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Should you create a joint account as a couple? Or keep your finances separate? We tackle this dilemma and break down the pros and cons of joint vs. separate bank accounts.

When a couple commits to a life together, merging your money is often the biggest hurdle to achieving marital bliss. It’s easy to see why: combining debts and assets can be complicated and messy, and it’s not uncommon for one spouse to have a vastly different financial philosophy from the other (especially if one is a saver and the other is a spender).

But what does it mean to merge your money? It can be as simple as working out who pays which bill, or as in-depth as merging your debts and assets and opening a joint account for couples. Neither approach is superior to the other, and the approach that’s best for you depends on your family’s needs.

For most couples in Canada, combining finances means at minimum opening a joint account for daily purchases, according to 76% of couples in a 2016 TD Bank survey. For others, combining finances could be as complex as researching the best joint accounts for married couples, opening joint high-interest savings accounts, using joint credit cards for travel rewards, and even preparing detailed credit card debt payoff plans. Here are some of the best ways for Canadian couples to manage their money.

A Joint Bank Account

The most common way that Canadians share their money is through one or more joint bank accounts. In Canada, you can open accounts that grant each spouse equal access. It’s a fairly simple process: with EQ Bank, you can even do the whole process online. However, consider these pros and cons before saying “I Do” to having a joint account with your spouse.

Benefits of a Joint Account for Couples

There are many benefits to a joint account for couples. Sharing a joint account lets each spouse access money when they need it, without having to clear the purchase through their partner first.

When you open a joint account, each spouse will receive a debit card and chequebook. Both spouses can deposit and withdraw funds, which makes it easy to divide up financial chores like paying bills and buying groceries. Monitoring accounts is also easier since both spouses will also have access to it through a convenient online banking portal.

From a workload perspective, a joint account makes it easy to split financial chores evenly. One spouse may oversee paying bills, while the other reconciles the monthly credit card statement. When both spouses have equal access to their money, it is less likely that a single partner will take on all the financial management tasks.

Legally, a joint account protects both spouses from emergencies. For example, if a family has a series of joint accounts and one partner dies or becomes ill, there won’t be any need to go through the legal system to claim that money, since it is in both their names.

Finally, joint accounts can increase financial accountability. It is more difficult to conceal financial problems if both spouses can see the contents of the joint account.

Our pick for joint chequing accounts is Scotiabank’s Preferred Package, which is a rewards chequing account — a unicorn in the banking world. With an easy-to-use online portal, not only does it make banking as a couple a cinch, but you can Earn up to 0.70% interest on your MomentumPLUS Scotiabank Preferred Package account1. Another great feature? This chequing account comes with unlimited debit transactions2 & Interac e-Transfer† transactions — an essential when you’re banking as a couple.

1 Conditions apply. Actual interest rate will vary based on the savings period (the Premium Period) that applies. Visit scotiabank.com/mpsa to learn more. 

2 Conditions apply.  Visit www.scotiabank.com/ultimate300 to learn more.

Drawbacks of a Joint Bank Account

Managing your money through a joint account simplifies daily financial tasks, but it can also take away a sense of control or autonomy. If a couple chooses to combine their finances completely, a spouse may feel that they have no control over the money they earn, because it all goes into one joint family account.

These feelings are especially common in the first few months of a financial merge. Transitioning from having total autonomy over your money to requiring approval for even small purchases is a huge adjustment. This feeling of lost autonomy is normal and can be remedied by setting aside a monthly allowance that each spouse has singular control over.

Joint accounts can also cause trouble in a relationship, especially if there are already communication problems. Since you’ll need to keep track of the money coming into and going out of joint accounts, consistent and clear communication is key. Otherwise, you may end up overdrawing the accounts, which can cause money arguments.

Finally, problems may also arise when a relationship ends because joint accounts can be messy to separate. Some spouses may even be vindictive – emptying and closing accounts without permission from their soon-to-be ex-spouse. Since joint accounts are shared equally, it can be risky to keep the bulk of your money there if the relationship is ending.

Using Separate Bank Accounts

When done correctly, joint chequing and savings accounts can simplify your financial life, but they can also get very messy if a relationship deteriorates. If this sounds like too much risk for you, keeping your finances separate may be a better approach.

