A joint bank account is a checking account that can be managed by two different people. If you are married or in a long-term relationship, chances are you and your partner have discussed whether to open a joint bank account. This is a major decision, and many couples worry that merging their finances will lead to complications in their relationship.
Managing your money is challenging in itself, and throwing another person in the mix will not inherently make it easier. But with communication and teamwork, a joint bank account could actually strengthen your bond.
What Is a Joint Bank Account?
A joint bank account is similar to a typical bank account, only multiple people have jurisdiction over it. According to a 2016 TD Bank Survey, 76% of couples admitted to sharing at least one bank account.
By pooling their money into a single joint bank account, or even some of their money, couples are more likely to qualify for rewards or a higher interest rate by meeting their bank’s minimum balance requirements. In most cases, each account holder will receive a debit card, a checkbook, and permission to make deposits and bank withdrawals.
The Benefits of a Joint Checking Account
Joint checking accounts promote trust and communication by providing financial transparency and ensuring both parties work together. As a result of opening a joint checking account, couples can increase their savings, manage their household budget more effectively, and contribute equally to vacations and other luxuries.
Another benefit of joint bank accounts is that both spouses have equal access to their money. This also means there are fewer financial surprises, as couples who have merged their finances share access to the funds in their joint account.
Furthermore, should one spouse pass away, a joint checking account would give the surviving spouse immediate access to the money in the account. With separate accounts, the surviving spouse would likely need to go through an extensive legal process in order to claim their partner’s funds.
The Case for Separate Bank Accounts
While some couples appreciate the simplicity of merging their finances, others may have a difficult time coming to terms with the loss of financial independence they experience as a result of opening a joint account. After growing accustomed to managing their money independently, it can be difficult for spouses to feel the need to communicate about their financial activity.
Similarly, problems may arise when joint bank account holders use their shared finances to pay back personal debts. One spouse may feel resentful that the other is using a joint checking account, rather than their own savings, to make payments. This is why, before opening a joint account, couples should discuss their current debts and overall finances.
In turn, if the relationship ends, joint banking poses additional risks. The money in the joint account can be challenging to separate, and if the breakup is messy, one spouse may withdraw funds or even close the account without the other’s consent.
Is a joint bank account right for you in your relationship? If you are apprehensive about merging your finances, note that there’s a happy middle ground. You can keep your individual accounts, and open a joint account exclusively for shared expenses. This will allow you to maintain your financial independence, yet still work with your spouse toward common financial goals. Many couples are drawn to this option for the flexibility it provides.