For many couples, opening a joint bank account is a significant milestone in a relationship. The decision to open a joint account could come when you are engaged, married or moving in together. Or perhaps you and your partner simply want to set up a shared account after a long time of using only separate accounts.
For people sharing basic expenses, it can often be more practical and convenient to have a joint checking account. This can make it easier to manage joint expenses such as rent, food, and paying bills.
Couples might also decide to share a savings account or investment account, instead of or in addition to joint checking accounts.
So, should you open a joint bank account? And how straightforward is it? The good news is, joint bank accounts are easy to open and can bring several benefits.
What is a joint bank account?
Joint bank accounts work just like regular individual accounts, the only difference being they can have more than one owner. Owners of joint accounts are typically couples, spouses, or business partners.
However, there are no rules about the type of relationship joint account owners have. The same basic banking privileges and services are available to all owners of joint accounts.
A joint bank account can be a fantastic tool in comparison to a personal account. For example, joint accounts are great when you want to manage household expenses, pay bills, and easily track other shared expenses.
They can also be useful when adult children are caring for aging parents and sharing medical expenses, or if a parent is paying child support.
In addition, sharing a joint account can also improve spending habits and financial planning, and help keep the account holders on the same page financially.
If you’re wondering how to go about opening a joint account, and whether you should open one, you’re in the right place.
Whether you use a bank or credit union, opening a joint account is almost exactly the same as opening an individual account. It is often as simple as ticking a box to indicate your application is for a joint account, or choosing to add a co-applicant.
You’ll need the same documentation when it comes to opening an individual bank account. Social Security numbers, photo ID and other personal identifying information will be required for both applicants.
Rather than opening a new single joint account, you may instead decide to add your partner to your existing bank account.
Once your account is open, you can easily transfer money from one of your separate accounts to fund your new joint checking account.
See also: Our top picks for the best joint checking accounts of 2023.
Who should open a joint checking account?
While anyone can open a joint checking or savings account, couples who are in stable and committed relationships are the most likely to have one. Sharing a bank account requires trust, transparency and clear communication.
While having a joint bank account doesn’t mean you can’t also hold separate bank accounts, it does require a lot of honesty around your finances.
A joint checking account can also be useful for parents and teenagers. For example, a parent can easily support and monitor their teens financial activity while they learn to establish good money habits.
A joint checking account makes all account activity visible to both account holders, which makes it a useful tool for parents.
The bottom line when considering a joint bank account is trust and convenience. Many committed couples will have one joint account while also deciding to maintain separate accounts.
But if you want to open a joint account with anybody, you’ve got to have good communication when it comes to money and finances.
Let’s run through the benefits you could enjoy with a joint bank account:
Joint bank accounts can help bring financial transparency and accountability to a relationship. Couples have equal access to manage money, withdraw funds and can see exactly how mutual expenses are paid for. You’ll also better understand how you spend money in relation to your SO.
A joint bank account can also help some people improve their spending habits.
Maintaining a budget with separate accounts can be tricky. Joint bank accounts make it easier to pay shared household expenses. Joint checking accounts can also help people better stick to a budget because spending is streamlined into one account.
Joint savings accounts are also a great option when putting money away as a couple. You may even have access to a better annual percentage yield with joint savings accounts.
When it comes to shared expenses, a joint bank account can help promote a sense of unity and cooperation in a relationship. Rather than keeping accounts separate, meeting daily financial responsibilities together in a joint account can be helpful.
This is especially true if a couple has very different spending habits.
A joint bank account ensures that neither partner is stuck without access to funds in an emergency. If one partner were to be incapacitated, the other won’t have to worry about how they’re going to cover emergency expenses.
In the event of one partner dying, having a shared account will also remove the need for the other to legally document their right to access an account.
In some cases, the benefits of a joint bank account could actually become downsides. Here are the major potential cons of joint bank accounts:
Opening a joint bank account could reveal an incompatibility when it comes to finances. If account holders have different spending habits, a joint account could highlight those differences and lead to conflict.
If having a joint account is a goal for you, it’s a good idea to establish any spending differences and take it from there. Being prepared to make some compromises will be helpful.
Joint bank accounts could potentially enable financial abuse in a relationship. If one partner has no access to an individual account, they will be dependent on the other account holder to spend responsibly. Abusers can also take advantage of joint accounts by threatening to empty a shared account, for example, or use it to excessively monitor and control a partner’s spending.
Opening a joint checking account doesn’t mean you can’t also hold on to one or more individual accounts. Many couples will maintain separate accounts, allowing them to easily divide shared and personal expenses.
If you’ve got regular expenses that don’t fall under the remit of a shared account, then keeping money separate will probably be necessary for you.
Some couples will contribute equally to a shared account while maintaining individual accounts. Some will contribute a percentage depending on their salary.
It’s important to realize that managing money as a couple requires clear communication and transparency at all times. It can be helpful to establish how you’re going to deposit money, contribute savings and generally manage other daily financial responsibilities before starting.
Keep in mind also that joint funds could be vulnerable if either party owes outstanding debts.
You will need personal identification such as Social Security numbers, proof of address, and photo ID when opening a joint account.
If you’re an account holder adding a partner to an existing checking account, you will need to provide their documentation.
Yes, you can open a joint checking account with anyone. There are no rules regarding the types of relationships allowed for joint accounts. Family members, spouses, business partners or even friends can use joint accounts to improve their financial situation.
No. The only requirement is that the necessary documentation is provided for both parties. Many people use online banking to open joint checking accounts, but in any case you don’t need your partner to be there with you.
A joint account can improve many aspects of personal finance for couples, business partners and parents. However, there are also potential downsides. If you’re still unsure, you can always seek the thoughts of a certified financial planner or financial advisor to help you decide what’s best for you and your partner.