Our First Bank Account

A guide to opening your first joint bank account.

This probably comes as no surprise if you've ever been in a long-term relationship: About 31% of all couples—even the happiest ones—clash over money at least once a month.1

So, is opening a joint bank account a good idea or a bad one? Whether it’s saving for a big trip or making quick, on-the-go purchases, a joint checking or savings account can make certain aspects of money management a little easier. But you’ve got to know how it works and whether it makes sense for you.

What is a joint bank account?

A joint bank account is a shared bank account between two people. Sharing a bank account makes it possible for either party to deposit and withdraw funds, and usually provides full access to the shared account. No more having to transfer money back and forth or discuss who buys what. You can spend together and save together with joint checking and savings accounts.

Who owns the money in a joint bank account?

The beauty (and ease) of a joint bank account is that both of you can access it at any time. Since the account will belong to the two of you, you both have equal ownership. This means you can withdraw or deposit money whenever you see fit.

Say you’re saving for a dream vacation to the shores of Sicily. With two people making regular deposits toward a goal, reaching it may feel easier. You’ll not only see every deposit that’s made, but you can also cheer each other on with your eye on the prize.

On the flip side, your joint account holder can change their mind, withdraw that money or use it for something else entirely. Trust, therefore, is a must for anyone sharing a bank account. While it can be a good way to start building a financial partnership, it’s a big step for any relationship. Here are some pros and cons so you can decide for yourself:

Joint bank account pros and cons
Pros

  • Couples can use cash in a joint account to cover shared expenses such as rent, bills and date nights

  • A joint account can help you save more easily together for any of your wants or needs

  • Each account holder is insured by the FDIC up to allowable limits, increasing the amount of total coverage

  • You can share responsibilities based on who’s best at any given task, such as paying bills on time or managing a budget

  • Finally, if one account holder passes away, the other will have access to the account without having to locate a will or involve a lawyer

Cons

  • One partner could overdraw the account, meaning you’d both be on the hook for potential fees

  • If one account holder lets debts go unpaid, creditors can pursue money in the account for settlements

  • Both account holders can see all transactions in the account, bringing certain obsessions with golf, shoes, books or video games out into the light of day

  • Individuals sharing the same joint account may have different tax obligations, so it may help to get advice from a pro come tax season

Find the best joint bank account for you

Exploring bank accounts together is also a good opportunity to get comfortable talking about money. As you compare features that come with different accounts, you can decide what’s important to both of you. You can also discuss what the account will be used for. Will it be for everyday bills? Managing debt and savings? Putting money away for a big event or purchase?

Once you find an account that works for both of you, follow the bank’s account opening process. Whether you open your joint account online or in person, you’ll probably both need:

  • Photo ID
  • Proof of address
  • Opening deposit (in some cases)

How to close a joint bank account

This may be surprising, but only one account holder is needed to close a joint account. Once you’re at a zero balance, you can take your ID to your branch and fill out the correct form. However, if you’re closing your joint account online, you may both be asked to log in separately. In some cases, faxed or mailed requests are accepted, but not often.

Depending on where you are in your financial journey, a joint bank account may help you reach your goals, or at least get better at discussing and planning for them. Just make sure you consider the pros and cons and agree about how you’ll manage everything from saving to spending to handling mishaps.

A financial journey for two takes work—but has advantages that make it worthwhile for many.


This site is for educational purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

Citations

  1. An Ameriprise study on couples and money. (Sept 2016)Z Retrieved from: https://www.ameriprise.com/cm/groups/public/@amp/@ameriprise/documents/document/p-014230.pdf

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