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Joint bank accounts

About joint bank accounts

You can open an account at a bank or building society jointly with other people. For example, you might want to do this to manage household bills with someone you live with, or with your wife, husband or civil partner.

On this page you can find out more about joint accounts and how they work. You can find out about:

There is also more information about joint accounts, and other organisations that might be able to help you.

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Opening a joint account

To open a joint bank account, you usually have to fill in an application form. Often, you can do this in the bank or building society, online and sometimes you can do this on the phone.

There is no limit on how many joint account holders there can be.

You will also have to provide proof of your identity including your full name, date of birth and address. You usually have to show the bank two separate documents that prove who you are, for example, your passport, and where you live, for example, a recent bill.

For more information about opening a bank account and if you have problems with this, see How to open a bank account.

When you open a joint account, the bank or building society should tell you about the extra rights and responsibilities involved before you open the account. They should tell you:

  • if one person can take out all of the money without the others knowing or giving their permission
  • if each person is individually responsible for paying back the whole amount of any overdraft on the account
  • what to do if your relationship with a joint account-holder ends.

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Who can manage a joint account

When two or more people decide to open a joint bank account, they have to sign a form called a mandate. The mandate sets out what the joint account holders can do, for example, who can sign cheques and take money out.

You can cancel the mandate at any time without the agreement of the others. You would need to do this, for example, if you want to change the terms of the joint account or close it.

However, it is possible to draw up a mandate which only allows you to change the terms of the joint account or to close it with the agreement of all the account holders.

The bank or building society must send statements to all the joint account holders individually. This is unless all the account holders sign an agreement that they only want to receive one statement.

Joint account holders are not automatically allowed to use each other's credit. Credit must not be linked to the account of one of the account holders without the agreement of all the other account holders. This is because the other account holders would then be responsible for the debt.

If an overdraft has not been arranged on a joint account, all the account holders should be told if an unauthorised overdraft occurs.

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Who is responsible for debts

If you have a joint account and your own personal account with the same bank or building society, the bank can transfer money from your personal account to cover a debt on your joint account. The bank might do this automatically, although in practice, banks will often ask your permission before transferring money in this way.

However, the bank can't transfer money out of your joint account to cover a debt on your own personal account, unless all the joint account holders have agreed to this or the terms and conditions of your joint account say this can happen. If the terms and conditions say this can happen, your bank must have pointed this out to the account holders.

If there's an overdraft on a joint account, each joint account holder is responsible for the whole of the money owing.

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If there is disagreement about a joint account

If you have a disagreement with another joint account holder, you should cancel the joint account mandate straight away.

If the mandate isn't cancelled straight away, any one account holder will still be able to get access to the account and the bank won't be able to refuse to pay them.

When you cancel a joint account mandate, the account will be frozen. All the account holders will then have to agree on how to divide the money up between them. If it's not possible to agree, the courts will have to decide how to divide the money up.

In England and Wales, if all the people pay money into the joint account, it is assumed that they all own the amount jointly, it doesn't matter how much each person pays in. For a husband and wife or civil partners, it is assumed the money in the account belongs to both of you, even if only one of you pays into the account. However, for joint account holders who are not married or civil partners, if one of you isn't paying into the account, it isn't assumed that that person owns the money. It can be difficult to prove that you own the money in a joint account if you aren't paying into it, unless you can show that it was the clear intention of the joint account to have a common fund which each person could use.

In Scotland, it is assumed that the money held in a joint account belongs to the person who paid it in unless it can be shown that it was intended to be held jointly. This rule applies whether the joint account holders are married, in a civil partnership or living together. In practice, all the joint account holders may be able to access all of the money, and any disagreement about who the money belongs to would have to be decided by the courts.

If you are not happy with the way your bank deals with your joint account, you should first make a complaint to your bank. If you are still not happy you can ask for further help from the Financial Ombudsman.

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Further help

On Adviceguide

For more information about banks and building societies and the services they offer, see Banks and building societies.

You may also find the following Adviceguide information helpful:

The Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is a free, independent service. Their website has lots of useful information about bank accounts and other financial products, including joint accounts. Go to: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

British Banker's Association

The British Banker's Association (BBA) is the main trade association for banks operating in the UK. The BBA is not able to deal with individual complaints, but they produce a range of free fact sheets which provide useful information about banking. These include understanding cheques and understanding plastic cards.

You can view the fact sheets on the BBA's website at www.bba.org.uk. You can also phone the order line on 020 7216 8801 and leave your name, address and the title or subject of the factsheet you want.

The BBA have a factsheet about joint accounts. You can view this on their website at: www.bba.org.uk.

The Financial Ombudsman Service

If you've gone through your bank or building society's complaints procedure and they haven't been able to help you, you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

You must give your bank or building society at least eight weeks to sort the problem out, unless they send you a letter of deadlock before the eight weeks is up. This is a letter telling you there is nothing more they can do to help you.

You must complain to the Ombudsman within six months of getting the letter of deadlock, or from the end of the eight week period if you don't get a letter of deadlock. Make sure you keep a record of the date when you first made your complaint to the bank.

Financial Ombudsman Service
Exchange Tower
London
E14 9SR

Consumer helpline: 0800 023 4567 (free for people phoning from a landline) or 0300 123 9123 (free for mobile-phone users who pay a monthly charge for calls to numbers starting 01 or 02) (Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 8.00pm; Saturday from 9.00am to 1.00pm)
Email: complaint.info@financial-ombudsman.org.uk
Website: www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk

For more information about the Financial Ombudsman Service, see How to use an Ombudsman.

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