KOHO Review: The Almost Perfect Online Bank

April 26, 2021
Banks

To determine the best online banks in the Canada, we scored and reviewed 8 highly popular banks. In this case, we’ll be focusing on KOHO

KOHO released 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 and their spending. It’s also well known for its ample cashback rewards and the broad usability it carries within.

However, for as good as that bank is, we truly believe that it isn’t the best, a spot that’s reserved for Tangerine. It’s got great domestic fees, the best everyday usage, possibly the best customer support, the most banking products and the most extra features.


Out of all the online banks we reviewed, without a doubt, Tangerine offers the most complete experience an online bank in Canada can give. From savings to investing to a great referral program, it’s all here and it’s why Tangerine is our top pick for the best Canadian online bank.

 KOHO
Domestic Fees7
International Fees2
Everyday Usage9
Interface and Usability5
Mobile App Functionality8
International Usability4
Customer Support6
Security & Regulation9
Savings/Premium Benefits7
Extra Features3
Total60

Now that you’ve seen the bank’s overall scores, here’s a more detailed look at how it performs in each category.

 Koho
Total Score63
1 Domestic Fees
ATM feesKoho doesn't charge ATM fees, but the owner of the ATM might.
$3-5 ATM fee depending on the ATM
Monthly feesPersonal & Joint: Free
Premium: $9 Monthly/$84 annual
Card FeeFree
Additional Cards FeePersonal & Joint cards: Free
Metal card: $100
Card Delivery FeeFree
Kids AccountX
Minimum balance required$0
Inactivity Fee$1/month after 90 days of inactivity.
However, this only applies after the first year. no inactivity fees will be charged during the first year of use
Free Interac e-Transfers?✔️
2 International Fees
Foreign ATM feesPersonal & Joint: 1.5% + $3
Premium: 1 Free withdrawal per month
Foreign spending fee1.5%
Foreign exchange feesPersonal & Joint: 1.5%Premium: Free
Cross Border Transfer FeeX
3 Everyday Usage
Apple Pay✔️
Google Pay✔️
Does it accept cash deposits?X
Spending/Transaction Categories✔️
Real Time Notifications?✔️
Built-In DonationsX
4 Interface and Usablity
Spending limits in the appX
Withdrawal limits in the appX
Sub-savings accounts✔️, Goals
Bill splitting / Shared ExpensesX
Subscription tracking✔️
5 Mobile App Functionality
Toggling payments in the appX
Toggle Foreign PaymentsX
Signup Speed< 10 minutes
Mobile App Ease of UseHighly intuitive
Apple Appstore Score /54.8⭐
Google Playstore Score /54.4⭐
6 International Usability
Hold Multiple CurrenciesX
International Money TransfersX
Can The Card Be Used Abroad?✔️, anywhere Visa is accepted
Is The ATM Network International?No ATM network
7 Customer Support
In-app support chat✔️
Telephone supportX
Priority Customer Support✔️, only with Premium
Email supportteam@koho.ca
Email Response Time2 days
8 Security & Regulation
RegulatorPartnered with Peoples Trust, a member CDIC
Freeze/Unfreeze Card In The App✔️
PIN resets in the appX
Biometric login and authentication?✔️
Does it do a credit check?Soft credit check upon registration (Has a credit building subscription within it)
9 Savings/Premium Benefits
Metal Card✔️, $159 without 2 referrals
$50 with 2 referrals
Cashback0.5% on every purchaseFrom 2% to 15% on some purchases with KOHO Premium's20+ partners
Partner Discounts?Not necessarily discounts, but it has partnerships with over 20 retailers
Gain interest rate?X,coming soon (1.2% interest on all balance with KOHO Save)
10 Extra Features
Get Paid early?✔️, users can access up to $100 of their direct deposit 3 days early
Network ATM FinderX
Overdraft AvailabilityX
Overdraft ProtectionX
Stock TradingX
Commodities TradingX
Cryptocurrency Trading?X
Referral program?Up to 10 referrals per referrer.
Per each referral, users will gain 1% cahsback (or PowerUps) for 90 days
Upto a total of 10% cashback for 90 days.

Now let’s jump into the full written review explaining what you just read in our previous tables.

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 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 a great development due to a lot of 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 in order 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 as some other banks like that of Tangerine or Neo, but what it does do is offer is the single highest rated online bank app out of all we reviewed. KOHO managed to get a score of 4.8/5 in the Apple App Store and 4.4/5 stars in the Google Playstore, which are the highest scores in each app store.

KOHO also gets extra points here because both the application and its user interface were designed in a highly intuitive way, 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 that offers priority customer support, which allows users to skip waiting queues and get attended immediately, but only for premium users.

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

  • Email: Team@koho.ca
  • Support chat: In-app/Website

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, cashback… a lot of cashback. Here’s how that works:

For regular users, KOHO has a default 0.5% cashback on every single purchase, yes, every purchase. As for premium users, KOHO racks up cashback 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% cashback 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% cashback on all purchases for 90 days or almost 3 months, which is a considerable amount of cashback.

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

Why KOHO?

Most online banks in Canada are great options if you’re looking for a cheaper and more convenient alternative to regular banking. However, if you’re eyeing KOHO, you’ve set your sight into one of the better developed and more stable online banks in Canada.

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 cashback rewards. Pair this up with its interest rate of 1.2% when KOHO Save comes out and it will end up being even better.

KOHO vs. Tangerine

When reviewing a specific bank, we always compare it to the best in its category. And according to our thorough testing, the best online bank in Canada is Tangerine, which scores 72/100 points on our scoring system. Here’s why we think Tangerine is a better alternative:

For as much as KOHO is very inventive in what it does, it still isn’t in its best shape to compete with the top. Its international fees aren’t the most user-friendly we’ve seen and extra features like trading, investing or even interest rates are still lacking or even non-existent when compared to other more established online banks.

In order for KOHO to compete with Tangerine, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Tangerine has the advantage of having the broadest range of banking products, better international usability and a bigger range of features that KOHO can simply not reach for the foreseeable future.

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