The pros and cons of having a joint bank account

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You’ve promised to love each other for richer or poorer. But, before saying “I do”, have you decided how the household finances would be run? Did the word “joint account” pop up? Money problems are often the main reason for divorce. Legal Marketing Specialist, Michelle Dubois gives us the advantages and disadvantages of joint accounts.

Joint Accounts

There are various factors to consider before opening a joint bank account. Make an informed decision that is best suited to your needs.

ADVANTAGES

  • A joint account makes it easier to pay joint bills and shared household expenses. It also means that everything is shared and one partner isn’t always left paying for everything.
  • When you and your partner make regular contributions, there are more funds available in the account.
  • Having a joint account and clear guidelines for how to manage it, may prevent arguments about money.
  • Both of you have equal access to the money. If you and your spouse talk openly about income, expenses and money in general, this will be a good option for you.

DISADVANTAGES

  • If you are making more money than your partner or vice versa, the person bringing home more money may resent that their partner is taking more than what they’re putting in.
  • One or both of you may feel restricted because you really don’t have any of your own money with this system. Someone has to be in charge of approving a purchase and that person may eventually harbour resentment because of the extra work.
  • A joint account offers no privacy and every transaction you make is transparent. Your partner may buy something expensive without your knowledge, and you may discover this the hard way when your debit card is declined.
  • Before you open your joint account, make sure that your partner’s credit record is on track. If one of you has a poor credit history, it’s not normally a good idea to open a joint account. Just living with someone, or being married to them, will not affect your credit rating but as soon as you open a joint bank account together you will be ‘co-scored’.
  • You need to be aware that you both have ‘joint and several liability’ for all transactions, which means you share each other’s debt. If the relationship fails and your ex-partner is in debt, this may affect your ability to get credit.
  • If you or your partner overdraws on the account, both of you will be held legally responsible for the overdrawn status of your account. Similarly, it won’t matter who the spender is or who pays the bills, all good and bad behaviour is associated with the account and it will reflect on your credit rating.
  • Although some people view a joint bank account as an uncomfortable commitment, as long as you are content with the fact that your partner will be aware of how much money you spend and vice versa, a joint account can be a great way to manage your finances.

SEPARATE ACCOUNTS

Having a joint account for household expenses is a good idea, but it’s also important to have separate bank account to keep a degree of financial independence and privacy. In the event of the death of the primary account holder, the joint account will be frozen and the surviving partner will not be able to access funds. This could be a huge financial obstacle for you as the survivor. Having your own bank account will ensure you manage your affairs while the process runs its course. With that said it’s advisable to consider the pros and cons of a joint account before taking it up or dismissing it. Most importantly, as uncomfortable as it may be, break the ice and discuss your financial future with your partner.