Credit Card Debt Forgiveness: Can It All Go Away?

There are options for credit card debt forgiveness, but they might not give the consequence-free results some people hope for.

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Updated May 31, 2024
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Credit card debt forgiveness programs are out there, but they aren’t government sponsored, and there is generally no guaranteed solution to clearing all debt without any consequences.

Still, getting some of your debt forgiven is better than continuing to rack it up. And if you decide to file for bankruptcy, taking a big hit to your credit score could be worth clearing some or all of your debt.

Let’s explore ways you could get out of credit card debt using different strategies.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • The government doesn’t offer credit card debt forgiveness programs, so you have to explore alternative methods to help clear or pay down your debt. These could include negotiating with your card issuer, using a debt settlement company, declaring bankruptcy, or doing a balance transfer.
  • Declaring bankruptcy is often one of the only ways you can clear some or all of your debt. But bankruptcy can’t clear all types of debt, and it can severely impact your credit score.
  • Debt settlement companies can be helpful, but carefully research any company you’re considering to make sure it has a good track record.

Can you get credit card debt forgiven?

Apart from declaring bankruptcy, there’s generally no way to have all your debt across a variety of creditors forgiven. And bankruptcy doesn’t always result in clearing all your debts.

Unfortunately, there are no government-sponsored programs to forgive credit card debt, but you can find companies that deal with debt forgiveness. For example, debt settlement companies negotiate with creditors to lower the amount of money you owe.

In addition, if you're having trouble making your payments, you could negotiate with your credit card issuer on your own. There’s no guarantee that you’ll have any of your debt forgiven, but it doesn’t hurt to try. You could also try to negotiate lower payments or a lower interest rate.

For some, declaring bankruptcy is the best option. It could help you clear your debt or create a repayment plan. If you're considering this option, speak to a qualified attorney who specializes in bankruptcy. You can find an attorney through your state bar association or your local legal aid association. Legal aid associations may even provide some pro bono (free) services.

Let’s take a closer look at your options.

Debt settlement

Debt settlement is a way to negotiate a settlement to reduce how much debt you owe. You can negotiate with your creditors yourself or hire a company to negotiate for you.

Steps to negotiate your credit card debt

1. Consider your strategy

Two primary debt settlement options include workout agreements and lump-sum agreements.

A workout agreement renegotiates your credit card terms and could lower your interest rate or minimum monthly payment, potentially making it easier to make your payments.

With a lump-sum agreement, you pay your card issuer a sum of money that’s lower than your total debt. For example, you might owe $10,000 but enter a lump-sum agreement to pay only $7,000.

The creditor then closes the account and typically marks it as “not paid as agreed” or “account paid in full for less than full balance,” which remains and negatively impacts your credit report for seven years. You could ask for it to be marked as “paid as agreed” in exchange for your payment, but there’s no guarantee your creditor will agree to that.

Either strategy could work, so consider which strategy is best and how much you’re willing to pay, either monthly or in a lump sum.

2. Contact your creditors

Once you have an idea of how you would like to settle your debt, call your credit card company to find out what options are available. Keep in mind that debt settlement options aren’t always possible. However, you might better your chances if you have the following information available.

  • Your financial situation details, including why you’re having difficulty making payments
  • Details about financial hardships you’re experiencing, such as losing a job or unexpected expenses
  • Prepared questions about the type of agreement you might be interested in

Note that the chances of being able to negotiate your debt could be lower if you’re not actually having any financial difficulties. That being said, it’s still important to be honest in your negotiations and with your financial situation details.

3. Discuss terms

During the negotiation, figure out the terms and conditions of any available debt settlement options. Ask about potential fees, whether your credit score will be affected, and conditions that can disrupt the agreement.

Also ask for the terms in writing, and review the terms carefully. It’s best to understand any offered plan completely before you actually agree to anything.

4. Keep a paper trail

If you’re satisfied with negotiations, document everything about the proposed settlement plan. It’s much easier to prove certain terms and conditions if you have them in writing rather than only having heard them over the phone.

You can ask for a case or agreement number, a representative’s name, a written contract, and anything else you think could be useful. Emails are especially helpful if you ever need to provide evidence about the agreed-upon terms.

Recommended debt settlement companies

If you want help with credit card debt negotiation, consider using a debt settlement company. With a debt settlement company, you typically pay into a dedicated account, and once you have enough money paid into that account, the company will begin negotiating with creditors. Note that you are typically asked to stop making payments to your creditors during this time so they’ll have more incentive to settle with you. This will hurt your credit score.

