Joint account holders vs beneficiaries (2024)

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Understand the differences.

2-minute read

What is the difference between a joint account holder and a beneficiary?

A joint account holder shares the account with the primary account holder. Joint account holders have the same rights and access to an account as the primary account holder. A joint account holder can designate beneficiaries to the account without authorization from the primary account holder.

A beneficiary has no rights or access to your accounts. Beneficiaries can only receive the money in your accounts in the event of your passing.

Beneficiaries can become joint account holders if you would like them to have access to your money before you pass. If your account already has a joint account holder, you do not need to designate them as a beneficiary.

More key differences between joint account holders and beneficiaries

Joint account holdersBeneficiaries
Do they currently have access to my account?Yes, they have equal access and rights to your account.No, unless they are also joint account holders on your accounts.
What happens upon my passing?They have full ownership of the available money in the account.1If there are no joint account holders, the money is divided equally among all beneficiaries.
Do they have to be UNFCU members?No. To keep the money at UNFCU upon your passing, they will need to become a member if they are eligible to join.2No, but the transfer of wealth is easier if eligible2 family members become UNFCU members.
How many can I add to my account?Only one person per account.Up to five beneficiaries per account.3 This includes people, trusts, and organizations.

Download the infographic (PDF)


  1. Joint account holders who are not already UNFCU members will need to contact UNFCU so that we can transfer the money into their personal deposit account.
  2. View eligibility requirements.
  3. You can add up to five beneficiaries per account in Digital Banking. To add additional beneficiaries, you will need to contact us.

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