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KOHO Reloadable Prepaid Mastercard 2023-10-27


If you have ever had to replace a lost or stolen credit card, you probably found it an irritating experience. You may have found yourself wondering why it takes three days to get a "new" credit card and ten days to replace a lost or stolen one. You may have found yourself wondering which merchant was the one who yanked your card info. You may have found yourself wondering if any of the irritation is really necessary. You may have even gone looking at alternative card options. If you did, you may have seen KOHO and wondered if they are of any use. Well, maybe. I tried out a KOHO card and here is what I found.

The Good

Yes it is a real credit card (specifically Mastercard), and it works. You can also lock and unlock the card with a single click. This means you can leave it locked by default and only unlock it when you are about to make a purchase. That way even if someone had your card info they couldn't make purchases on it (unless they happen to be making a purchase at the exact same time as you). Loading the card is [typically] done via Interac e-transfer, so you will require a regular bank account with a real bank, that hopefully doesn't charge you for e-transfers.

The Bad

The design of their web site sucks. Don't get me wrong, it is fairly simple and isn't piled up with ads and tracking, but it didn't work with my Keepass password manager until I made a custom rule to hide the accessibility menu. Don't get me wrong, accessibility should be there, just stop trying to focus it by default every time I switch between the browser and my password manager. You are also going to have to provide them with a cell phone number that can accept SMS messages because 2FA is mandatory, and SMS is their only option. I know the millennials won't care about this, even though they should⁽¹⁾. Their plans are also a bit of a shitshow:

Screenshot of the various KOHO plans Uhhhm, are you sure about that "most popular" bit?

The primary reason I would want a card like this is because when it gets pinched I can disable it and replace it immediately. The secondary reason for having a card like this is because I am not paying for features I do not need. Like when you want cruise control for your car but can't get it without also getting a sunroof and fancy radio. I have a hard time believing that the $19/mo plan is their most popular. Their cashback only applies to groceries and transportation, so it isn't as good as the cashback you get on other cards (since they likely provide cashback on all purchases). It is also possible to get a physical card, as long as you are willing to use their mobile app and verify your account. Why do people think that banking on a phone is a good idea? Anyways, I am sure some folks won't give a shit about the phone related issues, even though they should⁽¹⁾.

The Ugly

There is essentially no support. They have no phone number you can call and their online chat support is garbage at best. Do not expect to get help from a human if you have any questions that are not answered in their pretty limited FAQ section. Seriously, it's awful.

(1) Banks are essentially using Time Based One Time Passwords, but are only willing to send them to your phone and not to a TOTP Authenticator application. These applications could be used on any operating system, and not just a mobile OS. These applications do not tie your banking to your phone identity (which is much too often tied to all kinds of online profiling). The only reason I can think of for this is that they are lazy and they like the idea of having your phone number (I wonder why that would be).
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