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Spending from the joint account: What’s legit?

23RD MAY 2024


Hand pressing on a phone with the Starling bank app open

When my boyfriend and I moved in together, I assumed that food for my dog Poppy would be a no-go for the joint account. But when we got to the supermarket till, and I started separating out everything that was for her, he told me he was happy to share the cost. 

This got me thinking, more generally, about what should and shouldnt go on a joint bank account. When we asked our audience on social media, Whats a totally unacceptable joint account purchase and whats a grey area? the answers poured in. According to my wife, motorcycle parts are a no-no, said one customer. Probably the nail appointments,said another. 

And then there was the customer who replied: When you manage to go out for a meal and say Ill get this" and then use the joint card. You may think that response was a one-off, but from talking to others, it seems they’re not the only one guilty of this joint-card-trickery.

Joint account buys and the rules of the game 

One topic that came up again and again on the unacceptable side was football. A Swansea City fan replied: If hubby bought a Bristol City match ticket. While another Starling customer wrote: Spurs football kit when your hubby is Arsenal.

I assumed that these responses were hypothetical, but when I spoke to Liverpool supporter Jason, I was proved wrong. When I had a joint account with my sons mum, she bought him a Man-U kit. When my current partner found out, she started winding me up saying shes going to get our daughter an Everton kit. It hasnt happened yet – our daughters just shy of six months old so who knows who shell end up supporting. Hopefully not Everton.

Does alcohol apply? Well, its different for everyone 

One grey area in the joint account rules seems to be drinks. What do you do when one person is having a large glass of overpriced wine and the other is having whatever lager is on tap? Or if one person isn’t drinking alcohol and the other is?

For Starling customer Phil, its simple: Buying drinks – coffees or beers – is definitely one for our personal accounts, not the joint account. Although, this gets more complicated if his son is with him.

I volunteer at a bike project that restores and repairs bikes for refugees, and after doing our community-focused stuff in the workshop, we head to the pub for a beer or two. Thats pretty unambiguous: personal account, not joint account. But when our teenager also wanted to do some volunteering, I was buying a beer for me, and a soft drink for him. So which account should that have come from? Usually all kids stuff goes on the joint account but I wasnt sure that this would be fair.

In the end, Phil put the first round on his personal account and the second on his joint account – because who would want to short change their spouse?!

Niche but necessary: DIY spending  

For Starling customer Julie, the grey area is tools. My husbands DIY hobby is getting bigger and better all the time and he occasionally buys tools using the joint account. My argument: unless its for doing a DIY job at home, it should not come from there, especially as we usually already have the same tool – and he just wants the latest must-have!

Occasionally I put my foot down and ask him to transfer the money over from personal funds, but as hes saved us quite a lot over the years through DIY, I usually just ignore it.

Whats mine is yours 

Of course, some couples choose for all their spending to come from their joint account – clothes, cocktails, the lot. Whats mine is his and whats his is mine, said one Starling customer. Although we do use [our personal accounts] for surprises.

However you organise your joint account spending, and whoever you have a joint account withbe it your partner, a family member or a friend – make sure you come up with a rough plan before you make any payments.

Money isnt a topic were used to talking about, but – as awkward as it can be – its really important to voice any worries, ask questions and avoid assumptions, especially when youre managing money as a pair. You never know, you may find that your dog’s new ball is a perfectly legitimate purchase for the joint account. Stranger things have happened!

To apply for a Starling joint account, youll both need to have Starling personal accounts. There are no monthly fees and you can earn interest both on the money in your personal account and the money in your joint account – 3.25% AER / 3.19% Gross (variable) interest on balances up to £5,000 in each account.

Ready to be joined at the chip? Apply for a joint account by opening your Starling app. Or join Starling today to get started.

Start your application