Separate accounts do not mean one spouse is any less accountable than the other. It just means you’ll approach saving and spending a little bit differently.

Most of the time, maintaining separate bank accounts means splitting the monthly bills equally, and saving for financial goals like retirement planning and emergencies separately. You’ll each pay off your debts separately, and big goals like saving for a down payment are done separately and then combined just before you’re ready to make the purchase.

Some couples will choose a hybrid approach with a joint chequing account for shared expenses like rent and groceries, keeping all other spending and saving separately.

Setting Financial Goals as a Couple

Deciding between joint and separate accounts is not an easy decision, and what works for one couple may not work for others. If you’re struggling to decide which approach will work for you, try asking yourself these questions about your financial goals as a couple. The answers to these questions will quickly reveal which strategy you prefer. Here are some questions to answer with your spouse:

  • How will we pay off debt? Will you be responsible for paying off your debt, or will the couple work together to pay off all debt?
  • How will we save for retirement? Is retirement something you will save for jointly, or does one spouse have an excellent retirement package offered through their employer?
  • How will we handle everyday expenses like groceries and rent? Would you prefer that everyday expenses be divvied up between spouses or funnelled through a joint account?
  • How will we handle emergencies? Will you maintain your own emergency fund in a high-interest savings account and handle emergencies only affecting you, or will you save for them jointly as a couple?
  • How will we save for major goals? Will you each save money for goals separately, or will you open a joint account and contribute as a couple?

Talking through each of these questions with your spouse will help you determine whether a joint account or separate accounts will work for you, or whether a hybrid system is a better approach.

Joint vs. Separate Bank Accounts: How to Choose?

Whether to have joint or separate bank accounts is a big question in a relationship, but keep in mind that you don’t have to choose one or the other. Many couples ultimately choose a combination of joint and separate accounts, and it’s just a matter of preference. Finally, keep in mind that, just like a relationship, your financial needs will evolve. What works for you now may not be feasible in five years, and you can always make changes to your accounts down the road.

Whether you’re choosing joint or separate accounts, take the time to shop around together for a bank that best suits your financial circumstances and goals as a couple. With no fees, decent interest rates, and an excellent selection of financial products, EQ Bank wins out as our top pick for the best online bank in Canada. With no monthly account fees and high-interest rates, the Savings Plus Account offers no everyday banking fees, free Interac e-Transfers®, free day-to-day transactions, and a stellar 1.50%* everyday interest rate. Even though it’s a savings account, it functions like a chequing account and can be used to pay bills and also transfer money instantly.

For those who prefer a brick-and-mortar bank with top-notch customer service, consider signing up for a Scotiabank Preferred Package. With a reasonable monthly fee, points-earning potential, and unlimited transactions included, this chequing account really makes banking super simple. That way, you know you’re on the same financial path – even if you’re walking on separate sidewalks.

*Interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice.

Article comments

Lee says:

Does a joint account effect each others credit scores

Lisa Jackson says:

Hi Lee,

Yes, your spouse/partner’s bad credit score could negatively affect yours. For one, if a line of credit is linked to the account, you’re responsible for whatever debts are incurred. Also, creditors can take action to seize outstanding monies, which could impact your balance. The bottom line: think long and hard before opening a joint account with someone with a questionable credit history.

sandra mclean says:

Separate accounts. Separate credit cards. We discuss money and each have an automatic transfer to separate long term savings/RRSP. What is most important to me is we are both equally committed to savings. I would never get a joint credit card with anyone – I know of several cases where the responsible spouse was left on the hook to pay the debt after the breakup.
We do a monthly reconciliation of purchases/bills and spit the cost of relevant items, e.g. groceries, 50/50. At the end of each month one person transfers money to even it out. The monthly reconciliation spreadsheet is a good way to track spending.

Amber says:

My boyfriend and I are considering a joint checking account for the sake of convenience. We live together and think it would be easier to pay bills.

I like the idea of getting our checks deposited into the joint account and then each getting an “allowance” or “play money” each pay period into our separate accounts (for example, he likes buying lunch, I like buying coffee). I’m wondering how that would work for us during the school year. I’m in nursing school and only work about one day a week because of my study schedule.

Any thoughts on what would be the best way to go about this? Thanks!

