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Stack Prepaid MasterCard: The New Best Prepaid Card in Canada

There’s a new prepaid product that’s caught my eye recently that I think is very worthwhile and would be hugely beneficial to travellers who spend significant amounts of time abroad, and that’s the Stack Prepaid MasterCard.

Having just come on the market in late August, the Stack MasterCard is an innovative product that’s seeking to transform the way people spend money. In addition to a suite of exciting features, one of their core principles is that they don’t charge any fees for the service.

Many prepaid cards out there come with a litany of fees that quickly add up once you start using them, but not Stack. They’ve completely done away with monthly fees, card replacement fees, money transfer fees, and – crucially – ATM withdrawal fees and foreign exchange fees.

The Foreign Cash Conundrum

Here’s why this is a real breath of fresh air: for as long as I’ve been travelling, one of the biggest conundrums I’ve faced is how to most effectively obtain foreign cash.

Getting foreign cash is a necessary step to fully immersing oneself in a new country, and what I’ve typically done in the past is to bring some US Dollars on my trip and visit a currency exchange.

However, it’s difficult to ensure that you’re getting the best rate unless you spend time shopping around from multiple exchange houses, which is a truly thankless task when you’d much rather be exploring your new surroundings. I’ve lost count of how much time I’ve spent hunting for currency exchange shops just to be able to pay the subway fare and get to my destination.

The other alternative is to withdraw money straight from a local ATM, but that isn’t straightforward either, unless you’re okay with hemorrhaging money to bank fees. Withdrawing from a Canadian bank’s debit card would subject you to the inferior exchange rate that the banks use, as well as an ATM fee of between $5 and $10 that’s levied by your bank account (unless you’ve shelled out for a premium bank account).

It’d be great if there were a solution that was both cheap and easy, but I haven’t been able to find it…

Use Stack for Foreign Cash

…until now that Stack has arrived.

The Stack Prepaid MasterCard charges no foreign exchange fees, meaning that the exchange rate you get on foreign purchases is the same as the MasterCard rate, which comes awfully close to the mid-market rate. Indeed, I just ran a quick comparison between the MasterCard rate and the mid-market rate via Google, and the spread is a negligible $2 on $1000 (0.2%). 

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 2.51.43 PM.png

In addition to getting a fair exchange rate on all foreign transactions, the Stack MasterCard also charges no domestic or international ATM withdrawal fees, meaning that unlike most bank accounts, you can withdraw cash from any foreign ATM without getting hit with fees on the Stack side.

Keep in mind that the ATM itself might charge a fee for using it; when I travelled across Latin America, Russia, and Asia this summer, I found that about half of the foreign ATMs I used levied a fee on their end, and these fees tended to be mostly negligible.

Putting these two features together means that you can easily, quickly, and cheaply withdraw your own money whenever you need it on your travels, and you’ll only have to pay the small fee imposed by the ATM itself (which you’d have to pay anyway if you were withdrawing via any other means). That certainly beats taking the time out of your day to search for a currency exchange or finagling a prepayment on your credit card before your trip.

Stack is a prepaid card, so you need to load up the card with Canadian Dollar funds before withdrawing foreign cash abroad. Fortunately, loading the app is an easy process, and you have the options of direct payroll deposit, Interac e-Transfer, or Visa Debit.

I personally find Visa Debit to be the most convenient option, since TD, CIBC, RBC, and Scotiabank all issue Visa Debit-enabled bank cards, and you can easily load the funds while you’re out and about and withdraw them right away.

Lastly, keep in mind that while Stack’s no-fee approach makes it the standout option for cash withdrawals abroad, it might not be the optimal way to make foreign purchases with your card. That’s because the aforementioned credit cards with no FX fees can often be a better deal by virtue of the rewards you earn on your purchases. Therefore, combining a credit card with no FX fees (for purchases) with Stack (for cash) would represent an optimal solution for all your foreign spending needs.

Other Features

From a traveller’s perspective, I find the ability to effectively obtain foreign cash to be Stack’s compelling most compelling feature; however, I’m also impressed by the suite of other features and offers that are available within the app.

