How to Open a Joint Bank Account

Zeta Team
August 5th, 2020 | 5 min
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Considering opening a joint account with someone? Maybe you and your partner are about to get married. Or perhaps you're about to begin a joint venture with a business partner. You may be a parent who wants to teach a child about real-world money management. It's up to you when you want to open a joint account but first, the facts.

In order to get started, it's important to understand exactly what a joint bank account is, the types and variations that are available, and the necessary process for opening one with the bank of your choice. This helpful guide will walk you through the process step-by-step so that you can feel confident about opening your very own joint bank account with the partner of your choice.

What is a Joint Account?

A joint account is a bank account which is held by more than one person. There are several varieties, including joint checking accounts, which come with debit cards and checkbooks for regular withdrawals and spending, and joint savings accounts, which can be used for growing your savings for future expenses, a rainy day fund, or growing your money to order to invest in something else.

Here’s the thing -- joint accounts are legally owned by both (or all) holders. This means that all account holders can deposit money into the account and withdraw money from the account at any time. It does not matter who initially deposited the money. Once it enters the joint account, it is the property of all individuals whose names are on the account. Legally, each person is considered to have equal ownership of the account.

This remains the case even if one person is designated as the primary account holder. In turn, both hold equal responsibility. For example, if the account is overdrafted or payments (to a joint credit card, etc.) are not made on time, both holders will be contacted and investigated by the bank.

Who do you typically open a joint account with?

Most people think joint bank accounts are only for married couples. Not true! You can open a joint account with another person, no marital status required. Couples who cohabitate, roommates, siblings, or family members can choose to open a joint account in order to contribute to household-related expenses. Business partners or coworkers can make use of a joint account when embarking on a financial venture together. You can even open a joint account with a friend if you are saving up for something together, such as going on a vacation in the future.

Another common use of joint bank accounts (especially savings accounts) is between parents and their minor children. Parents may want to teach the child how banks and money management work before they go to college or start out life on their own. This can be a great intermediate step toward a child’s independence because but the parent is able to monitor account activity so that the child does not spend irresponsibly.

Some banks have restrictions and rules on with whom and how many people you can open a joint with, so it’s always best to check with your financial institution.

How do you open a joint bank account?

The process of opening a joint account is similar to opening a bank account on your own. However, there are a few key differences to be aware of.

Can you open a joint bank account without the other person present?

This depends on the bank or credit union. Some banks will allow you to open a joint account online or over the phone. In this case, both people need not be present, but both must provide social security number and photo ID. If the bank requires an in-person meeting before the account is activated, then both account holders will need to be present.

Can you join existing bank accounts together?

It's very likely that both partners will already possess individual bank accounts but it’s not always possible to merge two existing individual accounts into one. Some banks will allow one individual account to be converted into a joint account by adding a second name to its ownership. Others will require you to create a new bank account from scratch.

Can you open a joint account and also keep individual accounts?

Yes! It's also possible to set up an "allowance system," in which money is deposited into a joint bank account but a monthly "allowance" is distributed into individual accounts for each holder.

Can you transfer money from a joint account to an individual account (or vice versa)?

Again, this depends on the bank. Many banks allow direct transfers between internal accounts, whether they are joint or individual. However, if your individual account is with a separate bank, you will likely need to write a check from one checking account and then deposit it into the other.

What joint account features matter most to you?

When choosing a bank and joint account type, it's important to educate yourself about the different perks and features which that particular financial organization offers. For example, different banks will have different interest rates, while some may even offer cash bonuses for opening a checking account or activating a debit card.

Whether you want to learn more about joint bank accounts or think you're ready to take that leap and open one, Zeta is here to get you get to your goals.

Learn more about Zeta Joint Cards

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The Zeta Joint Card and Joint Account is offered by LendingClub Bank, N.A., or Piermont Bank, Members FDIC. Zeta Help Inc. is a service provider of the issuing bank. All deposit accounts of the same ownership and/or vesting held at the issuing bank are combined and insured under an FDIC Certificate, up to $500,000. The Zeta Joint Debit Card, provided by MasterCard, may be used everywhere where MasterCard Debit Cards are accepted.