Credit Cards
July 11, 2022

How credit card forgiveness works

Credit forgiveness is when your lender eliminates all or part of your debt, arranged through a settlement.

When you're in a tight spot with money, credit forgiveness can be a big help. It means your lender might let you off the hook for part of what you owe, which can take a load off your shoulders. But it's not always straightforward. This article explains credit forgiveness in simple terms: what it is, how it works, and whether it's a good idea for you. Understanding this can help you make better decisions about your finances. Let's get started.

What is credit forgiveness?

Credit forgiveness can be a lifesaver. It’s an arrangement when your lender forgives or eliminates all or part of your debt. Usually, if there is any forgiveness, it’s on a portion of your debt and not on the entire balance owed. Typically, the lender will agree to a payment that is less than the full outstanding balance and then forgive the remaining balance.

How does credit forgiveness work?

Credit forgiveness doesn’t happen by itself. You have to take the initiative to negotiate the best possible scenario. 

The worst thing you can do is to just ignore unpaid card debt. Your credit card issuer must know that you are willing and trying to do everything you can to come up with a solution.

3 ways credit card debt can be forgiven

If you’re considering credit forgiveness, remember that most creditors will resort to forgiveness only as a last resort and only in extreme situations. They’ve usually concluded that repaying some of the debt is better than not getting anything at all. 

Here’s three ways you can arrange for debt forgiveness.

1. Debt settlement agreement 

You or a representative can contact your creditor or collections agency and explain your situation. Try to negotiate a lump-sum payment, starting with less than the maximum amount you can afford and make a deal from there. 

Be sure to get a signed letter with the settlement terms from your creditor. Once the letter is in hand, pay your lump sum and confirm with the creditor that all obligations have been met.

2. Statute of limitations

The statute of limitations is when a creditor or collector can go to court and sue you to pay off your debt. After this time runs out, they cannot legally claim the money you owe them. Some collectors might continue to pursue you, but they can’t sue you for the debt once the limitations expire. 

Statutes vary from state to state, so be aware of the timeframe where you reside now. To have debt forgiven under the statute of limitations, it’s important that you don’t acknowledge the debt or make any payments because this will then restart the clock on the timeframe. 

3. Bankruptcy

As a last resort, you can have some of your debt forgiven by filing for bankruptcy. However, this will damage your credit score and some of your assets may be sold to pay off your debt. 

You’ll most likely be set up with a payment plan with a reduction in the total amount to be paid. But as in many bankruptcies, you may still owe a portion of the debt.

What are the advantages of credit forgiveness?

There are some solid advantages to credit card debt forgiveness. The biggest and most obvious is that it reduces the amount you owe, easing your financial burden and reducing the stress of collectors’ phone calls. 

Another advantage is that it will improve your credit score over the long haul by arranging for payments within your reach. As long as you keep up with the payments in your debt forgiveness arrangement, you can start to rebuild your credit score.

Arranging for credit forgiveness also doesn’t typically appear on your credit report. You’ll also reduce your debt, improving your credit utilization ratio and boosting your score.

What are the disadvantages of credit forgiveness?

There are definitely some disadvantages of credit forgiveness, big reasons why not to go down this road. 

Pursuing credit forgiveness may result in some consequences for your taxes. If your forgiven debt exceeds $600, you’ll have to report it as taxable income on Form 1099-C.

If you work with a debt settlement company, they can charge high fees and resort to manipulative, even predatory practices.

Is credit forgiveness right for you?

Credit forgiveness may not be the right solution for you. Assess your situation before diving in and check out the alternatives first.

Look at debt consolidation or a zero- or low-interest balance transfer. You’ll use a low-interest loan to pay off high-interest card debt, with a monthly payment lower than what you currently pay. 

A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your balance from a high-interest card to a card with a lower interest rate or no rate at all (during an initial intro or promotional period). To make the most of the low-rate period, you should pay off most if not all of the debt.

Why Bright Money?

Bright Money offers simple tools to help you improve your finances and build your credit.

Bright Plan: This tool helps you create a budget, track your spending, and set financial goals. It gives you tips and recommendations based on your financial situation to help you make better decisions and improve your credit.

Bright Builder: This tool helps you build your credit history. By using Bright Builder responsibly, you can improve your credit score over time. It also offers educational resources and coaching to guide you.

Bright Credit: This tool provides strategies to optimize your credit score. It helps you manage credit inquiries and improve your credit utilization. With Bright Credit, you can take steps to achieve your financial goals.

Bright Money combines technology with expert advice to help you take control of your finances and build a brighter future.


Credit forgiveness can offer a lifeline for those struggling with debt, providing a means to alleviate financial burdens and reduce stress. However, it's crucial to understand the processes involved and weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. While forgiveness can provide relief, it's not a decision to be taken lightly, and exploring alternative solutions is wise before committing to this path.


1. How does credit forgiveness work?

Credit forgiveness entails negotiating with creditors to settle debts for less than the full amount owed. This typically involves either a lump-sum payment through a debt settlement agreement, reaching the statute of limitations where creditors can no longer sue for repayment, or as a last resort, filing for bankruptcy.

2. What are the advantages of credit forgiveness?

Credit forgiveness offers several benefits, including reducing the amount owed, easing financial burdens, and alleviating stress from collection efforts. It can also improve credit scores over time by arranging manageable payment plans and doesn't necessarily show up on credit reports, potentially enhancing credit utilization ratios.

3. What are the disadvantages of credit forgiveness?

While credit forgiveness can provide relief, there are drawbacks to consider. For instance, forgiven debt may be taxable income if it exceeds $600, potentially resulting in tax consequences. Additionally, working with debt settlement companies may incur high fees and expose individuals to manipulative or predatory practices. It's essential to evaluate these factors carefully before pursuing credit forgiveness.

Recommended Readings

Why loans don’t always work for debt consolidation

When should you use a credit counselor?


Caryl Ramsey
Content Writer
Get the Bright App
AI Powered App, to Delete Debt

Get financial tips delivered to your inbox every week!

Subscribe to stay up-to-date on exclusive stories from Bright.
Reach out and request help as required.
Enter e-mail id
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Please enter a valid email