Stack partners with many popular Canadian retailers to give you cash back whenever you use your Stack card to make a purchase. For example, you can enjoy small savings on Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Booster Juice, and Uber, and there’s also more significant discounts, such as the ongoing Foodora offer that gives you a $15 credit when you charge $15 in Foodora purchases to your Stack card – free food!

As with many of these fintech startups, Stack’s wider mission seems to be to disrupt the banking industry, and it therefore also possesses features such as a real-time budgeting tool and peer-to-peer money transfers in order to get you using the app more often. 

Lastly, we all love a good referral program here at Prince of Travel, and Stack has made it easy to refer your friends and family to the card. You’ll earn up to $15 per referral, with no limits on how much in referral bonuses you can earn.

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Best of all, the person whom you referred will get a free $5 credit upon activating the card! That’s right – you don’t even need to load any money; just by signing up and activating the card, you get a free $5 in your pocket, and can start to take advantage of the in-app offers immediately.

Get Stack Now

You can learn more about the Stack Prepaid MasterCard on their website, but you’ll have to download the app in order to sign up. The app will perform a soft credit check to verify your identity, and after that, it takes about a week for the physical Stack card to be shipped in the mail.

Feel free to sign up through my referral link below – if you click the link and then download the app, it should register. You’d be helping to support the site whilst also banking a quick-and-easy $5: 

princeoftravel.com/stack

Conclusion

For too long I’ve been paying more than necessary when obtaining foreign cash, and even though I’m not fussy about these fees in the long run, it still annoys me every time that there isn’t a better way. That’s why I’m very much looking forward to using my Stack card for ATM withdrawals on my upcoming trip to Europe, and will report back on how it goes. Having signed up for Stack during their Spotify Premium promotion, I’m also eager to try out the card’s other features and maximize any other in-app offers that come along.

28 Comments
  1. Donald Putt

    Hi Rick
    Tried to download Stack Mastercard App. It says the app is not available in this country (Canada)
    Suggestions please?

    Don

  2. Anne Betts

    Another great post, Ricky. Do you have a review of Revolut in the works? I value your perspective on the best financial tools for travelling, and I’d be interested in your thoughts on how Revolut measures up to Stack. Cheers.

  3. Raymond Wrubel

    Ricky. I’m travelling to China and Japan later this year. Interested to know your experience with Stack Card in those two countries. Don’t want to take too much cash but want to make sure I can access it over there.

    Many thanks.

    1. Ricky

      Seamless. The ATM I used in Japan charged me an ATM fee of about $2.50 CAD I believe, while the one I used in China didn’t charge me any ATM fee at all.

  4. A

    Hi Rick, just to make sure there will be no credit check to get this credit card?. Also I just chatted with the Stack rep and he said there will be ATM withdrawal fee depends on the ATM machine and this is include Canada and abroad. He said there is no list which ATM is fee waived. I am confused if this is still the best way to get foreign cash if ATM charge exist.

    1. Ricky

      No credit check.

      ATM fees will exist at certain ATMs no matter which card you use – there’s no way around that if you need to withdraw cash. With Stack, you avoid foreign transaction fees, whereas you’d have to pay 2.5% with a bank card on top of the ATM fee.

  5. Ron

    Hello,

    Now that you have had the opportunity to use the card (I assume), has your conclusion that it is the best way to obtain foreign cash when travelling still hold? And a second question, if I may. Suppose one transfers more money than needed to the card (i.e. perhaps one simply overestimates or perhaps one needs to cancel at the last minute for health reasons), can one simply transfer the money back to one’s bank account free of charge or is will one have to simply spend it using the card.

    Thank you!

    1. Ricky

      Yes, it does! I just used Stack this week in Cambodia, and did so earlier on my trip in Japan and China as well.

      If you’ve transferred extra money, you can spend it, or just withdraw it at an ATM in Canada in cash and put it back in your bank account.

  6. Jackie

    Heh Ricky, how does the stack compare to a/c conversion card?

    1. Ricky

      It’s much better. The AC Conversion card still hits you with an added FX surcharge; it’s just embedded into the CIBC FX rate that you get when you convert your CAD loads into foreign currencies. Meanwhile, Stack converts your CAD funds into foreign currency at the time of withdrawal at the mid-market rate, so the only thing you’re paying is the ATM charge.

