A Guide on Splitting a Joint Bank Account

By Sarah Li Cain · May 20, 2024 · 7 minute read

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A Guide on Splitting a Joint Bank Account

Closing a joint account typically involves the same steps as you would take with many other types of bank accounts. Whether it’s due to ending a relationship, preventing any legal liabilities, or any other valid reason, understanding the right protocol to close or separate a joint bank account can help make the process much smoother.

Read on to learn the steps usually required to split a joint bank account.

Key Points

•   Closing a joint bank account typically follows similar steps as other bank accounts, often due to relationship changes or legal concerns.

•   Both account holders must agree to close the account, which starts by contacting the bank.

•   It’s advisable to wait for all pending transactions to clear before fully closing the account.

•   Funds should be equitably divided between the owners, based on contributions or an agreed-upon method, before withdrawal.

•   Opening a new individual account may be necessary as banks usually don’t allow splitting a joint account into two separate ones.

What Is a Joint Bank Account?

A joint bank account is a checking, savings, or other type of deposit account owned by more than one person. When one is owned by two people (which is a common arrangement), both of your names will be on it. Either of you can conduct transactions such as make deposits, withdrawals, write checks, and take steps to close the account.

Almost anyone can be a joint account owner as long as they meet the requirements of the bank. Most commonly, spouses or an adult child and their elderly parent(s) tend to be joint account holders. Sometimes parents open a bank account with a child who is a minor as well.

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Steps to Separating Joint Bank Accounts

Splitting or closing a joint bank account is fairly straightforward, the first of which includes contacting your bank.

1. Call Your Bank

In most cases, the first step in how to separate a joint bank account is both joint owners agreeing to close the account. Contact your bank via any of their available methods to ask what it will need from you to be able to separate your joint account. Closing the account could mean the bank will check to see if you have any outstanding fees you owe. Or you might need to complete written documentation stating that you want to close the account.

2. Wait for Current Transactions to Clear

Consider holding off on any transitions until all pending transactions clear from your account. For example, you and your joint account holder both receive your paychecks via direct deposit. It’s probably best to wait until the payment clears before taking any additional steps to split a joint bank account. (That way, you can avoid having direct deposit go to a closed account.)

3. Withdraw Your Money

You should allocate the money in the account between the two of you, the joint owners. Take the time to determine whether you want to divide the money equally, a percentage based on the amount each of you contributed, or another fair agreement. Once you’re both happy with the arrangement, you can withdraw the money, either to another bank account or another option.

4. Apply for New Bank Account

In most cases, the bank won’t let you split a bank account into two. Instead, you will likely have to apply for a new individual bank account. You can choose to open one with the same financial institution or a new one. Follow the steps to open one, such as providing your personal details, Social Security number, and how you plan on making your initial deposit. (How much you need to open an account can vary depending upon the financial institution and kind of account you have chosen.)

Opening this new bank account while you’re waiting for the transactions to clear on the joint one may be a wise choice. It could take some time for certain transactions to kick in, such as your direct deposit payments and automatic payments on your utilities.

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Ways to Close Joint Account

There are many ways you can separate your joint account separation, such as through the phone, in person, online, or via the app.


Many banks and especially online vs. traditional banks let you close your joint account after you log into your account online. The steps to do so may vary: Some may require you to submit a form via an automated process, or you may have to contact customer service through secure messaging. Banks will most likely need both account owners’ permission, which could mean you sign in separately to e-sign documentation or provide some other verification that you each agree to the decision.

Through the Mail

Some banks, like the more traditional ones, may allow you to mail in a form with both your signatures to close the account. Contact your bank to see what forms you may need to fill out. You may need to take additional steps, such as notarizing the paperwork.

In Person

In the case of traditional brick and mortar banks, you may have to (or can) close your bank account in person. You may need to bring documentation such as your ID. It could also be more time-consuming, as you’ll need to speak with the joint account holder when they’re available, and the process at the bank could take some time.

Reasons to Close a Joint Bank Account

Closing a joint checking or savings account is a sound decision if you’re doing it for certain reasons, such as trying to minimize fees, prevent legal liabilities and if you end your relationship with the joint account owner. Before doing anything, carefully consider your decision first.

Prevent Penalties

If your joint account owner hasn’t been using the account responsibility and racking up a bunch of fees, it may be time to close the account. For example, perhaps the joint account owner keeps overdrafting an account or goes over the allotted debit card transactions per month. Before closing the account, you will need to make sure to pay off all penalties.

Minimize Fees

Some joint accounts can come with maintenance fees or even other features that you’re no longer happy with. Closing the existing account and opting for a new one (individual or joint) could save you some serious bucks.

Legal Liabilities

Remember, a joint account means that both owners own the money held there. If you’re unsure of the joint account holder or you believe they’re in legal trouble, it may be better to close the account. For instance, if someone sues your joint bank account owner, you could lose the assets in the account as well.

Relationship Ending

Joint bank accounts and divorce usually don’t coexist. If you and your spouse have joint bank accounts and you’re now splitting up, closing the bank account could help ensure your assets are divided equitably. Or maybe you just want to move on from the relationship and don’t want the joint account open as a reminder of this person.

Getting Rid of Full Shared Access

Since any one of the joint account owners can move funds around, you may not want this other person having shared access if you can’t trust them. For example, separating money into different bank accounts may be the best move if you’ve broken up with your business partner and have moved onto other ventures.

Recommended: Guide to Bank Account Closure Letters

The Takeaway

There can be several reasons to end a joint account, including divorce, irresponsible use of the account by one party, or simply the high price of some account fees. The process is fairly simple to close the account, but both parties must agree and determine how to divide the funds.

When you open a separate account, consider whether your current financial institution is the best choice for your needs.

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Is it easy to close a joint account?

Depending on the financial institution, it could be easy to close a joint account. Many banks offer multiple ways to do so, such as online, by app, by mail, or in person.

How do you change a joint account to single?

Most financial institutions don’t allow you to separate or change a joint account to a single owner. You will likely need to open your own separate bank account and close the joint one.

Do both parties have to agree to close a joint account?

Yes, most state laws stipulate that both account owners need to agree to close a joint account.

Photo credit: iStock/Riska

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