The term joint bank account literally means it is jointly or equally a bank account for multiple people to use.
Usually, the joint bank account is held by two people, but sometimes more than two people may opt for a joint bank account.
Who would use a joint bank account?
Joint bank accounts are most commonly chosen by couples because it makes it easier to manage payments with a shared responsibility – for example, childcare payments or grocery bills.
Business partners and family members, however, can also benefit from having joint bank accounts as they provide one simple transaction point for all parties to co-manage their finances.
In this instance, joint bank accounts can, for example, be used by multiple business owners for work purposes and by family members who may have equal responsibility of managing an investment or property.
Benefits of joint bank accounts
There are several reasons why many couples may choose to have a joint bank account. These include:
- There are fewer fees attached to having one account
- It makes it simpler to keep track of a couple’s spending habits and allows them to determine their shared financial position
- Shared payments, such as mortgage repayments, rental rates or utility bills, can be withdrawn directly from the one account, avoiding the alternative of one person having to give the funds to the other person
- Budgets can be more easily established and maintained if all key financial incomings and outgoings are kept in one central account
- Having a financial platform where you can both deposit funds can allow you to collectively save towards future goals such as having a holiday or purchasing a property
- Joint bank accounts also provide the non-financial benefit of allowing two people to feel like they really are a couple
Issues to consider before setting up a joint bank account
As relationships progress to a more serious or permanent status, some couples will look to a joint bank account as the preferred vehicle to more effectively operate their finances.
However, formalising your relationship by introducing the shared financial responsibility of a joint bank account requires an immense level of trust, and can positively or negatively highlight differences between attitudes to money and commitment within a partnership.
It means you and your partner will each know how much the other earns, how much money you spend and what sorts of items you spend on, along with all your other financial habits.
And while some people enjoy knowing they are equally taking responsibility with finances and are disciplined in using all the benefits a joint bank account can offer, others prefer to keep their finances privately held and maintained.
If you are considering setting up a joint bank account, honest and open communication about how the account will be managed and what each person’s expectations are of the other will help alleviate unexpected or costly issues that may arise in the future.
A compromise for some couples is to have their own individual bank accounts as well as their joint bank account where they each deposit equal amounts of money to meet their shared financial obligations.
Setting up a joint bank account
To establish a joint bank account, you will both need to be over 18 and each provide one or more forms of identification to the financial institution to process the documentation.
You will then need to decide what type of joint bank account is best for you, based on two main options:
- Both parties to sign – This type of account only allows transactions to be made when both parties sign, which minimises the risk of one person wanting to withdraw money for something the other does not agree on. This way, one person cannot access the money without the other’s agreement, so if you’re worried about security, this may be a good solution.
- Either party to sign – This account allows both parties to transact independently of each other. This is a less secure option, because one person can withdraw and use the money without the approval or knowledge of the other.
Credit cards can also be issued with a joint bank account. This requires significantly more consideration from the couple about the use of the account as well as discussion and agreement on spending.
Closing a joint bank account
If your relationship or partnership changes or completely breaks down, and it’s clear a joint bank account is no longer viable, you can’t just walk away from the financial arrangement you have together.
There is a process to follow in closing the joint bank account.
- Agreement of both account holders to close the account – If you can do this as soon as possible, it will help avoid any delays when it comes to arranging the closure. If you can’t agree, let your bank know and they may be able to freeze or put a temporary stop on your account until it can be resolved, or they may require both of you to authorise transactions on the account. If this happens, make sure you have another account to use for your pay and to pay bills.
- Do an audit of all direct debits and credits within the account – Ask your bank for a summary of all direct credits and direct debits from the last year. Contact your employer and anyone else who regularly puts money into your account, and advise them of your new account details.
- Cancel all direct debit transactions – And advise the source of those direct debit arrangements of your new account details.
- Achieve a zero balance – This is necessary so you can close the account. You will need to also pay off any overdrawn amount, so you may need to divide this with your former partner.
- Call your bank – And formally advise them that you would like to close the account. Obtain an email confirmation of the phone request, after which they will need to verify both owners' identities in order to finalise the closure. Follow up your call with a letter of confirmation including your joint bank account details, both signatures, and details of the phone call. Ask for written confirmation that the account has been closed. A letter or final statement should always be provided to you; if not, call again until you receive it and then hold onto it for future reference if any issues arise.
As a time-saving financial transaction tool, there is good reason joint bank accounts are so popular.
To work best, both parties need to go into the new arrangement with a shared commitment to ensuring they are on the same level in relation to financial discipline, utilising the account to support their future goals and a general respect of the other person.