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I've recently opened a joint bank account with my fiancee. And yet, everything seems to be in his name, with me tacked on as an afterthought. Is this the normal way of doing things? If I were to move to a different bank (I'm not sure I like this one), would it be the same end result?

For illustrative purposes, today I went online to check my balance. I logged in with his username, had to answer security questions I'd never seen before about my fiancee's childhood, and was greeted by his name, all because I'm told there's no way to have two separate logins. His name appears either solely or first on every document as well. I registered my phone for text banking and it doesn't appear to let me register his (thankfully he has a smartphone and I don't, so he can download the app instead). It basically feels like it's his account that I have access to, like when I was underaged and my parents could access my account.

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    If you have to use his/her login to see the joint account, then it's not a joint account. – DJClayworth Oct 17 '11 at 17:11
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    @DJClayworth It has both our names on it, and we each have debit cards, but I was told we could only have one login. But I think you may be right in that it may be set up as his account with my being an authorized user or some such setup - much like the difference between both signing a lease or him signing and my being an "authorized resident". – Yamikuronue Oct 17 '11 at 17:22
  • I withdraw that. What would this bank do if you had a personal account as well? Would you get a logon then? Would you be able to see the joint account using it? – DJClayworth Oct 18 '11 at 13:22
  • @DJClayworth I have no idea. My fiancee's going to call them this afternoon to get more details. – Yamikuronue Oct 18 '11 at 14:18
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    Sounds like the joint account is normal joint bank account, and your bank's computer programmers are a bunch of incompetents. – user296 Oct 21 '11 at 0:05
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I had a joint account at Chase, and each of us had own on-line login, and could access the account (each of us also had non-joint accounts in Chase, and with the same login we already had we could access the joint accounts, but not the other's non-joint accounts).

It seems like your bank is really backwards on this, change the bank.

By the way, in joint accounts you have the option of requiring both partners to sign on every document, so that every check or order you write will only be valid with both of your signatures. I don't know if that's what you need, but some may want that (it is quite uncomfortable, IMHO).

  • I don't think we need that service; I mostly wanted both our paychecks to go into an account we pay bills from, so we both have easy access to see what bills have been paid and how much is left over, and have either of us able to handle money issues that might be time sensitive. – Yamikuronue Oct 17 '11 at 18:32
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    @Yamikuronue - yeah, you probably don't want it, just thought it's worth mentioning. – littleadv Oct 17 '11 at 18:52
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I believe different banks have slightly different experiences.

My wife and I have both joint and individual accounts.

When I sign in, I see Joint, Mortgage and Joe. When She logs in, she sees Joint, Mortgage, and Jane. It happens that the Mortgage and Joint accounts have her Social Security number attached. Aside from that, I don't feel like I am an afterthought.

  • Good to hear! I suspect my new bank is just substantially behind the times in more ways than one. – Yamikuronue Oct 17 '11 at 16:19
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    By the way, especially for security, the bank should want two separate login IDs. I'd interview other banks to get what you want. – JoeTaxpayer Oct 17 '11 at 16:23
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There are two ways that "joint" accounts work in most US states... an authorized user or a joint tenant.

For banks with older online systems, the first named user controls the online account. My wife and I have an account with a bank like this, and we use the account number as the username. Newer systems separate your identities from your accounts.

If you are not married, you really need to be cautious about keeping money in accounts where you are joint tenants, as there are very real financial and tax risks associated with doing that. Once money is deposited into the account, you both have full ownership rights on the money in the account. Also, you can get into a situation where you could have a gift tax liability.

  • Can you explain gift tax liability? We plan to marry in a year or so, so we're consolidating finances and so forth. – Yamikuronue Oct 18 '11 at 12:23
  • If either of you have assets in joint tenant accounts over $12,000, the IRS recognizes a portion of the excess as a taxable gift, unless you are married. If this is a situation that may apply to you, do some research. – duffbeer703 Oct 18 '11 at 12:49
  • ..I wish. I think we're fine, then. – Yamikuronue Oct 18 '11 at 12:50
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For reporting to the IRS, every bank account has a primary tax ID number associated with it. When there are multiple joint owners, they (the owners) usually pick a person at random to be the primary, unless there is a large amount of interest involved, in which case I would suggest consulting a tax attorney.

As for the online banking, it depends on your institution's software. My institution allows every individual to have a separate ID; if this is important to you (and it would be to me), then look for another bank that offers it.

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With the joint bank account my wife and I have (with Wells Fargo), I am able to set up separate log-ins for each of us. Check with your bank to see what you can do.

  • I was told when we opened the account that we can only have one login. I should call their customer service, though, in case the man who set it up was mistaken. – Yamikuronue Oct 17 '11 at 16:19
  • @Yamikuronue - This is how it was at the bank my wife and I are in the process of leaving. She is the account holder I Am on it jointly but it is her account. There is only one login for the online banking. We have separate debit and credit cards through them. But they are tied to the same account. Both of us have to be there to make the most minor change to the account. – user4127 Oct 17 '11 at 17:41

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