If you are hitched or have a significant other, you may wonder if a joint bank account is the right move or if you should keep your finances separate.
When you open a joint checking account, it can make it easier for the two of you to budget, spend, and save, especially if you are splitting household expenses. However, doing so also means you have less privacy financially speaking and you may not be comfortable with this level of transparency.
If you are mulling over this decision, read on to learn the pros and the cons of opening a joint bank account, as well as the steps required to open a joint bank account. In addition, you’ll find out about options to a shared bank account which may suit your needs.
What Is a Joint Bank Account?
A joint bank account is an account that’s shared between two people.
Simply put, a joint bank account is an account that’s shared between two or more people. Each person has full access to the money, whether withdrawing or adding to the funds.
While some couples will open an account and put all of their combined cash into it, other couples may choose to open up a shared bank account in addition to their pre-existing individual accounts.
Shared accounts can be both checking and savings accounts, and which account you choose — if you choose to create one at all — will depend on your specific goals and circumstances.
Sharing a financial account can come with some great benefits, as it generally provides each account holder with a debit card, a checkbook, and the ability for two people to deposit and withdraw funds into the same account. It can also come with some potential drawbacks.
One of the biggest decisions a couple will make is whether they decide to treat their money as a shared asset or as separate entities. As with any discussion about money, every individual or couple will have different goals and experiences, so it’s helpful to take a look at both sides. Considering the pros and cons of joint accounts may help you decide if this kind of account suits you.
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How Does a Joint Account Work?
A joint account functions just like an individual account, except that more than one person has access to it.
Everyone named on a joint account has the power to manage it, which includes everything from deposits to withdrawals.
Any account holder can also close the account at any time. And, all owners of a joint account are jointly liable for any debts incurred in relation to the account.
Two or more people can own a joint account. They don’t have to be a married couple or even live at the same address to combine bank accounts.
You can open a joint account with an aging parent who needs assistance with paying bills and managing their money. You can also open a joint account with a teenage child, friend, roommate, sibling, or business partner.
What Are Some Pros of a Joint Bank Account?
Here are some of the pros of opening a joint account.
• Ease of paying bills. When you’re sharing expenses, such as rent/mortgage payments, utilities, insurance and streaming services, it can be a lot simpler to write one check (or make one online payment), rather than splitting bills between two bank accounts. A shared account can simplify and streamline your financial life.
• Transparency. With a joint checking account, there can’t be any secrets about what’s coming in and in and what’s going out, since you both have access to your online account. This can help a newly married couple understand each other’s spending habits and talk more openly about money.
• A sense of togetherness. Opening a joint bank account signals trust and a sense of being on the same team. Instead of “your money” and “my money,” it’s “our money.”
• Easier budgeting. When all household and entertainment expenses are coming out of the same account, it can be much easier to keep track of spending and stick to a monthly budget. A joint account can help give a couple a clear financial picture.
• Banking perks. Your combined resources might allow you to open an account where a certain minimum balance is required to keep it free from fees. Or, you might get a higher interest rate or other rewards by pooling your funds. Also, in a joint bank account, each account holder is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which means the total insurance on the account is higher than it is in an individual account.
• Fewer legal hoops. Equal access to the account can come in handy during illness or another type of crisis. If one account holder gets sick, for example, the other can access funds and pay medical and other bills. If one partner passes away, the other partner will retain access to the funds in a joint account without having to deal with a complicated legal process.
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What Are Some Cons of a Joint Bank Account?
Despite the myriad advantages of opening a joint account, there are some potential downsides to a shared account, which include:
• Lack of privacy. Since both account holders can see everything that goes in and comes out of the account, your partner will know exactly what you’re earning and how much you are spending each month.
• Potential for arguments. While a joint account can prevent arguments by making it easier to keep track of bills and spending, there is also the potential for it to lead to disagreements if one partner has a very different spending style than the other.
• No individual protection. As joint owners of the account, you are both responsible for everything that happens. So if your partner overdraws the account, you will both be on the hook for paying back that debt and covering any fees that are charged as a result. If one account holder lets debts go unpaid, creditors can, in some cases, go after money in the joint account.
• It can complicate a break-up. If you and your partner end up parting ways, you’ll have the added stress of deciding how to divide up the bank account. Each account owner has the right to withdraw money and close the account without the consent of the other.
• Reduced benefits eligibility. If you open a joint account with a college student, the joint funds will count towards their assets, possibly reducing their eligibility for financial aid. The same goes for an elderly co-owner who may rely on Medicaid long-term care.
How to Open a Joint Bank Account
If you decide opening a joint account makes sense for your situation, the process is similar to opening an individual account. You can check your bank’s website to find out if you need to go in person, call, or just fill out forms online to start your joint account.
Typically, you have the option to open any kind of account as a joint account, except you’ll select “joint account” when you fill out your application or, after you fill in one person’s information, you can choose to add a co-applicant.
Whether you open your joint account online or in person, you’ll likely both need to provide the bank with personal information, including address, date of birth, and social security numbers, and also provide photo identification. You may also need information for the accounts you plan to use to fund your new account.
Another way to open a joint account is to add one partner to the other partner’s existing account. In this case, you’ll only need personal information for the partner being added.
Before signing on the dotted line, it can be a good idea to make sure you and the co-owner know the terms of the joint account. You will also need to make decisions together about how you want this account set up, managed, and monitored.
Should I Open a Joint Bank Account or Keep Separate Accounts?
As you consider your options, know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You could open a new joint account while keeping your own separate bank accounts. Or you could decide between separate vs. joint accounts, and go all in on one or the other.
Some couples may find that the best solution is to pool some funds in a joint account for specific purposes, from paying for basic living expenses to saving for the down payment on a house or building an emergency fund.
You might keep your own separate accounts as well, where you can spend on what you like without anyone watching (or judging). Or perhaps you want to keep some funds separate so you can pay off your student loans, while your partner doesn’t have any.
In addition to making financial logistics more streamlined, opening a joint account may also help you and your partner practice better communication about money.
Opening a Joint Checking and Savings Account with SoFi
If you decide that a joint account feels right for you, you’ll have a number of options, including opening a SoFi joint account.
Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.
What are the disadvantages of a joint account?
Disadvantages of a joint account include complete transparency (meaning you and your partner can see each other’s financial transactions), responsibility for the other person’s cash management, and complications if you decide to separate down the road.
Are joint bank accounts a good idea?
Joint accounts can be a good idea and can help streamline money management, save on fees, and reach financial goals more efficiently. Much depends on the two people involved and how well they can sync their financial lives.
Is it better to have joint or separate bank accounts?
That’s a personal decision. Joint accounts offer benefits like simpler money management, transparency, and saving money on fees. However, others prefer to keep separate accounts and have control over their funds as well as privacy.
Who owns the money in a joint bank account?
Money in a joint bank account belongs to those who hold the account. Each person has the right to add or withdraw funds.
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