Can Unmarried Couples Have a Joint Checking Account?

Paying household bills can be easier with a joint account.

Paying household bills can be easier with a joint account.

Navigating finances with your significant other means deciding what sort of accounts you need and who's responsible for paying what. You don't have to be married to get a joint checking account, but you should understand the responsibilities involved. Sharing your life doesn't mean you have to share a bank account, but it's certainly a possibility.

Getting an Account

Banks don't require you to be married to get a joint account. When you go in together to open the account, you both must present the proper forms of identification, such as a driver's license. Both of you will provide your Social Security numbers and sign to accept responsibility for the account. The process of getting a joint account is no more complicated whether you're single and sharing a household or married.

Benefits

When your lives are intertwined, using a joint checking account can simplify how you handle finances. It allows you both easily to contribute to the household expenses and it saves time when you're balancing the account -- there's only one to worry about. It also helps you communicate about money because you must continually discuss purchases and upcoming expenses so the account doesn't become overdrawn.

Potential Problems

Having a joint checking account isn't all fun and games, however. If you begin to disagree about money, one of you doesn't have more legal right to the funds in the account than the other person. That means either of you could clean out the joint account at any time, regardless of who put the money in there. Some people like to keep a measure of financial independence and not have every penny tied up with someone else's finances. Because you both own the account equally, you also own any problems with the account equally. If your partner bounces checks constantly, it can affect your credit score.

Having Both

Having a joint checking account with your honey doesn't mean you can't have separate accounts as well. Setting aside a specified amount each month in the joint account can give you the best of both worlds; you can share household expenses while maintaining financial independence with separate accounts. Putting money in the joint account should be based on how much each of you makes instead of each of you contributing an equal amount. For example, if you make 60 percent of the household income, you should pay for 60 percent of the household bills. This helps ensure you both have a similar amount left in your personal accounts after contributing to the joint account.

 

About the Author

Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.

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