KOHO vs Neo

April 26, 2021

KOHO was launched back in 2017 and, since then, has become one of the most popular online banks in Canada. It bases its user experience on having the highest-rated mobile app, which grants a lot of customization and power to the user to keep track of and control their spending. It's also well known for its ample cash back rewards and its broad usability.

Neo isn't as known as other online banks, but this doesn't mean it's slacking. This online bank released in December of 2020 and features a credit card as its main spending medium. It pairs its card with a hybrid savings/chequing account that offers extensive cash back rewards and interest earned on account balance.

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Now that you've seen their overall scores, here's a more detailed look at how each bank scores on those ten categories.

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KOHO Review: Breakdown

#1 Domestic Fees

KOHO starts off with a solid score simply by not having any monthly fees nor a minimum balance required to keep an account open. KOHO’s replacements run free for both its personal and premium memberships, except for its metal card, which costs $100 a pop. The delivery of the cards is free, so that’s always neat as well.

The online bank also features free receiving and sending of Interac e-transfers, which is always nice to have, but its good points end there.

The first bad thing to point out about KOHO is that it says it doesn’t charge ATM fees but it doesn’t waive them either. Since KOHO doesn’t have an ATM network of its own, users will be charged ATM fees from the owner of those ATMs, which will usually run around $3-5 each. Sadly KOHO can't do too much about this.

Aside from that, KOHO does charge a lenient inactivity fee of $1 per month of inactivity after 90 days of inactivity. Although, it’s worth noting that for any user’s first year of use, this inactivity fee will not apply. Lenient or not, it’s still an inactivity fee to watch out for.

KOHO Domestic Fees Score: 7/10

#2 International Fees

KOHO can be used abroad without any trouble at all, however, its fees don’t bode well for mindless spending. KOHO isn’t the online bank that charges the most expensive fees, but they’re quite hefty still. Here’s how they look:

  • Foreign ATM fees:
    • Personal & Joint: 1.5% + 3$
    • Premium: 1 Free withdrawal per month
  • Foreign spending fees: 1.5%
  • Foreign exchange fees:
    • Personal & Joint: 1.5%
    • Premium: Free

As you can probably see, KOHO charges for every kind of foreign transaction a user can make. However, some of these fees are waived with the premium membership, which runs for $9 per month or $84 annually, but more on that later.

Either way, these are rather hefty and constant fees that any KOHO user should be aware of. KOHO also isn’t able to send international transfers either, so there’s nothing else to mention in this category that can really elevate its performance.

KOHO International Fees Score: 2/10

#3 Everyday Usage

KOHO gets back up to speed here with great development due to the many features available in terms of ease of use. Any KOHO user can pair any of their cards with Apple Pay and Google Pay while enjoying real-time spending notifications and spending insights/transaction categories to keep their spending controlled.

However, KOHO does not accept any kind of cash deposits, which means that to load a KOHO account, users will need another bank account. Solid performance, with some inconveniences, but still solid.

KOHO Everyday Usage Score: 9/10

#4 Interface And Usability

The bank gets an average performance in this category due to a lack of features so users can customize their spending. Users can’t set spending/withdrawal limits on the app nor split bills/share expenses with friends/family, so that’s a lot of things KOHO can’t do.

However, KOHO does make a bit up for it by letting users open sub-savings accounts, called goals, and track online subscriptions, which is only something KOHO and STACK can do, so it somewhat evens things too.

KOHO Interface And Usability Score: 5/10

#5 Mobile App Functionality

KOHO doesn’t have all the features of some other banks like Tangerine or Neo, but what it does offer is the single highest-rated online bank app out of all we reviewed. KOHO has a score of 4.8/5 in the Apple App Store and 4.4/5 stars in the Google Play Store, which are the highest scores in each app store of any online Canadian bank.

KOHO also gets extra points here because both the application and its user interface were designed highly intuitively, leading to the app being of high quality and extremely easy to use. The same applies to its signup process, which takes less than 5 minutes to get started and open an account.

