If you’re struggling to repay your credit cards, then credit card debt forgiveness sounds pretty good. While true credit forgiveness or credit card debt cancellation are rare, some relief might be available. From reducing your debt and negotiating with creditors to exploring credit card debt forgiveness programs, here’s what to know.
Can credit card debt be forgiven?
When you open a credit card account, you agree to the lender’s terms, which includes a promise to repay any debts you accrue. Unless you’re a victim of financial or identity fraud, it’s unlikely the issuer will just let you off the hook.
That’s not to say it can’t happen – technically, your issuer writing off credit card debt is possible. However, it’s quite rare for lenders to forgive balances entirely. They’re more likely to offer a payment program or settle the debt with partial forgiveness instead.
How to get credit card debt forgiven
You have several options for credit forgiveness and relief, including debt consolidation, credit counseling, and a debt management program. You can also try negotiating a credit card debt forgiveness program with your lender.
Even if you can’t get all your debt forgiven, something is better than nothing. (And the worst they can do is say no!)
Work with your credit card issuer
If you can’t pay your credit card debt, your first step should be to call the issuer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends explaining:
- Why you can’t make the minimum payment
- How much you can afford to pay
- When you think you can restart normal payments
This approach is most likely to work when you’re in financial hardship, such as after you’ve lost a job or experienced a natural disaster. Depending on the situation, you may qualify for a hardship plan with lower payments or a reduced interest rate.
In rare cases, you may see some of your credit card debt forgiven, perhaps in exchange for an upfront lump sum payment. Generally, companies accept settlements when they believe they’ll get more by settling than by taking you to court.
Consolidate your debt
Debt consolidation isn’t exactly forgiveness – but restructuring your debts can still offer some relief. If you have a good credit score, you may qualify for a balance transfer card or debt consolidation loan. These combine your debts – potentially at better interest rates – and allow you to negotiate longer, more affordable repayment terms.
Debt management plans
If you simply can’t afford your debts, it might be time to reach out to a nonprofit credit counseling agency. While you may pay some fees, their services can be invaluable.
A credit agency will pair you with a counselor and enroll you in a debt management plan. Your counselor will negotiate new terms with your creditors, consolidate debts, and collect your payments directly. Then, they’ll disburse the money to your creditors.
Most of the time, debt repayment plans aim to pay your debt in full over 3-5 years, often at better interest rates. However, you usually have to close all your credit card accounts while you’re enrolled.
Negotiate debt settlement with creditors
It’s possible to negotiate a debt settlement with creditors on your own. But many people turn to debt settlement companies to negotiate for you.
Unfortunately, working with a debt settlement company can be risky. They may be scams or engage in unfair or deceptive practices. Often, they advise consumers to stop making debt payments so they can apply more leverage, which can ruin your credit.
Unfortunately, because credit card companies aren’t obligated to settle, hiring a debt settlement company doesn’t guarantee credit forgiveness. Before you opt for this option, we advise checking out the CFPB to understand your rights and learn to spot scams. And before moving forward, always get settlement or repayment plans in writing.
If you have nowhere else to turn, filing for bankruptcy can help you restructure your debt or even erase debts entirely. But the process isn’t without consequences.
For one, filing for bankruptcy can tank your credit score, and the mark remains on your credit report for up to ten years. You may also have to sell your possessions – potentially even your house – in the process.
Plus, some debts (like tax debts and student loans) don’t go away in bankruptcy.
How credit card debt forgiveness affects your credit
One potential downside of credit forgiveness is that your credit score may take a hit if:
- Your account goes into collections
- Your credit card company reports your account as a charge-off
- You stop making payments under guidance of a debt settlement company
- You settle your account for less than you owe
- A lender lowers your credit limit or closes your account
- You file for bankruptcy
Depending on the specific mark, these negative items can remain on your credit report from two to ten years. Even so, negative items on your credit report typically have less of an impact after two years.
Credit card debt cancellation is rare – but you have options
Ultimately, it’s rare for a credit card company to cancel your debt outright, though some accept partial settlements to close your account.
But if you can’t negotiate a settlement, you have other options, including modified payment plans and debt consolidation. These alternatives can make managing your debt easier without tanking your credit score in the process.
Do credit card companies forgive debt?
It’s rare to see your full credit card debt forgiven, but it does happen. You’re more likely to see partial forgiveness, forbearance, or be put on a debt repayment program.
How to apply for credit card debt forgiveness?
Start by reaching out to your lender to negotiate potential terms of forgiveness or a repayment plan. If you’re a victim of fraud, you may also contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.