How do joint bank accounts work?

You can get a joint current account to help you share expenses or bills with your partner, housemate or a family member. Here is how they work, their risks and how to choose the right one.

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Pros and cons of joint accounts

Updated 15 June 2020
Can cover joint bills togetherYou have to trust the other person
You can both check and run itCould damage your credit record
Avoid arguments over missed billsComplicated if you fall out
Keep joint spending togetherOverdraft could get you into debt

How to get a joint bank account

You can apply for a joint account in the same way as getting a bank account by yourself:

  • Compare joint accounts using our comparison

  • Decide on the best joint account by working out which features you need

  • Apply online, in a branch, by phone or by post

  • Decide if you want everyone to sign to make withdrawals or just one of you

  • Provide any identification documents the bank asks for

  • Start using your account

How to apply for a bank account

How to work out which features you need

You can get almost any current account jointly with someone else. When you choose an account, decide which of the following you need:

  • Online banking

  • Direct debits and standing orders

  • A debit card for each account holder

  • An overdraft

  • A cheque book

  • Rewards or cashback on your spending or bill payments

Here is how to decide what features you need and pick the right joint account

What is a joint bank account?

It works the same way as a normal current account but is held in the names of two or more people who can use it.

They are usually taken out by people who live together like couples, housemates or family members. You could all pay money into a joint account and use it to pay shared bills like:

  • Mortgage or rent payments

  • Utility bills like gas, electricity and water

  • Council tax

  • Entertainment, like TV subscriptions

Some banks only let you open a joint account with one other person, but some let you have four or more people named on a bank account. You can usually open them with anyone: you do not need to be married to or living with the other account holder.

Decide on who can make withdrawals

You can sometimes set up a mandate on the account, which specifies who can run it. You can choose between:

  • Either to sign: Anyone named on the account can make changes or spend the money in it.

  • Both to sign: Any changes to the account, spending or withdrawals need the permission of both account holders.

Most current accounts have an either to sign mandate and come with a debit card for each person, meaning either of you could spend the money in the account.

Compare joint bank accounts

Who looks after the account?

What they cost

They come with the same charges as sole accounts, including:

  • Failed direct debits fees

  • Overdraft charges

  • Annual or monthly fees for some packaged accounts

If you manage your account carefully, you should be able to use it for free. Here are all the costs that come with current accounts and how to avoid having to pay them.

They could also cost you money if another account holder spends too much, which could:

  • Use up some or all of the money in your account

  • Leave you in your overdraft, which means you owe money to your bank

  • Mean you have to pay interest on what you owe

  • Mean you have to pay fees if you exceed your overdraft limit

If this happens, both you and your joint holders are responsible for paying it back and for any fees.

How they affect your credit record

If you hold a joint account with someone else, their financial history becomes linked to yours.

If they have had debt problems in the past or miss repayments in the future, this could put lenders off offering you a loan, mortgage, overdraft or credit card even in your sole name.

This is because any form of borrowing shows up on your credit record, including a current account if it has an overdraft.

They can still show on your credit record after you close the account. Here is how to remove a financial association with someone once you no longer hold any accounts with them.

What protection can you get?

The money you hold in your bank account is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. It can protect up to £85,000 per person named on a joint account.

For example, if you held an account jointly with your partner, up to £170,000 in your accounts with that banking group would be protected if your bank went bust.

How to use your joint account

How to withdraw money

If everyone on the account can operate it individually, you can withdraw money by:

  • Getting cash from an ATM

  • Paying on your debit card

  • Setting up a standing order or direct debit

  • Writing a cheque

  • Withdrawing cash in a branch

  • Sending a bank transfer using internet banking

However, you cannot use all of these if you set up the account so everyone needs to sign for any transaction.

For example, your bank could only let you write cheques if they are signed by both of you, or authorise online transactions with both of your passwords.

How to keep track of your balance and transactions

Any account holders can track the transactions and balance at any time. You can do this by:

  • Signing into your internet banking and checking the statement

  • Checking your monthly paper statement or requesting one by post

  • Phoning your bank

  • Checking your balance at an ATM

  • Receiving balance updates by text message

How to remove a joint holder

You can remove one or more people from a joint account and leave it in the name of the remaining account holders. For example:

  • If you have an account with your partner, you could transfer it into just their name or yours

  • If you have an account with three housemates and one moves out, you could remove them from the account

Banks need signed permission from everyone on the account to remove someone, and some ask for identification documents or for you to visit a branch as well.

How to add someone to your account

You need to provide the bank with:

  • Signed permission from the existing account holder

  • Full name, address and other personal details of the new person as well as their signature

  • Any identification documents they need from the new account holder

Some banks need you both to visit a branch to provide identification and complete their paperwork.

How to close a joint account

Most banks need a request to close the account to come from all the account holders. You usually need to request this in a branch or in writing.

New bank accounts are offered all the time, so compare all of the best options to make sure you get the right one for you.