Who Owns the Money in a Joint Bank Account?

Lindsay Goldwert
December 1st, 2020 | 5 min

It takes two (or more) to open a joint bank account. But really, who owns the money in the account? We break it down so that you can go into this decision with confidence.

What’s a joint bank account?

In short, a joint bank account is a bank account held by more than one person. Joint bank accounts aren’t just for married couples. Cohabitating couples, family members, and roommates can all go into a bank to sign up for a joint bank account. The account holders can write, sign, or send checks from the account or use a shared debit card.

Who owns the money in a joint bank account?

Here’s what’s important to know: Both or all parties are legal owners of the joint bank account, and therefore, own the money. It doesn’t matter who first decided to open the account, each individual is able to deposit and withdraw money into and from it.

Important: This means that one account holder can withdraw all of the money in the account without the consent of the other.

What if one of us deposits more of the money into the joint bank account?

It doesn’t matter who the larger contributor is, you both have equal access to the funds within the account. So even if Jane is constantly funding the account, but Joe is constantly withdrawing money, they have equal access to the money in the account.

Who’s legally responsible for the money in a joint bank account?

You’re in it together. That means if one account holder overdrafts the account, commits fraud, or commits other negative financial actions, all the holders are on the hook and are financially or even possibly criminally liable.

This is why it’s so important to trust the person that you’re opening the account with. Before opening the account, make sure you know the rules going in and are confident that your co-account holders are financially responsible enough to commit to sharing a bank account with.

Can I keep some of my money separate from the money in my joint bank account?

Of course, there’s no rule that you have to go all-in with your finances with another person. You can absolutely keep your own individual account and contribute to your joint bank account as you see fit. There are lots of ways to automate money into your joint bank account so that there’s always money there when you need it, like for your rent or mortgage.

Some banks will allow funds to be transferred from a joint bank account into an individual account if both accounts are owned by the same bank. If you want to understand all the ways your money can flow back and forth from your joint bank account and individual accounts, it’s best to check with your bank and see what it allows you to do.

Who gets the money if one of us dies?

If one holder of the account dies, depending on which state you're in, the account and all money contained within will most likely transfer to the surviving holder.

How do I know if I can trust the person I open the account with?

This comes down to your personal judgment and understanding of that person’s financial situation and history with money. At Zeta, we believe that communicating with your partner is key to getting on the same page around money habits and goals for the account.

If you and your partner are ready to take this step, consider playing our 20 Questions game. Not only will it bring you closer to understanding your financial past, present, and future, but it will also help you understand each other’s money stories, a part of your biographies that often don’t get discussed during the honeymoon phase of the relationship.

Did you enjoy this article?

To safely consume this site, we recommend reading this disclaimer. Any outbound links will take you away from Zeta, to external sites in the world wide web. Just so you know, Zeta doesn’t endorse any linked websites nor do we pay/bribe anyone to appear on here. Any reference to prices on the site are just estimates; actual prices are up to specific merchants and their current desire to charge you for things. Also, nothing on this website should be construed as investment advice. We’re here to share our favorite tools, tactics and tips for managing your money together. This content is for your responsible consumption. Please don’t see this as a recommendation to buy specific investments or go on a crypto-binge. Lastly, we 100% believe that personal finance is exactly that, personal. We may sometimes publish content on this website that has been created by affiliated or unaffiliated partners such as employees, advisors or writers. Unless we explicitly say so, these post do not necessarily represent the actual views or opinions of Zeta.

By using this website, you understand the content presented is provided for informational purposes only and agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

1Zeta is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by Piermont Bank; Member FDIC. All deposit accounts of the same ownership and/or vesting held at the issuing bank are combined and insured under an FDIC Certificate of $250,000 per depositor. The Zeta Mastercard® Debit Card is issued by Piermont Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted.

2Zeta Annual Percentage Yield (APY) is effective as of 05/01/2023, for customers who qualify for VIP status. Minimum amount to open an account is $0.00. Minimum balance to earn the APY is $0.01. Interest rates are as follows: 2.43% APY applies to the entire balance for customers who qualify for VIP status. Interest rates may change after the account is opened. Fees may reduce earnings.