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The pros and cons of joint accounts

If you’re getting hitched or moving in with your other half, is it wise to unite your finances as well? We take a look.



With wedding season approaching, many couples will be thinking about opening a joint account in a bid to make it easier to manage the household income and outgoings.

Some couples take out a joint account to use for bills but then keep their own finances separate, while others go the whole hog and share everything.

But no matter whether you’re just married or still cohabiting, does it really make sense to join your finances, or is there an element of caution making you want to keep things separate?

We take a look at the pros and cons. 

Could a joint account be the key to a successful relationship?

A recent study published in the Journal of Family Issues found that those couples with joint accounts felt their relationships were stronger than those with separate accounts.

But despite this, some people are keen to protect their wealth from their loved ones, while others don’t want their other half to know how they spend their money. 

'We couldn’t operate without it'



Gill Leonard, 37, and James Hilditch, 36, from Hitchin in Hertfordshire (pictured above), have been in a relationship for six years.

They decided to open a joint account four-and-a-half years ago when they moved in together.

"We thought a shared account would make it easier to manage our finances – and now we couldn’t operate without it," says Gill.

"We both earn a similar amount, so pay in the same amount each month. We also agreed rules at the outset so we both know what the money can and can’t be spent on.

'It’s important we have our independence'

"The joint account is used to pay for all the household bills, such as energy, water and food – and it’s also used if we go out for a meal or drinks together.

"But we don’t use money in the joint account for personal purchases – or for times when we’re out without the other person."

Both Gill and James also have their own separate accounts. "These accounts are for our own spending," says Gill.

"It’s important we both have our independence – plus I don’t want James to know how much I’m spending on things like clothes!"

Go joint for household expenses

For many couples, a joint account for household expenses can be a good idea because it makes life easier when it comes to paying bills and managing expenses you both have to pay.

"Traditionally, a lot of couples used a joint account for everything, but that’s becoming less common now as many people like to have their ‘own’ money," says Sarah Pennells, founder of website Savvy Woman.

"While a joint account may still be worth considering because it simplifies your finances, there are disadvantages, and you need to think about these too."

Get the basics right

It’s worth agreeing some ground rules at the outset.

"For example, you need to decide between you what spending the joint account can be used for," says Pennells.

"You need to agree whether money in that account can only be used for household bills, or whether it can also be used for other joint expenses as well."

This might include going out for meals together, buying gifts, or paying for holidays.

In addition, you need to both agree how much you are going to pay into the joint account each month, and whether you are going to each pay in equal amounts or an amount based on your salaries.

Fail to do this, and you could soon end up falling out over your finances.

Think carefully about the implications

Before signing up to a joint account, the key is to think very carefully, as there are always risks to giving several people control of a single account.

"It’s really important to go into this financial arrangement with your eyes open," says Pennells.

"If you and your spouse split up, each of you is liable for the whole lot of any debts owing on a joint account."

You could, for example, find yourself in a sticky situation if your partner has applied for an overdraft on the joint account and then cleared it out.

"If this happens, the bank could come after you for the whole debt," warns Pennells.

"This is the case even if you hadn’t seen a penny of it and your partner had spent it all."

An arrangement that works for both of you

Nerys Lewis, head of credit cards at Confused.com, says another thing to be mindful of when you open a joint account is your credit rating.

"Linking your finances could potentially have an impact on your credit rating.

"So it's something to think about, especially if one of you has a poor credit history," she says.

Overall the key is to be sure of what you’re getting yourself into.

If you’re not happy with this, you may be better off keeping your finances separate.

After all, the key is to find the arrangement that works for both of you.




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Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw is a regular contributor to Confused.com and is the former deputy money editor at The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Before that, she worked as a money and City reporter on The Daily Express and Sunday Express.
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