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Dos and don'ts of opening a joint account with your partner

 What you need to know before setting up a joint account with your partner (Photo: iStock)

You know you're in a serious relationship when you start sharing things like your clothes and your passwords with each other. While you are at it, the urge to open a joint bank account will become inevitable.

It's natural. It can be a sign of trust, it can make life easier, but it can also be fraught with pitfalls. Here are a few of the do's and don'ts when it comes to joint accounts:


Signed agreement

Make sure you discuss the purpose of the joint account before you decide to open it. It's also a good idea to put it in writing. Make sure you both agree on how the account will be managed and accessed. You need to have regular and effective discussions about the account.

Set limits

Your partner could simply walk in and withdraw a large amount of money for whatever reason. They could be in debt and need money to pay it off. Make sure you set spending limits or rules about when money can be withdrawn and how it can be used.

Be transparent

Both account holders should have access to statements, passwords, login information, everything. Transparency is the key to any relationship.

Have an emergency fund

One of the reasons you may choose to have a joint account is to create an emergency fund. Discuss and plan how the funds will be used in the event of unexpected situations, such as medical expenses or job loss.


Rely on the joint account alone

While joint accounts can be useful, it's important to maintain individual accounts as well. Having personal accounts allows for financial independence and will come in handy when it comes to personal expenses.

Ignore red flags

Withdrawing money from a joint account should be done by mutual agreement. If you notice any suspicious activity or unauthorised transactions, don't ignore them. Address them immediately. This may put a strain on your relationship, but prevention is better than cure, right?

Assume contributions are equal

Rule number one for any relationship: never assume. If the joint account is meant to pool funds for shared expenses, don't assume that both parties will contribute equally. Discuss and agree on contribution amounts beforehand.

Update access

If there are changes in your relationship, such as a separation or divorce, make sure you update access to the joint account accordingly to avoid conflicts. For example, the logins, the passwords, the terms and conditions in case one of you wants to withdraw.

In the event of a disagreement, you both need to understand that if you cannot resolve it amicably, each owner has the full right to withdraw, deposit and otherwise manage the funds in the account. It would be wrong and disrespectful to use the account for personal purchases, but you already know that, so unless you are deliberately trying to cause drama.

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