KOHO Mobile App Functionality Score: 8/10

#6 International Usability

The only thing that KOHO has going for it in terms of international usability is the fact that its Visa card can be used anywhere where Visa is accepted.

Aside from that, KOHO users can’t send international money transfers nor waive foreign ATM fees due to Koho not even having a local ATM network.

If KOHO were to pair up with any ATM network, it would do wonders for users who are constantly using ATM withdrawals, but as of now, there’s nothing else to mention in this category.

KOHO International Usability Score: 4/10

#7 Customer Support

When comparing KOHO to other Canadian online banks, we noticed that for every feature that other banks offer in common, KOHO offers a different one or it plainly doesn’t offer anything in exchange. In this case, we found that KOHO is the only online bank that doesn’t offer phone support, even if it does offer chat support and email support.

In terms of the responsiveness of support agents, email is rather good, although they took 2 days to answer our initial queries, though they were probably the most thorough. Phone support is also good, with minimal waiting times and informed agents.

It’s also worth noting that KOHO is the only Canadian online bank offering priority customer support, which allows users to skip waiting queues and get immediate attention, but only for premium users.

If you want to get in contact with KOHO, here are the channels from which you can do so:

KOHO Customer Support Score: 6/10

#8 Security & Regulation

The first thing to mention here is that all online banks we reviewed are completely safe, with KOHO having the most safety features. Since KOHO is partnered with Peoples Trust, it’s automatically regulated and insured by CDIC, with every eligible deposit being insured for up to $100,000 CAD.

On top of that, KOHO's users can freeze/unfreeze their cards whenever they want and set up biometric login authentication for a safer sign-in process. However, users can’t reset their card PINs from the app.

Onto another topic in the same vein, KOHO has the benefit of performing a soft credit check whenever a user creates a bank account, which means that KOHO can be used without harming credit scores, and it even has a credit building feature, but more on that later.

KOHO Security & Regulation Score: 9/10

#9 Savings/Premium Benefits

We’ve always said it and we’ll say it again: It’s great when banks let you do more than you expect. As we had mentioned earlier, KOHO isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill bank, so where all other banks are focused on interest and discounts, KOHO instead offers cash back… a lot of cash back. Here’s how that works:

For regular users, KOHO has a default 0.5% cash back on every single purchase, yes, every purchase. As for premium users, KOHO racks up cash back with most of its partners from 2 to 15% on some purchases. It’s worth noting, however, that KOHO is establishing partnerships as of the date of writing, which means that in some of the cities in which it's available, it may not have such a big range of offers.

KOHO also offers a metal card for any user who wishes to ask for it, however, it has a pretty hefty cost of $159 per card. Although, KOHO mentions that if a user has referred 2 friends, the cost goes down to $50 per metal card.

On another note, KOHO also mentions that earning interest on account balance will come soon, for free. All users can apply for KOHO save without any extra fees or restrictions and earn up to 1.2% interest on all balances, which is a pretty nice feature. However, as of now, KOHO users can’t earn interest, so we didn’t include it in our scoring metrics.

KOHO Savings/Premium Benefits Score: 7/10

#10 Extra Features

As for KOHO's innovativeness, it slightly comes to a stop in this category. The only 2 features that we can truly speak of here are that KOHO lets users get paid early thanks to Direct Deposits, from which they can access $100 up to 2 days early.

The second feature is the most unique; it’s a referral program from which KOHO's users can earn 1% cash back per referral for 90 days. However, a KOHO user can only refer up to 10 friends a single time, which means that if someone were to refer 10 people in the same day, they would earn 10% cash back on all purchases for 90 days or almost 3 months, which is a considerable amount of cash back.

Imagine a user spends $5,000 each month during that 90 days period, that user would earn $1,500 without even thinking about it.

However, for as great as that referral program is, there’s not much else in terms of extra features for KOHO. There are no overdraft features nor a chance to trade or invest, which might leave some users out of the loop. Although, even if it wasn’t scored, KOHO also has a membership system based on building up a user's credit score.

