Joint bank accounts explained

Decide if opening a bank account with someone else is right for you

Open a joint bank account with someone and you'll both be able to manage it, which can be useful for household bills and pooling your cash. However, any money you pay in will then belong to you both, so only do it with someone you trust. This short guide runs through it all, including how sharing an account can let you double up on free cash and other perks.

What is a joint bank account?

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A joint bank account is one where two people are named on the account and can manage it, so both joint account holders can withdraw or deposit money and make payments.

Each person named on the account has their own debit card (where one is offered) and their own online and mobile banking log-in details, with the pot of money shared by both.

You can open most current accounts and savings accounts jointly, though some providers – especially in the savings space – don't allow it.

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What to think about before you open a joint bank account

There are some things you should consider if you are thinking of opening a joint bank account with someone, particularly if you have very different spending and budgeting habits.

Joint account holders' credit files are financially linked

When you set up a joint bank account, a financial link is created between the account holders. So when you apply for credit, such as a mortgage or credit card, the lender could choose to view the credit files of the person you're linked to as well as yours.

If they have a poor credit history, this could impact your ability to borrow (and vice versa) – have a frank conversation and think carefully before opening a joint account. See how to check your credit report for free.

One of you could choose to withdraw all the cash

Money in a joint account belongs to anyone named on the account, so one of you could choose to withdraw it all. The only exception is if you have 'two to sign' set up, where you both usually need to be present in a branch to access any funds or make payments. However, this means you won't be able to have a debit card or online access, so is uncommon for an active account.

Getting a joint account is therefore never a step to be taken lightly, no matter how well you think you know the other person. As a safeguard, don't keep any substantial amounts in there and never do it if you feel pressured. See Martin's financial abuse blog for full help.

You also don't need a joint account to support each other. For example, if one earns more than the other, or income drops temporarily, such as during maternity or paternity leave, the higher earner could simply pay a set amount of money into the other's account rather than having a single account. What works best for you will depend on your personal circumstances.

You can freeze the account if your relationship turns sour

As either account holder is able to withdraw money held in a joint account, if you have a breakdown in communication it could be an idea to inform the bank. It will then usually place a freeze on the account until you can both be present to collectively decide what to do with the money.

Either party can also choose to close the account, or remove themselves. However, the process does vary between banks and some require you to have the permission of the other account holder first.   

It can be a useful way to share management of finances

When opened with trusted partners, family members or housemates, joint accounts can be a good way to pay shared bills or pool money for a collective savings goal. You can also double your perks if you take advantage of the right accounts.

How do I open a joint bank account?

You can either add an account holder to an existing account or open a new account together. The process varies between banks, with some allowing you to open a joint bank account online, and others requiring you to call or make a branch appointment.

Either way, the person you're adding will usually be credit checked and need to provide ID, such as a passport, and proof of address (unless they're also a customer of that bank).

What's the best joint account?

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The best joint accounts are the same as the best accounts for individuals, as the underlying account is the same – though the exact process of opening, and the maximum number of account holders, can vary.

If you're already happy with your sole account, you could simply contact your bank and ask it to add another account holder, or head to Best bank accounts to see the current top picks.

How to maximise joint account returns

There are few special joint account functions, but put in a bit of work and being in a couple can get you more than double the banking perk gains.

Step 1: Grab £100s EACH by switching

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Though there are currently no switch offers available, sometimes banks will pay you £100s to switch an existing current account held elsewhere over to them using the seven-day current account switch service (CASS). This automatically moves all your money, standing orders and direct debits over to the new account, plus forwards incoming payments and closes the old one for you.

You can switch a joint account, though you'll only get the one switch bonus between you. Therefore the trick here is to switch both of your sole accounts to a new joint account, so you'll each get the free cash. As mentioned, there aren't any switch offers available right now, but check Best bank accounts periodically for any updates as it's highly likely there'll be one again shortly.

If you want to really maximise this, see how to keep switching bank for cash as you can switch again, again and again. Some have made £1,000s, including Paul who emailed his success...

I kept my main account, and set up a donor one. Over two years, I switched nine times, making over £1,500. Enough time has now elapsed, I'm classed as a new customer with some banks, so I've made another £360 switching.

Step 2: Earn cashback on household bills paid by direct debit

This is simply about moving all of your bills to an account that pays cashback, for example, get 1% back on your energy, water, council tax and mobile bills. For the top accounts, see best accounts for bills cashback.

Just be aware that your existing account may require you to pay out direct debits to keep it active, or avoid a fee. If this is the case, hold back any that won't earn cashback, such as for car and home insurance, gym memberships or paying off a credit card or loan. Alternatively, if you don't have enough you could set up some to charity.

