Joint bank accounts – what information are you given when you open one?

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If you have a joint bank account, what information will you be given upfront and how clear will this be? I don’t think all banks explain joint accounts clearly enough at the outset. Although some have improved the information they provide in their terms and conditions.

Why I’m interested in joint bank accounts information

Last summer we worked with M&S Bank to get an independent company to survey over 2,000 adults about how much they knew about the rules on joint accounts and whether information provided was adequate. Almost 75% of people didn’t know the rules on joint accounts (you can read my write-up of the research we did)

I think banks should provide a separate one-page document that spells out very clearly that when you sign up to a joint account, you are each responsible for paying off any debts on that account. What that means in practice is that the bank can go after either of you for the full amount. I think this must be made clear before you sign up for an account.

What we’ve done

Last December we went back to those banks and building societies that didn’t have a one-page document, and asked whether they had any plans to introduce one. Most banks have updated their  terms and conditions (as part of the roll out of open banking). These new terms and conditions came into effect on January 13th and I’ve noticed that several banks have changed the wording of the information they provide on joint accounts and made things clearer. While that’s good, I think there’s more work to be done.

This is what the banks have told us:

Halifax Bank

In its recently updated terms and conditions it does spell out the rules on joint accounts clearly. The problem is that this information is on page 32 of a 46 page document. I’m pleased that the bank doesn’t pull any punches with the descriptions of what joint accounts involve. However, I think this should be in a separate one-age document where someone applies for a joint account.

Where is the information? It’s on page 32 of its terms and conditions.

Lloyds Bank

As with the Halifax, the information on joint accounts is within the terms and conditions, rather than being a separate document. However, the wording in the updated terms and conditions is clear.

Where is the information? On page 23 of its terms and conditions.

Lloyds Bank also provides information on joint accounts on a dedicated section of its website

Lloyds Bank and Halifax (both part of Lloyds Banking Group) said they continually review the ways in which they communicate terms and conditions and would welcome feedback that could be taken into consideration as part of this process.

HSBC

There’s information about joint accounts via a dedicated page on HSBC’s website about dealing with separation. Information on joint accounts is available as part of its terms and conditions.

Where is the information? It’s on page 8 of a 35 page terms and conditions document.

Nationwide

The building society told us it has no plans to issue a separate summary on joint account responsibilities. It said that ‘the information is clearly set out in our terms and conditions, which we are required to send account holders. It is important that customers read these to ensure they know what they are signing up for.

We do not believe issuing customers with more paperwork is the solution to ensuring joint account customers know what they are liable for.’

Where is the information? Nationwide’s current account information is a 26 page document. To be fair to Nationwide, the information about joint accounts is prominent on page 2.

NatWest

As part of its update of terms and conditions, the information on joint accounts is written in clear language. I’d say the way the information is set out isn’t quite as clear and punchy as it is with some other banks, but it does spell out the rules.

Where is the information? On page 6 of its terms and conditions, which run to 27 pages.

TSB 

Customers can only open a joint account in a TSB local branch. TSB said that when they do open a joint account in a branch, a staff member will help them through the account opening and highlight all important information related to the product. This includes highlighting joint responsibility [for any debts] as well as other relevant T&C’s.

TSB also has a dedicated web page with information about joint accounts. 

Related articles:

How to cope with changes to your finances as a couple

Can you close a joint bank account without the other person?

Are you affected by financial abuse? What can you do if your partner is controlling over money or abusive?

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