Combining Bank Accounts When You Move in Together

Combining bank accounts is an option many unmarried couples consider when they’re living and managing their finances together. A July 2015 survey by Credit Karma found that half of married millennials and a third of baby boomers had either fully or partially combined their finances with their spouse before they married.

If you’re thinking of moving in with your partner and sharing household expenses, it’s important to have a conversation about how that arrangement will work. A joint bank account is one way to merge your finances, but there are several things to consider before deciding if it’s the right solution for you and your significant other.

Here are some topics for the money talk you should have before you choose.

3 Ways to Handle Finances as a Couple

Every couple’s situation is unique, but it’s helpful to know about these three common ways to handle banking and bill paying when you’re sharing household expenses:

  • Keep your bank accounts totally separate, dividing up the payment of bills or reimbursing each other for half of your shared expenses — or whatever portion you agree is fair.
  • Open a joint bank account to cover shared expenses, while maintaining separate accounts for personal spending.
  • Completely merge your finances into a single joint bank account.

How Joint Bank Accounts Work

The process for opening a joint account is the same whether or not you’re married, notes The Nest. Each account owner has to provide identification, a Social Security number and a signature pledging responsibility for the account.

One of the big pluses of a joint account is that it can simplify money management. Having a single account instead of multiple can make it easier to keep track of your finances, as long as you both commit to recording every transaction.

Before you get your names printed on the checks, though, you should be clear about what you’re signing up for. Because you’ll both have equal rights to access the funds in the account, there’s always the risk that one of you might use the money in a way that the other doesn’t approve of. Equal ownership of the account also means any mismanagement of the funds by your partner could affect your finances and your credit score, and vice versa. You’ll be equally on the hook for any overdraft fees and liens on the account from unpaid creditors, as NerdWallet explains.

Banking in Harmony

Having a frank talk about your money management habits — and about how your financial goals and spending priorities fit together — will help you avoid the potential pitfalls of joining your money with your partner’s.

Decide on the process you’ll use to work through any financial conflicts. Discuss which types of purchases will require agreement beforehand, and stick to that rule. Don’t wait until the monthly bank statement arrives to try to explain a big-ticket impulse buy to your partner.

When combining bank accounts, open and constant communication will help keep your finances sound and your relationship solid.

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