Managing share house rent and bills with joint bank accounts

Two housemates cheer as one housemate looks devastated that they lost at a videogame.

Share house finances can make for some truly awkward territory, no matter how close the people you’re sharing with are.

One way which might help to nip any money-related tension between you and your housemates in the bud is a joint bank account.

What are joint bank accounts?

Joint bank accounts are essentially an account that more than one person has access to. This could be the account you and your housemates use to split expenses, for instance. 

How do joint bank accounts work for share house expenses? 

Joint accounts work by giving multiple people access to a single bank account. In some cases you can set it up so that transactions need all parties to sign off or approve them. In other cases, only one account holder needs to approve a transaction. 

A joint account for share house bill splitting and paying rent could make it easier to share expenses and manage your combined money, but it isn’t risk-free. 

Whoever has access to the joint account has access to the whole pot – so make sure you trust that whoever you’re sharing it with won’t mismanage your money.

Benefits of joint bank accounts for flatmates and share houses

Joint bank accounts can be good for share houses because they may:

  • Make it simpler to pay for shared bills and rent from a single account
  • Spread the cost of account fees across each account holder
  • Let all account holders view any transactions made using the account.

Downsides of joint bank accounts for flatmates and share houses

Joint bank accounts can carry some extra risks, such as:

  • Shared money being accessible by any of the account holders (although, you can set-up a failsafe requiring approval of all the account holders, in some cases)

Who owns a joint account?

All account holders of a joint account own the money that’s in there.

Do joint accounts have an ATM card?

Yes, most joint bank accounts come with a debit card. You may even be able to get multiple debit cards for each account holder, although it’s worth checking with the bank account provider if that’s possible before you make your mind up.

How do you open a joint bank account?

In some cases, you can open a joint bank account online. However, different financial institutions may have different requirements depending on how many people will be named as account holders on a joint bank account. 

For example, if you are opening a joint bank account with one other person (two people total) then you might be able to open it online. But, if you are opening a joint account with three, four, or even five people, then you might have to go into a branch and open it in-person.

Requirements of opening a joint account

If you’re not already an existing customer of a bank, then each of you will need to have some ID, as well as other documents, in order to open the account in your joint names. These might include:

  • Driver’s licence
  • Medicare card
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate.

How to close a joint bank account

Here’s a brief overview of the joint account closing process:

  1. Agree with other account holders to close it
  2. Divvy up all the remaining funds between account holders
  3. Pay off overdrawn funds
  4. Call your bank and ask them to close the account, while all account holders are present and identifiable 
  5. Get confirmation that your account is closed. 

To close a joint account, you’ll all need to agree to close it. Next, you’ll have to clear all funds in the account by dividing it amongst all account holders, including paying any overdrawn funds back. Then, you’ll want to call up the bank and ask them to close the account. 

All account holders will need to be present for the account closure and have the relevant ID they used when setting up the account in the first place. Once that’s done, make sure it’s closed by asking the bank to confirm its closure. They may send you a notice that confirms this.

It’s also a good idea to get a record of all direct debits and credits from the past 12 months before the account is completely closed, so that you can work out if you need to make other arrangements for direct debits (like rent or the house Netflix account) and credits.

Which banks offer a joint bank account in Australia?

Plenty of banks offer joint accounts on their everyday transaction accounts, but the number of account holders, fees, and extra benefits will differ from provider to provider. It’s always important to read the product disclosure statement (PDS) when you’re doing your own research, as that’s where the details are.

Some joint accounts can be opened online, and others you will need to visit a branch in-person with all account holders present. More often than not, if you are opening a joint account with more than two people, you’ll all have to visit a branch to set it up.

If you want to check out some of the joint bank accounts that are available at the moment, here’s a few which might pique your interest:

ING Orange Everyday joint account
  • Joint account for two people
  • No monthly account fees
  • Rebates on ATM fees in Australia and overseas
  • 1% cashback on eligible utility bill payments via BPAY or direct debit for customers who meet eligibility requirements (up to $100 per financial year)
  • Mozo Experts Choice Award winner 2022

The ING Orange Everyday account can be set up as a joint account for two people. This everyday transaction account is a 2022 Mozo Experts Choice Bank Accounts and Savings Award winner for Exceptional Everyday Account. It has no monthly account keeping fees, and ATM fees may be rebated to customers if they meet the eligibility criteria of depositing $1,000 monthly into the Orange Everyday account and making at least five settled card purchases each month using your ING debit card.

What may make the ING Orange Everyday account attractive for managing share house expenses is the offer of 1% cashback for eligible utility bills. You can get back up to $100 per financial year, but make sure you check the Terms and Conditions, including which energy providers are eligible as part of this offer.

NAB Classic Banking joint account
  • Joint account for two or more people
  • No monthly account fees
  • $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit

The NAB Classic Banking account can be set up as a joint account for two or more people. This everyday transaction account comes with no monthly account fees, unlimited daily transactions, and a Visa debit card.

You will also have the option to get a Platinum Visa debit card, which comes with a range of perks like a monthly cashback offer on contactless payments, but this optional card comes with fees of $10 per month. This account has a daily ATM withdrawal limit of $2,000.

Great Southern Bank Everyday Edge joint account
  • 2021 Mozo Experts Choice Award winner
  • Joint account for two or more people
  • No monthly account fee
  • $2,010 daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

You can set up the Great Southern Bank Everyday Edge account as a joint bank account with two or more account holders. There is no monthly account fee, plus you can process unlimited daily transactions. There is a $2,010 limit on ATM withdrawals each day. The Everyday Edge Account even received a 2021 Mozo Experts Choice Award in the Excellent Everyday Account category.