  7. Ralph

    If you want to get one before April, it seems you’re out of luck:
    "we will be unable to deliver cards until March 25th"

  8. AllanIceman YYZ

    Hi Ricky,

    Got my STACK card just in time for my trip to Singapore last week from your referral. It worked like a dream! I would load my STACK from interac a few mins before I withdrew from an ATM right on the app and I used ATMs with no fees so it was just the MC exchange rate!
    Thanks for putting STACK on my radar. This will be my go to method in the future.

  9. Eric Plaskacz

    Hi Ricky, I’m a marketing planner at STACK and I wanted to thank you for the great review! Let me know if you have any questions about the company or if you’d like to learn more about STACK. https://www.linkedin.com/in/eric-plaskacz-2bb45125/

  10. keitherson

    Ricky, how do you have a Chase CSP as a Canadian?

  11. Mak YYZ

    Hi Ricky,
    I am currently using Rogers World Elite Master Card for all my foregin currency purchases (online, POS abroad) which gives the 4% cashback..Net result of cash back after FX charges will be 1.5%. Regarding Foreign Currency, i was charging the card with extra where the POS allowed and take the cash from the vendor.
    Now i am thinking of loading/paying extra to get negative balance on Rogers MC card and with draw at foregin ATM’s.
    I believe this method is equal to the STACK prepaid card? or am i missing something
    But going forward, i am thinking of putting

    1. Ricky

      I wasn’t aware that there were many stores out there that would let you charge extra to the POS and withdraw cash from a credit card. That seems like it should be pretty rare, since otherwise it’s a costless cash advance opportunity.

      The pre-paying a No FX credit card and withdrawing from ATM method has been around for a while, and you would only incur a small cash advance fee. Nevertheless, using Stack allows you to not pay any cash advance fees at all and is also much more intuitive and easy-to-use than the prepaying your credit card method.

      1. Mak YYZ

        Hi Ricky,
        there is a new promo currently with Amazon Prime 1 year memberhsip free and could not stop applying for the card this time. I have upcoming mini-RTW trip and will try to put it for good use.

        Btw..i used your link but not sure to verify as there is no code associated like plastic in the past. Please verify and let me know, other wise i will send your email for support group incase if its not applied.

        thank you once again for all the good stuff postings.

        1. Ricky

          Hi Mak, did you get your free $20 from Stack for applying via a referral? If you did, then I should’ve gotten my referral bonus from you as well.

          Thanks for the heads up on the Amazon Prime offer! Definitely a great idea for those who missed out on the Netflix/Spotify offer a while back.

  12. Marlene

    Hi Ricky,
    Its funny how this has come up now because i have a prepaid mastercard that I planned to take to africa with me next time. I can top it up with my amex card for miles and the prepaid card has some monthly fees and top up fees however i would have atm fees anyway so in doing so I also have the benefit of collecting miles. So with all considered i think for me that unless i can top up stack using a credit card my best value would be to keep my other prepaid card and collect the miles. Do you have a take on this that maybe I may have missed? Awesome newsletter. Thank you Ricky!

    Regards,Marlene

    1. Chris

      Which prepaid mastercard allows you to load up using amex?

    2. Ricky

      If the math works out in terms of loading your existing card with an Amex and then withdrawing from there, then that would make the most sense for you. Just make sure that once you take into account all the fees you’re paying, the rewards you earn still let you come out ahead.

  13. Anna

    Hey Ricky, thanks so much for the detailed info on Stack! I will definitely use your referral link below, to help support your awesome blog … you’re the best 🙂

  14. Bob Gandhi

    Unfortunately, it’s not available in Quebec

  15. Chelsea

    Thanks for the info! I will definitely be looking into this for my upcoming three month trip to Australia and NZ.

  16. BG

    Hi Ricky:

    Which US exchange house would you recommend? I am thinking of using a us based card for cad spend as well. Does the math work out? (after exchange fee, etc)?

    1. Ricky

      The best currency exchanges get you around 1% I believe (VBCE, Knightsbridge, TransferWise). However there may be ways to creatively fund these accounts and bring the costs down even further 😉

      As for using US cards for Canadian spending, I personally wouldn’t do it unless you feel the rewards you can earn on the US card outstrip those of any Canadian cards by more than the exchange fee you’re paying.

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