1-Minute Guide to Managing a Joint Checking Account

A joint checking account can be a bit tricky to manage, but it doesn't have to tear the two of you apart.
Financial Expert
Managing Editor
twitter facebook
couple ready to sign joint checking account at bank

A joint checking account lets you and your partner pool your money for the major bills and, when managed wisely, gives both of you the sense of being on the same financial team.

But little mistakes can add up to big blunders in a joint account, which can hurt your bottom line as well as your relationship. Follow these strategies to prevent a joint account from tearing the two of you apart.

Check-in with Each Other

Keeping track of one person’s expenditures is tough enough, but with two people having access to one account, tracking becomes more challenging. Mistakes happen even in the most financially organized households.

Let’s say, for instance, your beloved writes a generous check at a charity luncheon but forgets to write it down in the check register. Then you write checks for a stack of bills and send them off, trusting there’s plenty of money in the account to cover them. Days later, you get a bounced check notice and a fat penalty fee from the bank.

The main solution? Check-in with one another regularly about the account and upcoming expenditures.

Which Banks Have the Best Checking Account Rates?

Finding the bank with the best checking account to meet your needs is as simple as using our search tool. Try it now and find a joint checking account to meet your needs.

Maintain One Master Checking Account Register

Agree to write down all your deposits, ATM transactions, and check amounts in one master register that you keep in a safe spot. Reconcile the account regularly to ensure the balance in the register is accurate and that you both know where you are financially.

Designate one of you who will be responsible for balancing the checkbook. If the task makes your eyes glaze over and your spouse is a CPA who loves nothing more than crunching numbers, then, by all means, let your spouse do the reconciling. But make sure you stay tuned into the bottom line even if you’re not the one doing the balancing.

Checking Account Monitoring: Go Electronic

If you haven’t done so already, sign up for online banking to monitor the account. Frequent monitoring will help catch mistakes, such as unrecorded ATM withdrawals, and let both partners see what’s happening in the account in case one forgets to tell the other about a transaction.

Discuss Big Purchases

Agree to discuss any purchases, other than regular bill payments, that exceed a certain dollar amount before you make them. That way, one person in the relationship won’t get caught off-guard by a whopping reduction in the account–and more importantly, you’ll build a better relationship by planning things together.

Maintain Separate Savings Accounts

Many couples have one joint checking account as well as a savings account for each person. That gives everyone a little financial leeway for some fun without having to explain every penny spent.

Give yourself a cushion to guard against accidental overdrafts by linking your joint checking account to a joint savings account in an overdraft protection program.

With communication, some agreed-upon guidelines, careful monitoring, and a safety net for catching mistakes managing a joint checking account should go smoothly and help the two of you build a solid financial foundation for the years to come.

Should You Combine Everything?

Just because you’re with a partner doesn’t mean you have to share every single financial account. In fact, sometimes a couple can manage more effectively if some things remain separate.

Here are some suggestions for a new couple who’s figuring out how to integrate their finances:

Communicate and Collaborate

Start by laying everything about your financial situation on the table: current resources and income, as well as liabilities like student loans or credit card debt. Once you both see the full picture, start to collaborate on the future. Discuss how to solve any immediate problems and figure out your financial goals. Once you know what role you expect those accounts to play, you may get a clearer picture of which accounts to combine and which ones to leave separate.

Pool Your Major Resources and Expenses

To start with an obvious example, you probably wouldn’t get married, but each continues to maintain your own apartment. In other words, it makes sense to combine big things like living quarters and long-term savings accounts as long as you agree on the purpose of such accounts.

Also, as part of this exercise, examine the health care options and retirement benefits offered by your respective employers to see how you can best benefit from these programs as a couple.

Agree on Your Responsibilities

Come to an understanding of your respective responsibilities — who is responsible for paying which bills, and how much is each of you going to contribute to your savings accounts? Part of your responsibilities should

Barbara Marquand is a seasoned writer specializing in personal finance. As a contributor to MoneyRates, she combines her experience with an ability to distill complex financial concepts into easily digestible content. Before entering the world of personal finance, Barbara wrote about business, careers, and parenting for national consumer and trade publications. Her insightful work has appeared on platforms such as MarketWatch, MSN Money, USA Today, The Washington Post, and numerous others. Through her work, Barbara continues to enlighten readers on making sound financial decisions.
Our reviews are unbiased and thorough, focusing on consumer needs. For details, see our Editorial Policy & Methodology.