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Joining bank accounts with your significant other is a procedure your banker can easily explain. Keeping that joint checking account convenient and uncontentious is a more complicated proposition. Setting some early ground rules with your co-owner can go a long way toward banking bliss.

Managing the Account

You should figure out a system to ensure you always have enough money in your account to cover expenses and avoid fees. You may wish to assign one person the tasks of writing the bills, balancing the checkbook and ensuring the account has a minimum balance. Keeping all receipts in a designated space can also be helpful.

Of course, sometimes even the best systems break down, and it’s worth having a contingency plan in place in case you ever don’t have enough money in the account to cover a transaction. For example, you should decide early on if purchasing overdraft protection is right for you.

Discussing Purchase Decisions

You and your significant other should also consider whether there are spending thresholds that warrant a discussion. For instance, you may decide neither should make a purchase of more than $1,000 without consulting the other one first.

Communicating about the timing of purchases can be especially important if funds are limited. It’s probably not a good idea to buy a new television the same day your lovely co-owner is buying an airline ticket to visit grandma.

In addition, if you suspect one of you will judge the other for small indulgences like going out to lunch each day or buying flowers each week, a conversation on that tricky topic should make the to-do list as well.

Merger Logistics

Some couples prefer to have separate accounts for their “me” spending and keep a joint account only for mutual expenses, like groceries and rent. This approach calls for additional rules.

It’s important to decide upfront which expenses you’ll pay out of the joint account and whether or not it will annoy the other if joint funds go toward a personal expense every now and then.

Also, how much will each person transfer into the joint account? Each of you contributing equal amounts is one option; a percentage of income is another.

Uncomfortable Considerations

No one wants to think about a relationship ending, and planning for its possibility can feel like you’re injecting bad vibes into something very special. Still, it’s important that account holders mutually acknowledge the importance of honesty and fairness. That’s because any money - in fact, all of the money - that is put in can generally be taken out by either owner.

Likewise, it’s possible creditors can take money out of your joint account to cover an account holder’s past due bills or other debts. It’s worth asking your banker about your state’s specific rules regarding creditor access to combined accounts.

So yes, joint accounts shouldn’t be opened on a whim. But, if you’re willing to set some rules that will make you and your significant other comfortable, this kind of account can be a practical solution for paying expenses you share now or in the future.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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