Kyle says:

I think as long as you both understand the setup going in, that should work fine Amber.

Mike says:

My partner and I are currently trying to decide what will be best for us. Separate accounts are definitely not working. It’s too much and confusing trying to remember to keep x amount of money in one xx in another account. The list really helped. Thanks

Kyle says:

Thanks for stopping by Mike. Glad to hear you got some good value.

Liza says:

I was been reading all the comments here cause my fianc

Kyle says:

I don’t think there is ever a one-size-fits-all answer to personal questions like this Liza. In my non-expert opinion if you trust him enough to say “I do” isn’t a few hundred bucks in a joint account pretty minor?

Sarah says:

Just hopped over here from your latest post.
Hubby and I were married last year and merged our finances right before we were married. We have no problems listed above.

It’s funny because I have had this conversation with many people and the thought of having separate accounts is just so foreign to us. Our parents both had joint accounts and I guess this is normal.

I think it takes some adjusting.. I mean, I am the spender between the two of us, but now I am accountable to someone so I am ALOT more responsible. We have joint checking and emergency savings account.. but have our own investments.. all of which are taken from our checking accounts, where we are paid from. So we both see where things are coming and going, although don’t have access to eachother’s accounts.

We have the moto “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” and it works. We talk about big purchases and usually the other can argue why it’s a good one.. and well, if you can’t argue why, perhaps it’s not a good purchase.

I don’t know.. joint account seems to work for us. 🙂

young says:

@Sarah- I think that couples who share everything are strong- I think it takes a strong couple to be able to do that, to be able to communicate with each other and accept each other for their purchases with money. My parents had separate accounts and I guess it didn’t work for them because they got divorced, ha! I think it really depends on the couple 🙂

Rachael says:

Joint…yet seperate. What I mean is, my husband and I only have one checking/savings account through the same bank, but only my name is on the accounts. The reason why is my husband isn’t working, and hasn’t been for almost a year. Even before he was unemployed, I have always taken care of the finances. I make sure the bills are paid on time and the money is in the necessary accounts for different bills and expenses – that’s just my nature. Since he is unemployed, he can’t buy anything without getting the money from me first anyway. I have offered to put his name on the accounts but since he isn’t bringing any money in or spending any, he doesn’t cared and we are leaving it as it is for now. We had a joint account when we were first married, and the situations were reversed (he was working while I wasn’t) and I imagine once he is working again and needs somewhere to cash his paychecks or send direct deposit, we will have a joint account again. However, after having been through both sides of the spectrum, if that time comes, I would also like to set up individual accounts as well. I have found I’m particularly attached to my financial independence and having an account of my own gives me a semblance of that.

Helly says:

I also wanted to add that I think it’s wise to maintain the separate accounts while you’re not married. I hate to sound pessimistic, but without the property protections that marriage usually affords, I would think it easier to maintain what’s yours vs. what’s his in the event (heaven forbid) something were to happen. On that same “pessimism” vein– I think prenuptial agreements can be important to at least discuss, as well. Downer, maybe– but if you can’t honestly communicate about money, that, to me, signifies other underlying problems. Which all goes back to your assertion that communication is key 🙂

As for the hassle of remembering to transfer– if it’s a set amount every time, will your bank let you set up automatic transfers? If not, I hear you on the hassle– I myself have to set up a calendar reminder for such regular transfers as paying credit card bills (where I want to be able to examine each statement before paying, in case there are any discrepancies to address first) — it pops up on my desktop, in my email, and on my phone. Nagware! 🙂

young says:

@Helly- Thanks for adding that, Helly. I have a post about cohabitation agreements and being open about communicating with your partner about finances before you shack in. I still haven’t gotten to asking the bank- Kevin @Invest it Wisely said it should be possible, when I first asked them they said it wasn’t possible, but perhaps I need to ask the bank that is transferring money out.

Helly says:

Well, in this day and age of modern technology and everything automated, the cons you listed for joint + separate accounts just aren’t as compelling anymore. My husband and I put the majority of our pay into a joint account, while a small portion goes into individual accounts for personal expenses– clothing, gifts, personal hobby pursuits. Our employer does the splitting for us– we give them the two bank account numbers and the specific amount to go into each account, and voila! Every paycheck automatically gets divided correctly. If our employer did not have this capability, it’s a cinch to set up an automatic transfer to/from our existing bank accounts every month.

