealthsimple account and set up an automatic monthly transfer. It’s an easy way to boost your investments

KOHO Review

Overall KOHO is hands down the best budgeting app and fintech innovation ever. It’s now a staple financial tool for my own money management strategies. Hope you enjoyed this KOHO review and like the app as much as I do!

*This Koho review is not a sponsored post but does contain affiliate links. I receive a small payout when you sign up using my KOHO referral code, MONEYAFTERGRAD

KOHO is the best fintech app on the market!


KOHO offers spending tracking, savings goals, and cash-back all in one! Whether you want to reign in your spending or just keep better track of where every dollar goes, this is for you. The joint account feature lets you share bills with a romantic partner or roommate, and you can link your KOHO account to Wealthsimple to start investing in the stock market.

SIGN UP HERE and get up to 3% bonus cash back! Simply enter the code MONEYAFTERGRAD when you download the app.

You'll start earning a bonus 1% cash back for 90 days when you load & use your KOHO card.

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About Author

Student debt killer, super saver, and stock market addict. BSc. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta, MBA in Finance from the University of Calgary. CEO x 2 and MOM x 1. Currently residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but hooked on travelling.


  1. Just got the Koho card after your review and I am loving it so far.. thanks for the review and leting me know about this card!