Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions.

This week’s episode starts with a discussion on the risks of merging finances with your partner.

Then we pivot to this week’s money question from Danny, who left this voicemail. “Hi, Nerds. My name’s Danny. I live in Boston, and I’m a big fan of the show. Ever since my wife and I got married, we’ve kind of combined our credit cards. In other words, I’m an authorized user on hers, and she’s an authorized user on mine. And we realized that once we did that, we have too many credit cards, and so we were looking at consolidating them a bit by closing some credit cards. One of the cards that I’d like to close is my oldest credit card, and I’m a little bit hesitant because I heard that’s not good for my credit score. But I wanted to ask the question of you all. When would it be appropriate to close one of your oldest lines of credit? For me, it’s a card that I don’t have as much particular benefit from regarding its rewards programs relative to some of the other cards I have. So, I’m interested in closing it since I don’t really use it. I really appreciate hearing your thoughts. Thank you. Bye.”

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Our take on merging finances with a partner

Combining finances with someone else is a significant step with implications beyond the financial realm. Before you intertwine financial lives with a partner, consider the potential pitfalls as well as some alternatives that will preserve both parties’ financial independence.

One financial concern is debt. Laws vary by state and by type of debt, so you may need to do some research to determine whether you’ll be legally responsible for debt your partner owes.

A drastic difference in money management philosophies between you and your partner may be another reason to maintain some distance in your finances. When a total financial merger could result in constant disagreements, setting up separate bank accounts to supplement a joint checking account can help keep the peace in the home.

If you prefer to be financially independent — you want to spend and save your money the way you want, for example — not merging finances is probably the right choice. Plus, that separation will make it easier to leave the relationship in the event of a breakup, divorce or domestic abuse.

Our take on managing credit cards in a relationship

Over 175 million Americans hold at least one credit card, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So chances are good you and your partner will bring credit cards into a relationship. While you don’t need to worry about having too many credit cards as long as you are not missing payments, you may still want to trim your credit card portfolio after merging finances. If you do, proceed carefully because closing accounts can damage your credit score.

Canceling a credit card reduces the amount of available credit and can increase your utilization ratio, which may ding your credit score. Experts recommend keeping your utilization ratio below 30%. Length of credit history also affects your credit score. If you cancel a card you maintained responsibly for years by paying off balances in full, your score could lower.

Instead of canceling a card, you could request a product change from the issuer. You could get another card that better aligns with your spending or doesn’t have an annual fee, for example, all while preserving your credit history. If your wallet still feels overstuffed, take out the ones you don’t use, pay off any outstanding balances and then store them in a safe place. You might keep one recurring charge on the credit card such as a gym membership. Even minimal activity keeps the card active with little effort on your part, which prevents the issuer from closing the account for you.

If you’re set on closing some of your or your partner’s credit card accounts, try to avoid doing so before applying for a major loan like a mortgage. You want your credit score to be as high as possible to qualify for the best possible rates.

Our tips

  1. Close with caution. Shuttering a credit card account can hurt your scores, so consider asking for a product change instead.
  2. Understand what you’re authorizing. Adding someone as an authorized user can be convenient and may help their credit scores, but you’re responsible for paying the bill.
  3. Merge what makes sense. Couples can handle their money separately, jointly or a bit of both. Do what works for you.

Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at podcast@nerdwallet.com. To hear previous episodes, go to the podcast homepage.