Have you reached a point in life where you are ready to share a financial account with another person? Maybe it’s a business partner, a friend, a romantic partner, or a child. If so, opening a joint account may be the right move for you. However, before you do so, there are some risks and benefits you should consider.
Opening a joint account can an important financial decision. Learn everything you need to know in this definitive guide to opening a joint account.
What is a joint bank account?
A joint account is a checking or savings account that is shared by at least two people. All account holders have access to the account and can use it. All may also have checks or debit cards that are linked to the account.
You can often choose to allow all account holders the power to sign for transactions on the account or can choose to require some or all account holders to approve transactions.
Is a joint checking account right for your situation?
Whether a joint account is right for your situation or not depends on who the other account holder(s) will be and why you want the shared account.
Both parties will be able to make deposits, withdrawals, and purchases. Additionally, both will be able to see each other’s transactions. So you should fully trust the other account holder and have no issues with letting them know about the transactions linked to that account.
When do joint bank accounts make sense?
In what situations are joint accounts generally a good idea?
- If a couple wants to work together toward a financial goal.
- After marriage when a couple wants to combine everything, including finances.
- When two people share the financial responsibility of a household.
- If business partners are managing a company together.
- When a parent wants to open an account for a child and teach them to use it responsibly.
In these situations, a joint account can be useful. However, as you can probably imagine, full transparency and accessibility can cause some issues.
Potential problems with joint bank accounts
Here are some examples of what can go wrong:
- Disagreements can arise if one person is spending in a way that the other person doesn’t approve of.
- If the account becomes overdrawn and closed, it can be sent to collections impacting both people’s credit.
- If the two account holders get into a disagreement or have a falling out, the funds in the account will be accessible to both. This can result in one person taking more than their share of the money.
- If an account holder has debts in collections, the account may be seized or garnished for repayment.
You can take steps to protect yourself while also opening a joint account. However, if you are having any doubts, carefully consider if a joint account will really be the best solution.
Possible security measures when opening a joint checking account
The first step is to place signing restrictions which require both people to approve transactions. The downside to that is it can be inconvenient when one person is busy or away.
The second step is to keep an individual account in addition to the joint account and only deposit an amount of money you are comfortable with into the joint account.
Joint savings accounts vs joint checking accounts
The lines between savings accounts and checking accounts are becoming more and more blurred. So you may be wondering what is the difference between a joint checking and savings account.
A joint savings account is usually opened to achieve a specific financial goal, such as save for a vacation, college, a car, or a downpayment on a house. Opening it with an additional account holder is convenient and can double the funds covered by FDIC insurance. Check this tool for more details on calculating how much of your money is covered.
Checking accounts are often used as demand or transactional accounts. Withdrawals and deposits are typically more frequent and fluid with a checking account. Checking account clients may use a wide variety to access their funds, such as cards, checks, ATMs, direct deposits and wire transfers. Joint checking accounts make a lot of sense when you’re running a business with someone else or you want to pool your resources to pay for household bills.
Joint account pros and cons
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
- A single account can minimize account fees.
- It can help businesses and couples to organize their finances.
- It makes it easy all account holders to stay up-to-date on the finances.
- Partners can get full financial transparency.
- It can make it easier to work towards goals together.
- You can add your child so they can have their first bank account.
- Another person will have access to your money.
- You may lose financial privacy.
- If the relationship deteriorates, the shared account could become problematic.
- You may have to pay for the other person’s financial mistakes.
Compare joint accounts and find the best one for you
If opening a joint account is the right financial move for you, choosing the right bank is important.
Here is what to look for:
- Low fees. Account fees can add up quickly so look for an account with low costs. Common fees include a monthly service fee, ATM fees, transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, and overdraft fees.
- Online access. Online access makes it convenient to manage the account. Look for a bank that offers online management through a website and mobile app.
- Good customer service. If something goes wrong, you will hope for friendly, helpful service. Ensure you get it by reading reviews from past customers. Look for a bank that makes customer service a priority.
- Reasonable minimum required deposit/balance. Some banks require you to make an initial deposit and/or keep a minimum amount in the account. Ensure that these requirements match up with your needs.
- Competitive annual percentage yield (APY). You can earn interest on the money in your joint account, whether it is a savings or checking account. Look for banks offering competitive APYs.
- Account terms that match your needs. For a joint account, you may need security measures in place, like the ability to require both parties to sign off on transactions. Ensure the bank has the account terms you need.
A joint bank account can be a smart way to work toward financial goals with a trusted partner. However, it’s important to enter into the account with a full understanding of the advantages and risks. Further, choose your joint account holder(s) wisely.
Ready to shop around? Compare checking and savings account side-by-side and read reviews from past customers here. Consider the factors provided above to find the account that offers the best value for your situation.
Jessica Walrack is a personal finance writer at SuperMoney, The Simple Dollar, Interest.com, Commonbond, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Guardian, Personalloans.org and many others. She specializes in taking personal finance topics like loans, credit cards, and budgeting, and making them accessible and fun.