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When is the right time to open a joint bank account?

Published 26 August 2011 by

Choosing the right time to open a joint bank account with your partner really depends on your relationship and what kind of future you want together. Recent research suggests that not everyone is happy to share their money with their partner - it seems, according to Nationwide, fewer than half of UK couples have a joint account!

There's an obvious link between living together and banking together, but these days, people are putting off all sorts of commitments until later in life - the average age British women get married is now 30 and the average age a Brit will buy their first home is 35 (compared with 23 in the 60s).

There have been some interesting stories in the news recently about how people in relationships manage their money. It got us thinking: when is it right to open a joint bank account?

Couples don't share everything

A recent survey by a major building society found that fewer than half of couples in the UK have a joint current account. These couples may or may not be married or living together, which could be one reason why so many choose to keep their money to themselves.

The survey also found that nearly a quarter of these people admitted to having a 'secret' bank account that they haven't told their partners about! It seems a little surprising when you consider that the couples interviewed mostly want honesty (43%) and trust (32%) in their relationships.

Having said that, nearly half of them said they would rethink their bank account arrangements if they got married and around a third would if they moved in with their partner.

Should couples share their money? Plenty of working women under 30 don't seem to think so!

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Another recent survey found that nearly half of single working women under 30 prefer the idea of marriage to having a joint bank account with their boyfriend.

It's not that they're worried about commitment - 65% of these 'savvy sisters' agreed that "it's important to make sure your personal finances are protected when you get married". Keeping their financial independence is clearly important to them.

Around half of the men surveyed said they would also protect their finances in marriage.

And a case last year saw a British court recognise a prenuptial agreement as legally binding.

When to open a joint bank account

These surveys can make interesting reading, but the serious point is that people only tend to consider opening a joint bank account if they're in a committed relationship - and even then, they may have a bank account of their own for their own spending.

So why do people open joint bank accounts?

Joint banking isn't for everyone, but it can be much more convenient to have a joint account when you're paying joint bills, a joint mortgage or joint expenses.

If you're married, or in a relationship with someone you trust, combining your finances can make it simpler to budget for all your expenses, like a mortgage or rent, food and bills.

If you have two incomes, pooling your money together is often seen as another way to show your commitment and support to your partner.

Very often, cheques are given to newlyweds and a joint bank account is an ideal place to put these gifts.

Of course, couples don't have to share everything - you could have two accounts - one for mutual bills and one for yourself. It's perfectly possible to keep your financial independence and still feel like you're sharing with your partner.

Opening a joint account

If you did want to open a joint account, you could open one at the same time as your partner, or you might add them to your existing account.

You'll have to talk to your bank and find out what you'll need to prove (age, residency, etc.), what paperwork you'll need to sign and so on.

You can find out more about the thinkmoney joint Personal Account and how to open one here.

Before you open a joint account

It's possible for couples to have really different views on all kinds of things, like politics, football, or music - but most couples will agree on the important things (like starting a family, paying the bills and employment) before any kind of financial commitment is made, such as opening a joint bank account.

You should be aware that if you open an account together, your partner will have full knowledge of your finances: how much you earn, what you spend your money on, etc. There's no reason for that to be a problem - although it could become one if you break up.

What happens if you break up?

When two people with a joint account decide to break up and an account is still in both names, they would need to agree on what to do with it. They may decide it makes most sense to close the account.

It isn't a difficult process - no more complicated than closing a standard bank account and definitely no more complicated than having to explain your secret bank account to your partner!