Do One Thing: Open a joint checking account (time: 30 min. or less)

It sounds so adult, opening a joint checking account. And it’s a big step, because you’re essentially giving someone total access to all of your money. (And vice versa.) Your co-owner could clean you out at a moment’s notice. Additionally, being joint account owners typically means that if one of you dies, the other one is entitled to the entire balance. Don’t take this step lightly. (But if you want to do it, it's super easy.)

This is for you: If you want to share access to a bank account with someone else, whether it’s a business partner, significant other, roommate, parent or adult child.

What it means: All joint owners on an account can write checks, withdraw cash, and make deposits, and all parties will be held responsible for bounced checks, overdrafts, and other screw-ups.

Hands-on time: Less than 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes to a couple of days, depending on whether you’re adding a joint owner to an already existing account or establishing a new account, and whether you’re doing it in person or online.

Cost: Depends. You may be required to make a minimum deposit ($25, say) to open an account. After that, many checking accounts are free, or free with direct deposit or a minimum balance. If you’re adding an owner to an account that already exists, there should be no fee.

What you’ll (both) need:

  • Internet-connected computer (if opening an account online)

  • Photo identification (if visiting a bank in person)

  • Social Security numbers, birth dates and personal info (address, email, etc.)

  • Your current bank account information in order to make an opening deposit, if necessary

What to do:

1. Choose a bank. If you’re starting from scratch, check for checking accounts in your area (or online banking accounts, if that’s your thing) with low fees.  

2. If you simply want to add another account owner to a checking account you already have, call customer service and ask them what you should do. You may be able to complete the process online or over the phone, or you may have to visit a branch. Get a representative on the line using

3. If you’re opening a new account, visit the bank’s website and take a look at their checking account options.

4. Choose the checking account that’s right for you and follow the instructions to open a new account online, or visit a bank branch (with the other soon-to-be account owner) to do it in person.

5. Choose the type of joint account you want, if applicable:

  • Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS). This is the most common, and it means that all assets pass to the surviving party if one of you dies. All owners have equal rights to whatever is in the account and can do things without the approval of other owners.

  • Tenancy in Common. Going in with a business partner? This might be the thing for you. If one account owner dies, the assets pass to whomever was named in that person's will. Account holders may own unequal portions of what's in the account.

  • Tenancy by The Entirety. This kind of account requires that all joint owners sign for or approve any account activity. (This means you have to approve every check and ATM withdrawal, which could come in handy if you're sharing the account with a shopaholic daughter.)

6. Sign electronically, or sign in person, or print out and send in your paperwork. Done!

To learn more:
Risks of Joint Bank Accounts (Bankrate)
Love, Honor and Share a Bank Account (Bankrate)

Did you do it? Tell us what worked or share other tips in the comments below.

Related Links:
Do One Thing: Start an emergency fund (time: 15 min)
Do One Thing: Check your bank account’s interest rate (15 min)
Do One Thing: Choose Your Beneficiaries (15 minutes)