Banking fees are the bane of any consumer’s existence, and I feel it’s the consumer’s responsibility to be aware of them and adjust accordingly. When my individual bank decided to impose a minimum direct deposit amount to avoid fees, I simply switched to another bank. This would be true no matter what your situation– if you have a bank account, you have to be watchful for fees.

Finally, record-keeping these days is made easier by many banks’ abilities to consolidate multiple accounts into one view– not just for external bank accounts, but brokerage accounts, as well. Very useful!

I do agree that ultimately, no matter which route a couple picks, communication and similar values about money is the most important thing. Both my husband and I feel that this (majority) joint + (small allowance) individual gives us the flexibility and freedom to do our own thing yet at the same time maintain responsibility for general household interests. So it works for us, and we’re glad of that 🙂

young says:

@Helly- Thanks so much for input. Those are indeed compelling reasons to have a main joint account. I would indeed seriously think about it if we were to get married, but I think right now, to keep things simple, we are going to do it this way. But I agree with your perspective, when I was doing up the list, I did think that the “cons” didn’t seem like a very strong argument 🙂

It does work. I went to the bank that I want to put money in and they asked for a void cheque from each of us. Then we told them how much we wanted to transfer per month. Adjusting the amount later was really easy, too!

I’m with TD Bank if it helps any.

young says:

@Kevin@InvestitWisely- Okay I’m going to go to the bank and ask them, thanks! 🙂 My boyfriend is with TD Bank but I”m not. Perhaps TD Bank has better service?

Oh, I have things setup pretty much the way you do, but I’m sure you’re able to automate the transfer. You might need to see them in person to set this up if it’s not available through online banking. That’s what we did — we summed up the mortgage payment and other bills and transfer that much every month automatically.

young says:

@Kevin@InvestItWisely- Really? That would be awesome if I could. I asked someone at the branch if that was possible, and they said the only thing was to email money transfer it. though this was at the branch that I was taking money out of, not putting money in. It wouldn’t work from a big bank to another big bank.. is that the case for you?

Definitely joint account for the shared expenses. We still have our own personal accounts, though!

young says:

@Kevin@InvestitWisely- thanks for sharing your experience kevin! I think we have similar situations (recently purchased homes + not married) so I appreciate your perspective.

Etienne says:

(I can’t seem to reply to specific comments). young: the debt is the reason we are keeping stuff separate and having a complex split of our expenses.
I have debt she should not be paying for. I have higher income so I feel she should not pay half of everything day to day, etc.
Once debt is repaid and everything is “common”, then joint account is probably the way to go.

young says:

@Etienne- Thanks for clarifying and sharing your experience. That sounds like a very feasible and reasonable plan- pay off personal debt first, then join forces. 🙂

I think the joint accounts and joint financial life in general should work out in a married couple. The basic money management rulas can be stablished in order to make this new financial life work… actually, a couple using a financial plan and with the right guidelines should have no problem in merging their financial life and might see the benefit of a consolidated position.

young says:

@Finanzas Personales- Thanks for visiting. What about debt? Would you want to merge finances with your partner when your partner is $50,000 in student loan or credit card debt? 🙂 Just food for thought.

Big E says:

My wife and I use the last option, a joint account where everything comes in and out of, but we each have our own discretionary account were we each get the same amount each month to use however we want. That way the lower and higher income earners get the same amount of play money. It has worked really well for us.

young says:

@Big E- It really is all about the play money! 🙂 That sounds like a very feasible and workable option too. Have a joint account and take money out for your own stuff. Boyfriend and I might explore that plan later on, if we ever get fed up of transferring money into our joint account.

Little House says:

My husband and I have had a joint account since before we were married. It was just easier to manage. Since we also have a couple of business accounts, we already have too many to manage (or I should say I have too many to manage.) And yes, I can see everything he does in the account – it’s like a map of where he’s been. 😉

young says:

@Little House- men and their paper trails 😉 Well, it’s nice that he lets you manage the finances (I’m waiting for that day when my boyfriend will give me full control… mu hwa hwa hwa!)

serf says:

Separate accounts…The higher income earner pays all the bills…

This allows the lower income earner to invest the savings and have the tax attributed to their income which is taxed at a lower rate.

