In this guide

What is a joint bank account?

A joint bank account is where two or more people are able to access the money in a bank account. These accounts are just regular bank accounts. Joint account holders can all:

  • pay into the account to cover expenses like bills
  • write cheques
  • withdraw cash

Can we open a joint account without being married?

Yes. You don’t even need to be living at the same address to open a joint account.

If you already know the people you will be living with, it might be worth setting up a joint account beforehand so you can get bills organised ASAP.

Can a joint account have more than two people?

Yes, it’s possible but not that common. Some banks will only allow two account holders, others will accept as many as four. The more account holders you have on a joint account, the more you’re risking your finances and credit rating.

What are the advantages of a joint account?

Choosing to pay your bills via a joint account offers a number of advantages:

Shared responsibility

With everyone in control of the accounts, you share the workload of organising bills and finances, so a single person isn’t left with the responsibility. It also means you can all keep up to date with your joint financial situation.

Organisation

You can make regular payments into your joint account relatively easily. This saves the effort of transferring money to and from your housemates every month.

Save some arguments

With a number of bills and several housemates, things can get complicated. Friendships can break down when money is involved and people start to feel cheated and confused. A single account for bills makes things much easier.

What are the disadvantages of a joint account?

Shared responsibility

Shared responsibility is only a benefit when all housemates take on the responsibility of managing the account. If payments start lagging behind because someone hasn’t paid into the account, you’ll all be held responsible.

Poor credit

An often overlooked aspect of joint bank accounts is that all account holders will be co-scored. This means that if one of your housemates has a poor credit history, it will affect your own credit rating the moment you open up a joint account with them.

This co-scoring will stay on your credit record for six years, even if you’ve closed the joint account.

Paying someone else’s debt

Because of the shared responsibility of the bank account, if the account becomes overdrawn every account holder is responsible for paying the money owed. This means you could have to pay someone else’s debt.

What do we need to set up a joint bank account?

The bank will need a few items from each of you to be able to open a joint account. What they need varies from bank to bank, so it’s worth checking with yours.

You’ll need:

  1. proof of ID—a passport or photo ID driving licence
  2. proof of address—a bank statement or utility bill which has been issued within the last three months
  3. a good credit rating—this is to limit any risk for the bank when opening an account for you

How do we open a joint bank account?

Opening a joint account is similar to opening a normal current account. Each account holder needs to fill in their section of the application form and provide the evidence mentioned above.

Make sure you clarify each of the following points, as they may vary from bank to bank:

  • Who can take money out without getting permission?—it might be worth electing a responsible housemate.
  • How will overdrafts be handled?—Usually every account holder is responsible for paying all the money owed. Issues may arise if someone also has a current account with the bank. They may find the bank takes money from their current account to cover the missed payments on the joint account.

Can I open a joint account without the other people present?

To open a joint bank account, every account holder will need to sign documents and present evidence. Some banks may give you an extra day so the other person (or people) can sign and so on, so discuss this with your bank beforehand.

Can I remove someone from a joint bank account?

Yes. Say, for example, one of your housemates is moving out, you should be able to remove them as an account holder.

However, your bank will need signed permission from everyone on the account to remove someone. Banks may also want to see identification documents or ask you to visit them in-branch as well.

How do we close a joint account?

All account holders will need to agree to close a joint bank account. You normally do this in writing, but some banks may need you to come into a branch. You’ll need to pay off all debts/overdrafts and organise your direct debits, as you’ won’t be able to close the account otherwise.

What do we do if there are disagreements between account holders?

If you’re having problems with the other account holders, the most sensible thing to do is cancel the mandate on the account.

This freezes the account, meaning no-one can withdraw any money until you’ve settled the dispute. The account will only unfreeze once everyone agrees on how to split the money.

Worst-case scenario, the courts may have to get involved, but until then at least your money will be safe.

Should we get a joint bank account?

You should think long and hard about whether a joint bank account is worth it for you. You must trust your housemates to pay their share, keep the money safe and stay calm during any disagreements. You’ll also need to make sure your housemates have a good credit rating that’s unlikely to change.

Basically, if you have any doubts about sharing an account with your housemates, it’s probably best to avoid it.

The easier way—Split The Bills

Organising a method of paying bills that works for everyone can be stressful. Besides, you’ve got better things to do than chase your housemates to pay for their share of Netflix!

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