It’s far easier to be prepped and organised than it is to risk late fines or get confused about outstanding payments – especially when you’re in shared accommodation with other students.
A great way to make sure that joint expenses are being settled in your flat share is to set up a joint account, out of which all your essential utility bills can be managed and paid, like rent and utilities. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how to get started with joint bank accounts.
What is a joint bank account?
Very simply, a joint bank account is any bank account that’s been opened by two or more people. Joint accounts are often used by married couples or civil partners, close family members or joint owners in a business or organisation.
Anyone whose name is on the account can either pay into or withdraw from it, although it can be arranged that withdrawals are only allowed if all parties agree, great for if you or your friends love to spend! Shared accounts are usually paid into by these members, and then the total amount is used to pay shared expenses. They’re also a great way to demonstrate proof of residence for a group of students in a shared flat.
What makes you eligible for a joint account?
Students sharing accommodation – and associated utility bills – are ideal candidates for opening a joint bank account (yay!) It’s easy to open one, and if you’re eligible for an ordinary account, you’re likely eligible for a joint one. You’ll need to fill in some simple application forms at a branch of your chosen bank, as well as proof of address and proof of identity for all parties – but that’s about it.
You might also be able to convert a current account into a joint account by simply adding a member during the application process. When you open the account, it’s important to get a written contract about the rights and responsibilities of each named owner. You need to understand what happens if the relationship ends, the effects on everyone’s credit scores, how withdrawals work and who is responsible for paying an overdraft. Joint accounts are easy to open but can be trickier to close or change later, so make sure everyone knows their responsibilities before you sign.
Pros and cons for students using joint bank accounts
The advantages of a shared account should seem obvious: the ability to create a shared pot out of which collective utility bills can be paid. It’s an easy way to keep track of payments and outgoings and can keep all your transactions for overall home maintenance organized in one place.
There are some risks, but they’re nothing too scary. For example, be aware that if one party has a poor credit score, this could negatively affect any others sharing joint accounts with them – although this is unlikely to be an issue for students. If you’re unsure, chat with your bank advisor first before you commit to anything.
Because everyone on the account is responsible for any debt incurred, you need to trust that your housemates are financially responsible enough not to rack up a huge overdraft that you may then be responsible for paying back (ouch). An easy solution is to simply limit or forbid overdrafts or arrange it so that all parties need to consent to withdrawals and transfers. This can make things a little more drawn out but will protect everyone involved.
Can one person be removed from a joint bank account?
You start the year with good intentions and things are fine at first, but sadly students do fall out with each other sometimes, and disagreements are not uncommon. Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to get a person removed from a joint bank account without their consent, which might leave you vulnerable if you don’t especially trust the other people on the account.
If you’re sharing flat utility bills with other students you don’t know particularly well, you might like to avoid the stress of a joint bank account entirely. That way, your house doesn’t become a soap opera where everyone is trying to resolve a heated money dispute.
An alternative is to use a bill splitting app like Glide, so you can keep track of what everyone owes in one place. Arguments often erupt when people can’t agree on what has and hasn’t been paid, or confusion over respective responsibilities. There’s also the stress of simply keeping updated on everyone’s separate contributions month by month. Using a shared app can make this all crystal clear, not to mention take the stress out of dividing up due amounts among several people…I know which option we would choose!