KOHO Extra Features Score: 3/10

Now let’s talk about our next bank in question:

Neo Financial Review

#1 Domestic Fees

Neo starts rather strongly in this category, mainly due to the fact that its regular accounts don't charge any monthly fees or a certain minimum balance, nor do they incur any inactivity fees at all. Neo’s first card is also free, including the delivery of it and all other replacements.

On top of all those benefits, Neo supports free outgoing and incoming Interac e-Transfers from and to all other Canadian banks, which is always great.

However, Neo has a pretty big flaw in this category, in the sense that since it offers a credit card, it doesn’t offer ATM withdrawals. So, the only way to get cash out of a Neo account is to transfer it to another bank account and withdraw from an ATM or ask for a cash advance in the way of cash back when making a purchase.

However, it’s worth noting that cash advances immediately start costing interest around 23-27% of the total amount withdrawn.

Another big detail to remember is that Neo’s replacements for its credit cards don’t go for free, each costing $29, whereas other banks offer them for free.

Neo Domestic Fees Score: 7/10

#2 International Fees

Using Neo for foreign spending and foreign exchange incurs a 2.5% fee. This might seem high – but keep in mind that this is more of an industry problem rather than a Neo flaw. Big banks like Motusbank and Tangerine charge up to 3.0% fees.

The Neo card can't perform foreign ATM withdrawals, like most online banks. It makes it up by being accepted internationally anywhere that takes Mastercard and allowing holders to continue earning cash back on any purchase instantly, even when abroad. If you're looking for a card exclusively for foreign spending, you might want to look elsewhere, but right now, Neo is the bet-rounded option.

Neo International Fees Score: 6/10

#3 Everyday Usage

Neo’s credit card can be paired with Apple Pay and Google Pay, which means more ease of use. Plus, it also features real-time spending notifications to keep budgets in control more easily. This means that users are able to completely see where their money is going and receive notifications in real time.

Neo Everyday Usage Score: 8/10

#4 Interface And Usability

Currently, Neo doesn’t let users set their own spending/withdrawal limits or track online subscriptions. However, it tracks your cash back earnings and your purchases in real time and has the option to notify you after every transaction. You can also freeze your card if you see anything suspicious, all in a matter of seconds.

The Neo team is working on adding additional withdrawal limits and tracking tools, but for now, we can't give it more than a 6/10 for its solid cash back and purchase tracker.

Neo Interface And Usability Score: 6/10

#5 Mobile App Functionality

Neo gets somewhat up to speed here with a solid score thanks to features like being able to toggle on/off both recurring local and foreign payments right from the app, which only Tangerine offers aside from Neo.

On top of that, Neo’s mobile app ranks as the 4th highest-ranking mobile app out of the Canadian online banks we reviewed. This is due to the fact that its signup process takes less than 10 minutes to complete and is even more evidenced by its score on both major app stores, garnering a total score of 4.2/5 in the Apple App Store and 3.7/5 stars in the Google Play Store.

Solid performance, but still missing the mark on the scores in popular play stores.

Neo Mobile App Functionality Score: 10/10

#6 International Usability

As described earlier, we don't recommend using Neo for foreign spending due to its high fees. But, apart from that, in terms of overall usability, it also performs poorly.

Since Neo offers its users a credit card that cannot perform local ATM withdrawals in Canada, it also cannot perform foreign ATM withdrawals. This means that for any Neo user abroad, getting cash is next to impossible unless they find a store that lets them get local currency as cash back after a purchase.

Still, Neo’s card can be used without any problems abroad, which does let it accumulate some points in this category.

Neo International Usability Score: 5/10

#7 Customer Support

Neo is one of the few that gets a perfect score in terms of customer support simply thanks to the fact that they offer all support channels and they’re very responsive.

Neo’s support chat is always available and ready to answer. When we contacted them, their responses were quick, informed and thoughtful. Phone lines took a bit longer to pick up but they were rather quick as well.

Email support surprised us a bit because it’s usually the one that takes the longest to hear back from, but just after 4 hours, we got our questions answered thoroughly.

If you need to get in contact with Neo to ask them some of your own queries, you can do so through the following channels:

Definitely one of the banks with the quickest and most helpful support we reviewed.

