Whether or not to open a joint bank account with your partner is a conversation that requires serious thought and patience. While having a joint bank account can provide additional convenience when paying off shared expenses, it can also cause serious tension – joint bank accounts are not for everyone. We've broken down the basics to help you decide whether or not a joint bank account makes sense for you.
What is a joint bank account?
A joint bank account is an account in which both you and your partner's names appear. All of the money within the account is merged; no distinction is made between the funds deposited by you or your partner. You both deposit money from salaries, gifts, etc. into the account and either of you can access the funds to pay off shared expenses like a mortgage, groceries or a romantic vacation.
What are the disadvantages of opening a joint bank account?
Being able to withdraw money without your partner's consent can be both a blessing and a curse. For example, if there is $600 in the account and you write a check for $300 to pay the cable bill, but your partner withdrew $350 the day before to pay your child's gymnastics fees, you end up with a bounced check and a negative balance.
If you and your partner separate or divorce, a joint bank account can cause major problems. One spouse can potentially withdraw all the funds, leaving the other person high and dry and at the center of a huge legal battle.
Before opening a joint bank account, it's important to decide whether or not it aligns with your money style. For some, a joint bank account can be stifling, forcing you to check in with your partner every time you make a withdrawal. This makes some feel as though they've lost independence. These tensions can build into resentments, which can be devastating for your relationship.
What are the advantages of a joint bank account?
Convenience: With funds merged in one place, there is less to juggle, and either partner can manage and access the account without permission from the other. You no longer have to ask your partner every month to pay their half of the electricity bill. For many couples, a joint bank account puts an end to arguments about money, because everything is out in the open. If the worst should happen, and you or your partner should die, the other automatically gets the money in the account without having to wait for probate.
Open communication (not to mention an open wallet) is your relationship's best friend. If you and your spouse decide to open a joint bank account, you'll go to the bank together and make it official. Calculate your earnings to decide how much each partner will contribute into the account, on a weekly or monthly basis. Check in every month to determine how much each of you can withdraw once the bills are paid.
Explore your options with your bank and your partner to reach an agreement that feels really comfortable to you.