Finances form an integral part of any relationship and they can be the source of many a fight if not addressed adequately.

The question of whether or not it’s a good idea to open a joint bank account is a common and important one. The answer, however, is two-fold.

On the one hand, Lizl Budhram, Head of Advice at Old Mutual Personal Finance, says it’s a bad idea because it can lead to major arguments.

“Pooling your monthly income in one bank account can lead to disputes over individual spending patterns and cause unhappiness in a relationship,” she says.

Another reason it might not be the solution for every couple is that in the event of the death of the partners, it can put the surviving partner under financial duress.

“A joint bank account can also create problems if one spouse dies because the account is frozen until the estate is wound up, leaving the surviving spouse to face possible financial hardship in the interim,” Budhram warns.

READ MORE: The benefits and pitfalls of getting a joint home loan

On the other hand, opening a joint bank account is a good idea when you’re dealing with household expenses.

But, the only way this works without any one partner harbouring feelings of resentment against the other is if you draw up a clear budget and agree what the money deposited into the joint account will be spent on.

It’s also important that contribution expectations be fair and commensurate to earnings.

“The person earning the most should contribute the most and who pays for what and what is paid for jointly needs to be discussed and decided upfront,” she says.

Budhram offers these tips for couples who are contemplating opening a joint bank account together.

1.      Know your own financial status

Before you commit to a joint account, even if only for shared expenses, speak to your partner about your financial status. Be open and clear about your debt like personal loans, vehicle financing, store cards, debit orders and any family obligations.  

2.      Do the research

It can be surprising how loyal people can be to their own bank. Look at the type of bank accounts on offer and consider the value-added benefits as a couple. Compare prices, especially transactional costs, and make sure the features suit both of you. Consider linking your joint accounts to a free app like 22seven that categorises your spending so that you have a clear view of where your money is going.

3.      Budgeting has never been more important

Decide upfront who pays for what. Get into the habit of drawing up a budget together so that there are no surprises at the end of the month. 

READ MORE: Unmarried and living together? Know your rights

4.     Be clear on your priorities

If your attitudes to money and your spending habits are very different, you could experience a lot of stress unless you prioritise together. Some people are spenders and some are savers. It’s important to arrive at a compromise that balances the joy of living in the moment with the need to save for tomorrow and for a rainy day.  

5.       Know your level of money savviness

When you enter a relationship you bring your own experience of managing money. It’s important to acknowledge and understand each other’s thoughts when it comes to finances. Leverage your partner’s strengths and know which areas you personally need to work on. 

6.      Beware of cyber risks and behave responsibly

With a joint bank account it’s key that each partner understands the risks. Protect your passwords, and personal and online banking information. Use secure devices, don’t share your PIN and use additional safety precautions like two-factor authentication.