Neo Customer Support Score: 10/10

#8 Security & Regulation

The first thing that’s worth mentioning in this category is that in terms of security and regulation, Neo is the best-performing online bank. Neo is partnered with Concentra Bank, an institution that’s regulated by the CDIC, which means that all of Neo’s eligible deposits are insured in the same way for up to $100,000.

Aside from that, Neo also offers the distinct features of letting users freeze/unfreeze their cards at any moment they wish and resetting their PINs from the app. Users can also set up biometric authentication for signing in, making using Neo quicker and safer.

Onto another topic in the same vein, it’s also important to note the impact of these online banks on a user’s credit score. Luckily, Neo only performs a soft credit check, meaning opening an account doesn't affect your credit score.

Neo Security & Regulation Score: 10/10

#9 Savings/Premium Benefits

Here’s where we can get to speak about some of Neo’s most important and unique features. The most noteworthy feature to mention here is that Neo, along with KOHO, gets a perfect score in this category. This is thanks to Neo offering all 3 rewards users are always looking for, cash back, partner discounts and interest rates.

Neo’s cash back comes from its monthly memberships. All users are part of the Essential Plan, which doesn’t cost anything monthly and offers an average of 4% cash back at partner retailers.

Following that is the Plus plan, which costs $4.99/month and offers an average of 5% cash back at partner retailers and 0.5% cash back at non-partner retailers.

Finally, we have the Max plan, which goes for $9.99/month and an average of 6% cash back at partner retailers and 1% cash back at non-partners.

In terms of partner discounts, this is a bit more dependent on where a Neo user lives. Neo is making partnerships in a state-by-state scenario, which means that some states might have some offers that others might not. Discounts can go up as high as 15% on average on most offers through the Neo app.

In terms of interest, Neo automatically offers all of its users a base 1.55% interest rate, calculated daily and paid monthly. This particular percentage makes Neo offer, according to our scoring metrics, the highest non-promotional interest rate out of all Canadian online banks we reviewed.

Neo’s interest rate is only followed by EQ Bank’s Savings Plus account at 1.5%. However, it’s also worth noting that EQ also offers TFSAs with 2.3%, with Tangerine quickly following behind with a 2.1% on both savings and chequing for the first 5 months of use.

Neo Savings/Premium Benefits Score: 10/10

#10 Extra Features

Here’s where Neo’s score dips back down since it offers what basically should come with a chequing account nowadays and nothing more. It comes with Direct Deposits, the chance to overdraft (of course, it’s a credit card!) and a barebones referral program.

The thing about Neo’s overdraft is that it doesn’t come with overdraft protection, which means that the moment a user overdrafts his/her account, that debt is going to start to rack up at an interest of around 20% to 25%.

Neo’s referral program is also nothing to write home about, giving $5 each to the referral and the referrer. It is unlimited, though, so if a user wants to refer 1,000 friends, well, that’s $5,000 accredited to that user.

However, aside from that, there’s not much else about Neo. It’s missing features like being able to trade or invest right from the account, but only a few banks offer that feature. And in terms of an in-app network ATM finder, it doesn’t need one because it doesn’t have an ATM network.

Neo Extra Features Score: 5/10

KOHO Or Neo?

When recommending a certain product, here at Yore Oyster we always strive to really give our readers the best advice. This is why we always give a final recommendation comparing the products we talked about. So, here's our final take on both banks:

KOHO's biggest point is that it has the most resourceful and better-developed app out of all online banks. Aside from that, it also has great security features and the biggest cash back rewards. Pair this up with its interest rate of 1.2% when KOHO Save comes out and it will end up being even better.

Neo's one of the best banks we reviewed, period. It all starts thanks to its credit card, which is then paired up with an interest rate of 1.55% and extensive cash back rewards. All of this bodes well for Neo to be crowned as one of the best online banks to be used as both a main spending and savings account.

As you might have already seen, KOHO and Neo both get the same score. However, if we had to choose a winner, we'd go with KOHO, because we scored it without interest, something which will be added in the future, surpassing Neo's score by that moment.

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