It really depends on what you have agreed about how you use the money. Joint / Separate is just a tool to use to handle the agreement about money.

Is there a feeling that it’s YOUR personal money as opposed to OUR money? Is it separate because you feel entitled to spend it the way it pleases you?

Once you decide to live together and make some steps forward, I believe that individuality has gone out the window and it’s now a couple matter and down the road a family matter if or when kids show up …

With that said, I am the sole provider and I control it all, so I can’t really share a personal experience for deciding who pays what bill.

My husband and I have joint accounts but we do have separate credit cards. This does help partly with being able to surprise each other with gifts. The issue is though that we track all of our spending in Quicken so we can see what each other charges. We haven’t totally figured out how to surprise each other yet. Right now, I just tell him to not look at that account until I say it’s ok.

Well, I think its real simple. Keep them seperate! that will just save a lot of hassles and headaches.

If you really need to, then just have a joint account for mortgage payments, etc.

MoneyCone says:

We always kept our accounts separate. Never felt the need to combine them. (we have one joint mainly to facilitate money transfer but that account isn’t our primary account).

Not that we don’t trust each other, never felt it was necessary to maintain trust! 🙂

Etienne says:

I need to add that I’m not married and I have personal debt to clear. It would not be fair to have a joint account when she has almost no debt. I did ny stuff before meeting her and she should nto be responsible – neither the joint account – for my debt.
Probably that once we are debt-free we will simply merge everything and deposit our salaries in the same account, but for now, it’s much better this way.

Etienne says:

We use separate bank accounts, but shared credit card.
We use Quicken to track all expenses and use a spreadsheet to split monthly buys according to the current ratio of salaries (e.g. currently it’s 60% for me, 40% for her)
We use another spreadsheet to split large/long term buys according to a future fix split ratio once we both have permanent jobs. The vehicles, appliances, furniture and any other long term good are on this list so we can even out. Every month we pay the car but at different ratio depending on our job situation at the moment. But once we both have stable jobs, we will re-split every $ spend according to that “final” ratio. This means that if we bought the couch when I was paying 80% of the share, and the final ratio is 55%/45%, then she will owe me the different between what I paid at 80% and should’ve paid at 55%. It is fair for everyone and removes the variable of “when” we buy the big ticket items.
It seems complicated and it is a little (until you start doing it routinely), but it’s the most fair way for both to enjoy life and save. We can go on vacation without one having to work 200hours for it when the other only works 100.

SavingMentor says:

Chalk me up as another person who uses the joint with a little bit of separate allowance for gifts to each other and personal luxury spending.

The allowance amount isn’t very much, but it works pretty well. I can’t say we’ve never had fights about it in the past … but we rarely do these days. I think we would have fought the other way too, so I still prefer the joint method.

Like Jaymus and others, joint, keep it simple. If you share everything else, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t share money. Just me.

As Jaymus said “having separate accounts just seems like a layer of complexity with no benefits.”

Make the move Y&T, you and the man can do it 🙂

young says:

@My Own Advisor- lol, I’ll definitely consider joint 100% when we get married. But while we’re cohabitating, I think I”m going to see how it goes (and slowly see how much control I can exert over his finances LOL- I’ve been trying to see if I can get him to automatically save money into his TFSA… slow process but I think I am seeing results). He definitely sees personal finance different from me (he’s not as calculating as me)- though we are both frugal people.

We merged all our accounts a while after we got married. We don’t have any of the problems you listed above.
We have cash allowance so each of us can buy what ever we want with that. We also use that for gifts.

If you are not married, don’t merge your finance.

Joint and you maintain 1 separate credit card or bank account w/ a nominal amt of money in it (deposited yearly) for personal spending which includes gifts for the other person

young says:

@SPF- That sounds good- is that what you and Mrs. SPF do?

krantcents says:

My theory is when you are considering cohabiting or marriage, there needs to be a discussion about money as well as other things. From that discussion, there has to be an agreement about finances or it will never work. Joint or separate is really less of an issue.

young says:

@krantcents- always sage advice, krantcents 🙂 Definitely, relationships are about communication and discussing values.

