If you're seriously behind on paying your credit card bills, your card company might be willing to negotiate a settlement with you. If you want to get your balance reduced by half, be prepared to do some negotiating. Also keep in mind you may have to pay taxes on forgiven debt.
If you're paying your credit card bills on time, or close to it, your card company has no reason to want to forgive half your balance. In fact, card companies typically don't negotiate any kind of settlement offer unless you’re months behind and have stopped making payments altogether. If you're getting regular delinquency notices and your card company is calling you every other day, the timing is probably right to float a settlement proposal.
Stick to Your Number
Call your credit card company and ask to speak to a representative about debt settlement. Keep in mind, the card company is trying to get as much of the total balance from you as it can, so if you've got your heart set on a 50 percent reduction, that's the figure you need to stick with during negotiations. In fact, it's in your best interest to offer up a lower settlement amount to start so you have some wiggle room.
Make Your Case
You have to convince your creditor that there's no chance you'll be able to repay your debt any time soon. The company might ask you to write a hardship letter or show proof of a decline in income. If you lost your job, were hospitalized or had some kind of major financial disaster that's going to take time to recover from, any proof you have should be presented to the credit card company to help you make your case. For example, a termination notice or foreclosure statement helps show your claim is legit.
Closing the Deal
It may take a couple of calls to credit card customer service representatives and back-and-forth negotiations until you can hit the settlement figure you're happy with and the card company will accept. Once you reach an agreement, you’ll probably be required to pay the balance right away, so be prepared. Make sure the card company puts every part of your settlement in writing so you have no nasty financial surprises down the road. Be forewarned -- settling your debt for less than what you owe can have a negative impact on your credit. However, it can be a better option than ongoing late fees and accumulated interest debt you'll be paying on for months or years to come.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.