Tips to help you determine when to combine checking accounts

A couple sits down at a table with their laptop, with one partner writing in a notebook and the other smiling at their significant other.
September 08, 2022 | Lois Sullivan

Are you in a long-term relationship with another person? Whether you’re married or simply in a committed relationship, you tend to share much with one another. You might share a home, a bedroom and the assets and debts you bring into the relationship. Many couples share their finances, which might mean combining bank accounts. If you're wondering when to combine checking accounts with your partner, explore this guide to decide if and when it's the right choice.  

Why it makes sense to combine accounts 

Should you combine checking accounts with your partner or spouse? 

Before you decide whether to close your account and move your money into your partner's account, it's helpful to consider the advantages of using a shared account. When you enter a legal partnership, such as a marriage, you take responsibility for the other's financial obligations. You might make large purchases together, such as buying vehicles or a home, which may involve taking out loans. 

Combining your checking account with your partner's allows you to keep all your money in one place for easier tracking and accessibility. If you want to take out a loan, you can provide statements for the shared bank account rather than having to supply statements for multiple accounts. A joint checking account allows both parties to make deposits and withdrawals, sharing the financial aspects of a partnership.

When you should consider separate checking accounts

Finances can become more complex when dealing with outstanding debt, such as student loans or credit card debt. If one partner struggles with financial management or has a lot of debt, you may want to consider keeping your accounts separate. In some partnerships, combining bank accounts can create power struggles and breed resentment. Fights about money are common in intimate relationships, so it's not worth constantly disagreeing or splitting up over a shared bank account. 

You might also consider keeping your accounts separate if you marry later in life or own many assets. It becomes more challenging to separate assets and wealth if you create a joint account and allow your spouse access to it. Coordination can be tricky with a joint account, mainly if you don't communicate regularly about your finances. If one partner withdraws money or uses the debit card without telling the other person, the account could get overdrawn, potentially resulting in a fee. 

Tips for combining accounts

If you determine that combining checking accounts is the right step for you and your significant other, these tips can help you feel more prepared to make the change. 

Combine checking and savings accounts 

When you combine your checking accounts, it makes sense to combine your savings accounts. Each account type serves a purpose, but both are equal in importance. A checking account allows you to pay household bills and manage expenses, while a savings account allows you to prepare for the future and plan for financial emergencies. Both partners should feel equally involved in financial planning and management.

Update your automatic debits and credits

You probably have money coming into your account regularly, such as a direct deposit from your job and recurring payments that go out of the account. Update the automatic debits and credits to allow your money to go into and out of the joint account. This step is essential to tackle before you close your account and if you decide to use your partner's account together. Before closing your account, you should stop using your debit card to avoid creating pending transactions.

Understand the importance of financial management

Since financial issues can cause significant strife in relationships, one should understand why it's vital to communicate regularly about money. Talking about spending habits or income can feel uncomfortable, but it's something that you and your partner have to be on the same page about to move forward together and achieve success. If you have dramatically different financial goals or spending habits, you may start to resent one another and deal with frustration regularly. 

When you combine bank accounts, the money in the joint accounts is available to both partners. Additionally, any issues that arise with a joint bank account put each partner on the financial hook for resolution. If your joint account results in unpaid debts or missed payments, creditors can come after the funds in that account for restitution. Your actions can affect your partner's credit history when you share your finances. Make payments on time and stay current with any outstanding debt requirements.

Consider joint and separate accounts

If you're unsure about putting all your money into a single shared account, you may want to consider another option: one joint account plus a separate account for each partner. This option may work well for couples who earn approximately the same amount of money and are willing to contribute to the joint account. Maintaining a separate account can provide financial independence, as you can use it for personal spending. Each partner can regularly contribute an agreed-upon amount to the joint account for shared expenses.

Develop clear roles

When communicating with your partner about financial matters, it's worth developing clear roles and responsibilities. Designating one person as the account manager may make the process of paying bills and managing money go more smoothly. If that feels unfair, you could take turns overseeing the account to allow each of you a chance. You might consider discussing how you will spend money from the joint account to avoid overdrawing and incurring fees. 

Establish a budget

Although making and sticking to a budget makes financial sense for anyone, doing so is especially valuable for couples. Individuals in a relationship rarely have the same spending habits, but free-spending could result in overdrawing your joint bank account. If your spouse is used to upholding or maintaining a particular lifestyle, it's worth discussing the essential elements and how to fit them into the budget. When you create your budget, it's wise to take this step together so that each of you feels that you have input and say in your financial management. 

After you make your budget, start tracking expenses to see how your spending fits into the allotments outlined. You can track manually or use digital apps and tools that pull in transactions automatically, streamlining the tracking process.  

If you decide that combining your checking account with your partner's account makes sense for your relationship, these tips can help you make the change more successfully. You can always try a joint account to decide whether it's a good fit for you and your spouse. At Alliant Credit Union, we work with couples to help them find the correct checking account for their needs. 

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