ANZ Access Advantage joint account
  • Joint account for two or more people
  • $5 monthly account fee (waived if you deposit $2,000 into the account each month)
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • $1,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

You can set up the ANZ Access Advantage account as a joint bank account with two or more account holders. This bank account does not require a minimum balance, but does charge a $5 monthly fee which can be waived if you deposit $2,000 or more each month. You can make unlimited transactions daily, but there is also a $1,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit.

Bankwest Easy Transaction joint account
  • Joint account for maximum two people
  • No monthly account fees
  • No ATM fees at over 10,000 major bank ATMs
  • $1,000 to $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit’
Find out more

The Bankwest Easy Transaction account can be set up as a joint account with a maximum of two people. There are no monthly account fees and you won’t be charged ATM fees at any ATMs in the Bankwest, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and ANZ networks. But keep in mind, there’s a $1,000 per day ATM withdrawal limit (or $2,000 at Bankwest and CBA ATMs).

Bank of Melbourne Complete Freedom joint account
  • Joint account for two or more people
  • No monthly account fees
  • No ATM fees in Australia
  • $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

The Bank of Melbourne Complete Freedom account can be opened as a joint account with two or more people. There are no monthly account fees and unlimited free transactions can be made, including withdrawing cash through any Australian ATM. There’s a daily ATM withdrawal limit of $2,000 on this account.

Bank SA Complete Freedom joint account
  • Joint account for two or more people
  • No monthly account fees
  • No ATM fees in Australia
  • $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

The Bank SA Complete Freedom account can be opened as a joint account with two or more people. There are no monthly account fees and unlimited free transactions can be made, including withdrawing cash through any Australian ATM. There’s a daily ATM withdrawal limit of $2,000 on this account.

Commbank Smart Access joint account
  • Joint account for two or more people
  • $4 monthly account fee (can be waived if you meet eligibility criteria)
  • Multiple connected debit cards
  • No ATM fees at CBA and Bankwest ATMs
  • $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

The Commonwealth Bank Smart Access account can be opened as a joint account with two or more people. There is a $4 monthly account fee, which can be waived if you deposit $2,000 or more per month, or if you meet other criteria (including being under 25 years old). You can get one or two debit cards which connect to your joint account. There are no fees for making purchases, transferring between accounts, making payments, or for withdrawals at CBA or Bankwest ATMs.

HSBC Day to Day joint account
  • Joint account for two or more people
  • No monthly account fee
  • No ATM fees at HSBC ATMs
  • No daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

The HSBC Day to Day account can be set up as a joint account with two or more people acting as account holders. The Day to Day account carries no monthly account fees and allows for unlimited daily transactions within Australia. However, there is no daily ATM withdrawal limit, which comes with pros and cons.

ME Bank Everyday Transaction joint account
  • Joint account for two people
  • No monthly account fees
  • Rebates on ATM fees in Australia
  • $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

With the ME Bank Everyday Transaction account you can set it up as a joint account for two or more people. There are no monthly account fees, your ATM withdrawal fees in Australia will be refunded, plus you’ll have unlimited daily transactions. However, there is a $2,000 ATM withdrawal limit per day.

Ubank Spend joint account
  • Joint account for two people
  • No monthly account fee
  • No branch access (app only)
  • Both account holders must be ubank customers
  • $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit
Find out more

The ubank Spend account can be opened as a joint account for two people. They do not charge a monthly account keeping fee, but if you’re withdrawing cash at an ATM not owned by one of the major banks (ANZ, Commbank, NAB, Westpac), then you may be charged that ATM’s withdrawal fee. Ubank does not have physical branches. Instead, their app is a bit like a portable branch. Both joint account holders must be ubank customers and hold their own Spend and Save accounts (which may come with their own fees). There is a $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit.

Westpac Choice joint account
  • Joint account for two people
  • $5 monthly account fee (waived if you are under 30 years old or deposit $2,000 per month, T&Cs apply)
  • No ATM fees at Westpac ATMs
  • $2,000 daily ATM withdrawal limit

The Westpac Choice account can be opened up as a joint bank account. There is a $5 monthly account fee for this account, but that can be waived if you meet certain eligibility criteria. For example, those under 30 years old, those who are full-time tertiary students, Australian Pensioner Concession Card or Health Care Card holders, or if you simply deposit $2,000 per month into your account, that feed could be waived.

There are no ATM withdrawal fees or daily transaction limits, but your ATM withdrawals will be capped at $2,000 per day.

Conclusion: are joint bank accounts good for housemates?

Provided you trust your housemates or partner not to mismanage your joint account funds, it could be a useful way to track, schedule, and pay for shared expenses like rent and utilities.

With ATM withdrawal limits and the ability to set-up your joint account with failsafes like the need for each account holder to sign off or approve a transaction, there’s some added security available in case something goes wrong.

That’s not to stoke distrust, it’s just important to remember that each account holder can affect the credit scores of all involved, should they bring the account into debt with overdrawn funds or credits.

If you don’t think joint accounts are the right thing for you and your housemates, you might want to check out these five online tools and apps every Aussie living in a sharehouse needs.

Don’t forget to compare other everyday transaction accounts before you make up your mind, or check out this year’s winners of the Mozo Experts Choice Bank Accounts and Savings Awards for 2022.