This is one of those issues that comes down to trust.

I have married friends who have a joint account, even though the husband is opposed to it. The reason? He feels his wife spends too much money. He doesn’t really trust her having full access to the money.

I could never marry anybody who didn’t see money the same way I did. Once I’m confident she has similar spending habits as I do, having a joint account will be an easy choice.

You know you’re a PFer when you’re attracted to girls who take care of their money.

young says:

@financial uproar- Excellent points! But what percentage of the population of eligible female singles take care of their money? (I know it might be higher than I am assuming, but from the small sample size of my friends and acquaintances, it doesn’t seem like a very high proportion… I started this blog because I had no girlfriends to talk to about money! lol)

Money= symbolic of values. I agree that it will be very difficult to marry someone who doesn’t see money the way you do, but sometimes love is blind (until you see the credit card bill lol). My boyfriend and I have slightly different values even though we are both frugal. He for example, doesn’t mind spending money every day for lunch (that would drive the personal finance frugal side of me INSANE). On the other hand, he would not drop money like I do to travel.

Echo says:

Can’t say one is better than the other, it’s a personal choice for sure. For us, we have one joint account. My wife is a stay-at-home-mom so we don’t have the two pay cheques to worry about.

We discuss big ticket items together, but I’m not much of a spender on myself so it’s not a big deal to me (if she wants a new kitchen table, I’m not going to be holding out for a new electronic gizmo). I am a bit frugal and try to stick to our budget, which can be frustrating for her if she doesn’t feel like she has much control over the finances.

You’re right about the “surprise” factor for gifts etc. To get around this problem (and the control issue above) I just take out cash every month for her to spend on whatever she wants, no questions asked from me.

Just a hunch, this article will be in your top 10 most commented 🙂

young says:

@Echo- You’re right- it is definitely a personal choice. Everyone has different ways of what they would like to do with their money, and different ways of managing it. I would definitely not say that those who have joint-separate accounts are considered inferior to those with joint accounts only (in terms of “strength” of the relationship, if one would judge it by that even).

I agree that if there is only one pay cheque then the joint account would be the better way to go. If the two paycheques were somewhat equal, or equitable, then I would personally prefer to keep it joint-separate. Given that what, 30% of couples lie to their spouse about what they bought? (hiding big ticket items etc.)

Great tip on how to avoid the surprise factor issue with gifts- just take money out in cash, duh! 🙂 Good point!

SylviaLH says:


We keep a “grocery” account which we both pay into equally. We set up the transfer so they are automatic, and it is a free account (we both bank with PC Financial), so we don’t pay any fees on it (or on any of our other accounts.

It is also a way to transfer money between us (so if he lends me money, which he does sometimes because he works in a restaurant, I transfer the money back to him via the grocery account).

young says:

@SylviaLH- Sounds like a good system for both of you. That’s pretty much what my boyfriend and I are doing so far. Joint-separate, we have a “pool account” for the household expenses like mortgage, groceries, utilities etc.

Fox says:

I agree with Jaymus!
Joint, its simple. It’s all upfront. If we have seperate, there is too much to hide. I am just obligated to do my deposit in the joint, the rest is my own money. Well how’s that fair? If kids come tomorrow and we need to dish out $1500 for hockey? One might have the half, the other might not.

The cons listed above and on my version of this, that I posted a few weeks ago, seem easy to over come.

At the end of the day, if you have no communication, trust, you got no relationship. Might as well be everyone for them selves.

Joint. It’s simple. The con’s you’ve listed don’t seem too bad or can all be overcome in one way or another.

Having separate accounts just seems like a layer of complexity with no benefits.

young says:

@Jaymus, @Finance Fox- Thanks for your input and perspective. It’s not that there is no communication per se with separate finances, I would say there is more room for individuality (and possibly less argument). I mean, think about it this way, if your spouse continues to smoke a pack a day (that’s a $10 a day habit, people!) and you are nagging at him to quit because it is “our money” then that adds another dimension of tension to the relationship. I know that this is a terrible example, but one could argue that having 100% combined finances leaves more room for disagreement on what to do with that money. Obviously no one will agree 100% with each other on what to spend money on, I suppose there will be a large degree of compromise and open communication with 100% joint finances.