You can get cashback on bills with sole accounts too, though many prefer to have a joint bills account. Just remember that joint bills needn't mean equal contributions, always agree in advance how much each will contribute – for example, one may be the primary earner, so will pay more, or one may have fewer costs, so will pay less.

Step 3: Pay ONE fee for travel, mobile and breakdown cover for TWO

If you're both paying for travel, mobile or breakdown cover, opting for a top packaged bank account could cut your costs. These accounts charge a monthly fee, but this doesn't increase if you add another account holder – so you can get double the benefit without doubling fees.

However, always check you need the included insurance (and the key exclusions to make sure you're covered) and whether you could get cheaper standalone policies. See our Cheap mobile insurance, Breakdown insurance and Travel insurance guides to compare costs.

Step 4: Ensure both of your spending earns cashback

Finally, make sure you're being paid for all of your everyday spending. There are two main options here (though you could combine them):

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  • Cashback on debit card spending. Certain accounts pay you cashback just for using your debit card – either within certain categories (such as supermarket spending) or almost all spending made via the card. See top accounts for spending cashback for the latest options (though some accounts will only offer this benefit to sole accounts, so check before applying).

  • Cashback or other rewards on credit card spending. If you're debt-free and can afford to clear your credit card IN FULL every month, a top reward credit card that offers cashback, points or air miles can be a winner.

    While there's no such thing as a joint credit card, one of you could add the other as an authorised user, which would channel both of your spending on to one card. This can be useful as there are often extra perks and hefty bonuses on offer if you spend over a certain amount per year, or within the first three months – which could then be easier to achieve with two people using the card.

    See Joint credit cards explained for full risks, warnings and help.

Joint bank account FAQs

  • Can I switch a sole bank account to a joint bank account and vice versa?

    If you want to join finances with a partner, it's possible to use the seven-day current account switch service (CASS) to switch a sole account to a joint account. Do remember that this'll link your finances, so their credit record could affect yours – so always think carefully before doing so.

    This doesn't work the other way round – you can't use the CASS to switch a joint account to a sole account.

  • Who's responsible for any debts if the joint bank account is overdrawn?

    In the event that you go into the overdraft on your joint bank account, all account holders will be jointly responsible for paying off the debt. This will be the case even if only one of the account holders caused the account to be overdrawn.

    It is important to only open a joint bank account with someone that you trust and whose spending habits you are familiar with. If you don't have an arranged overdraft and end up overdrawn, both your credit scores will be affected.

  • Should I get a joint bank account if helping an elderly relative with their finances?

    If you both agree, then you could. However, if you're looking to be able to support more broadly, such as being able to make decisions on their behalf and being able to manage all of their accounts, then you'd need Power of Attorney.

    This is a legal document that allows somebody else to manage another's property and finances (and in many cases, health and welfare too) if they were to lose mental capacity. See our full guides to Power of Attorney and Best banks if you've already Power of Attorney.

    You can also set up a third-party mandate on one or more accounts with your bank. This allows one or more close family or friends to access select accounts to perform everyday financial tasks on your behalf, such as going in branch, withdrawing money at an ATM and accessing online banking.

  • Can you get joint credit cards?

    No, joint credit cards aren't technically a thing in the UK. You can add additional cardholders who can spend, but ultimately the main cardholder remains legally responsible for the full debt.

    For more information, see Should I get a joint credit card?

  • Who owns the money in joint bank accounts?

    Money held in a joint bank account is owned by anyone named as an account holder. This means any account holder can withdraw as much or as little as they like.

  • Can I have my own separate bank account as well?

    Yes, having a joint account does not discount you from having other current or savings accounts.

  • How much can each person withdraw from the joint account?

    Any account holder has the right to withdraw as much or as little as they like from a joint account  in the same way that they would if they were the sole account holder.

  • Can unmarried couples have a joint bank account?

    Yes, unmarried couples can open an account. You don't even have to be a couple – any two or more people can open a joint account if they wish, you don't need to be married, related or share an address.

  • What will happen to our joint bank account if we separate?

    If you separate and want to untangle your shared finances, you can close the account. If you have shared savings and cannot allocate them between you amicably, it is important that you let your bank know as soon as possible.

    They can do things like freeze the account until the dispute has been settled. It may be useful at this point to work with a mediator. Mediators can help arrange who the money in a shared account will be given to in the event that you go to court, sometimes depending on who paid in the funds in the first place.

  • Can I remove someone from a joint account?

    Typically with most joint accounts you cannot remove an account holder without their consent. This may require a written request or a branch appointment where both parties attend.

  • How do we close a joint bank account?

    Both account holders usually have to agree and provide written consent to close a joint account, you may have to do this in branch depending on the account provider.

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