That said, having someone else deal with the negotiating process can be helpful. Here are two companies we recommend.

Freedom Debt Relief

Freedom Debt Relief is a well-known debt settlement company. It has an overall A+ BBB rating with a 4.49 out of 5 customer rating, and it serves 42 states.

Learn more in our Freedom Debt Relief review.

National Debt Relief

National Debt Relief is a debt settlement company that also has good reviews. It has an overall A+ BBB rating and a customer rating of 4.73 out of 5, and it serves 47 states.

Learn more in our National Debt Relief review.

Debt settlement companies typically offer a free consultation (and if they don't, you should steer clear of that company). Consider contacting multiple companies, including the two above, if they're licensed in your state, and compare their recommendations before deciding which one to go with. 


Filing for bankruptcy is a way you could clear some or all of your debt or create a debt repayment plan. Eligible individuals can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is typically what people think of when they hear “bankruptcy.” This type of bankruptcy can clear some or all of your debts and give you a fresh lease on life.

Here are some Chapter 7 bankruptcy qualification requirements.

  • You must complete a debt counseling course with an approved agency no more than 180 days before filing.
  • You cannot have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the previous eight years.
  • You cannot have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the previous six years.
  • You must wait at least 181 days before another attempt if your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy was dismissed.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help individuals with regular income create a repayment plan to clear some or all of their debts over the course of three to five years.

Here are some Chapter 13 bankruptcy qualification requirements.

  • You must have enough income to make the required monthly payments in your bankruptcy plan.
  • Your combined total secured and unsecured debts must be less than $2,750,000 as of the date of filing for bankruptcy relief.
  • You must wait at least 181 days before another attempt if your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy was dismissed.

You can file for bankruptcy without an attorney, but it’s strongly recommended that you seek the help of one. Your state or local organizations could provide free or low-cost legal assistance if needed.


If the options we discussed above don’t seem like the right fit for you, consider these alternatives.

  • Balance transfer credit card: You can use a balance transfer credit card to help pay off your debt without having to worry about interest during an intro APR period. You do typically need a decent credit score to qualify for this type of card, though.
  • Credit counseling: Credit counseling companies can help educate you on money management skills and create debt management plans to help you pay off your debt.
  • Debt consolidation loan: A loan from a debt consolidation company could help make it easier to pay off your debt by organizing it in one place and potentially lowering your overall interest rate.
  • Budgeting: If it’s difficult for you to control your debt and implement debt repayment plans, consider using budgeting apps. These apps provide you with the tools you need to track your income and expenses, so you always know what’s going on with your finances.


Can credit card debt be forgiven?

You likely can’t have 100% of your debt forgiven unless you file for bankruptcy. It’s also important to consider the consequences of bankruptcy, which could include court fees, not all debts being dischargeable, and taking a hit to your credit score. That said, bankruptcy exists for a reason, and it’s possible to recover from a bankruptcy. If you qualify, it’s worth considering, especially if you’re experiencing a financial hardship like a job loss or extended illness.

Is the government helping with credit card debt?

There are no government-sponsored programs for credit card debt forgiveness. If you receive an offer for credit card debt relief from a supposed government agency, it’s likely a scam.

To help you get out of debt, the FTC recommends contacting your lender to find solutions, making a budget, and considering debt settlement options while being wary of scammers.

What is a credit card debt relief program?

Debt relief and settlement programs offer ways to reduce the amount of debt you owe to a lender or debt collector. Before you use one of these programs, make sure the company is legit.

Also consider how much they charge and whether you might have to pay taxes on forgiven debt.

Bottom line

There’s no government-sponsored credit card debt forgiveness program, but there are other options for paying off your debt or having some (or all) of it forgiven.

If you’re having financial difficulties and don’t mind talking to people, we recommend inquiring about options with your credit card issuer. There’s no penalty for discussing options, and you could end up with better terms or a way to forgive some of your debt.

If negotiation isn’t your thing, you can leave it to the experts and use a debt relief or settlement company. Just make sure you thoroughly vet companies to ensure they’re legit.

Check out more ways you can learn how to pay off debt.

National Debt Relief Benefits

  • No upfront fees1
  • One-on-one evaluation with a debt counseling expert
  • For people with $30,000 in unsecured debts and up

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post,, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.