At Starling, we’re all about banking anywhere – in the garden, on the train, at the beach. And now you can bank together with Starling joint accounts. Couples and friends no longer need to find a time in the diary when you can both go to a branch and fill out endless paperwork – as long as you’re in the same space, you can open the account wherever you are.

Life’s a beach

Two people, two cards, one account: joint bank accounts are for couples or friends who share financial commitments and want to manage their money together from one app. Like everything we do at Starling, we’ve focused on making it quick and easy.

We spoke to Marc Reace-Coles who opened a joint account on the beach in Cape Verde with his fiancé Hamish. “Where we were on holiday, there was brilliant Wi-Fi stretching down to the beach,” he says. “We both had Starling personal accounts already and found the app so easy to use. So when we saw the announcement for joint accounts we were really excited and thought we’d try and open a joint account on the beach to see what happened,” he says. “It took less than five minutes, including adding our cards to Apple Pay. You’ve made it so simple.”

Marc celebrated his 40th birthday at Disney World Florida last year and surprised Hamish by proposing in front of the Cinderella Castle. They’ve been living together for 18 months and will be getting married in Brighton next April. Marc first heard of Starling early on through an article on LinkedIn. “For us it’s the simplicity and everything updating instantly. It’s not like other banks where the balance goes down but you don’t know what the transaction was,” he says. “Banking is changing.”

Personal banking

Joint accounts were one of the most requested products from our customers and since they launched in June we’ve made the experience even better with personalised notifications showing who’s spending what. These alerts keep you in the loop for money in and out – personal, joint and business – exactly as it happens.

You’ll also see when the other half of your joint account makes a transaction and we’ll send you a notification if you have a direct debit due later that day and there isn’t enough in your account to cover it. That way you can easily top up your balance before the payment comes through.

At the moment, you’ll need to use your Starling joint account sort code and account number to transfer money to the account. But stay tuned – we’re looking into making these transfers between Starling accounts easier and we’ll be connecting to the Current Account Switch Service soon so that you can transfer direct debits and standing orders from a joint account with another bank.

Once you start spending, your transactions will be automatically categorised so that you can see exactly how much you’re spending together on groceries, household bills or eating out. If you buy something as a present, you can update this from say ‘Shopping’ to ‘Gift’ so that the categories work for you. You can also suggest improvements to the locations and logos of merchants straight from the app.

The fast track

A Starling joint account can be set up in minutes, not days (or weeks). Simply make sure Bluetooth technology is on, visit the menu by tapping on the icon in the top right corner of the home screen. From there tap on your account type (this just above your name and account details) and you’ll see an option to ‘Open a new account’. Google Nearby technology will then locate and connect the two of you (we recommend sitting next to each other for this step – on a sofa, in a hammock, on a sunlounger, whatever floats your boat.)

The team only took 20 days to build joint accounts – from writing the code to the app store release. “The reason we were able to build joint accounts in under three weeks was that we spent a lot of time from January onwards remodelling the structure of the bank,” says Sam Everington, one of our lead engineers.

At the beginning of the year, the team listed all the different types of bank accounts that we might create in the future. These included business, joint, young person and international accounts, all of which would involve separating the structure of having one account for one phone. “Once we split the user of the phone from the holder of the account, it laid the foundations for business and joint accounts because people could have more than one account and more than one card,” he says. “When we first started thinking about how to build joint accounts, we thought we’d use QR codes or emails to co-ordinate the details of the two people setting up the account,” he says.

Software engineer Sam Stone “suggested Google Nearby technology and took a couple of days to see if we could do something more clever and more seamless. It was a bit of an experiment and it turned out really well.”

What is Google Nearby technology?

Google Nearby is a set of APIs that allows two phones to communicate with each other. “The tech uses a combination of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and audio to work out if two phones are close enough to connect,” he says.

The Wi-Fi access points listed on each phone are compared to see if they match, indicating that the phones are near each other. Bluetooth transmits a token that can be found by other devices with Google Nearby and the audio (too high for human ears) is picked up by the microphone of the other phone if it is close by.

These three elements create a secure and simple way of knowing when two phones are nearby and can therefore connect to create a Starling joint account.

Playing it safe

It probably goes without saying that a joint account is for people who trust each other and know each other well – you’ll both be responsible for the account and will have full access to everything in it. Opening a joint account with someone with a lower credit score can affect your credit score so it’s worth being aware of each other’s financial situations before you open the account. As a Starling customer, you’ll be covered up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Our joint accounts include the ability to lock your card from the app if lost or stolen and turn spending on or off for contactless payments, online transactions or ATM withdrawals. The limit for ATM withdrawals on joint accounts is £300 or up to six cash withdrawals per day.

At the moment, you both need to have a Starling personal account (which you can also apply for in minutes) to set up your joint account. This means that the security checks we do on new customers are done and dusted already so your shiny new joint account can be up and running in five minutes.

We know that breaking up is hard to do and we’ve tried to take the pain out of relationship breakups when it comes to closing your joint account. If you have a disagreement with the person you share the card with, you can lock the account quickly by contacting Starling. If you need to close the account completely, you’ll both need to get in touch.

Thanks to Joe Merriman, one of our Gurus on the Starling Community, for providing the image of the beach in Ibiza where he set up his joint account with his wife Sarah, Marc Reace-Cole for sharing his story setting up an account with his fiancé Hamish on the beach in Cape Verde and Sarah Williams-Gardener, our Head of Public Affairs, for her tweet from the field with her husband Richard.

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