Getting help with credit card debt over $50,000

By Rebecca Lake

Reviewed by Jill Cornfield

Apr 25, 2024

Read time: 7 min

Young worried couple reading their financial bills over laptop at home.

Key takeaways:

  • No matter your income or how much debt you have, there are solutions for dealing with it. 

  • If you’re truly unable to repay your debts in full, you might qualify for partial debt forgiveness.

  • A debt expert can help you figure out the best option for dealing with debt.

You want to get on the right track with paying down your debt, but you just don't know where to start. Feeling stressed by your debt, especially if it’s a lot of debt, is a normal response. The most important thing to remember is that you can do something about it. 

You’re not the first to face this situation, and there are proven paths out of it. It doesn't matter how you got here; what matters is where you go next. By exploring options like debt consolidation, negotiation, or tailored repayment plans, you'll find there are solutions ready to fit your unique situation. 

Whether you owe a little or a lot, there are debt solutions to fit any situation. Let's explore them. 

Know your total debt

What's the first step in managing credit card debt? It's knowing what you owe. 

Adding up the exact number might be a little scary, especially if you think it's in the $50,000 range. But trust us, you can do it. 

Pull out your credit card ‌and loan statements. Now, take a deep breath and look at the numbers. Put them all together on one list so you’ll know how much you owe in total. 

This step might be hard, but you're helping yourself already just by taking it.

Leave debt behind, so you can move forward

Get rid of your debt and free up your cash flow without a loan or great credit.

Craft a simple budget

A budget is your plan for how you spend your income every month. If you're ready to start working on $50,000 or more in debt, a budget is a must. 

Here's a simple three-step process for making a basic budget:

  • Add up all of your income for the month

  • Add up all of your expenses

  • Subtract expenses from income

That can give you an idea of how much money you have left each month after your expenses are paid. This is money you could use to pay extra toward your debt. 

What if there's no money left, or you're in the red? This is where you'll need to do some adjusting in your budget and make choices. Look for expenses you can reduce or eliminate. It doesn’t have to be forever. Just while you’re in payoff mode. 

If your budget is already tight and you’re having a hard time finding expenses to cut, look for ways to increase your income instead. Could you rent out a room or work more hours? 

Will it be easy? Maybe not. But will it be worth it if it helps you find the money you need to get rid of your $50,000 debt? Absolutely. 

Try a DIY payoff method

DIYing your debt means coming up with a plan or system for paying it off. The debt snowball and debt avalanche are two ways to do it. 

Here's how they work. 

  • Debt snowball. List debts from lowest balance to highest. Pay as much as you can to the smallest debt, while making minimum payments on everything else. Once you pay off the first debt, roll the entire payment, including all the extra cash you can muster, over to the next debt on the list.

  • Debt avalanche. List debts from the highest APR to the lowest. Pay as much as you can to the most expensive debt, while making minimum payments on everything else. Once you pay off the first debt, roll its payment over to the next debt on the list.

They work the same way, with one difference. One has you paying off debts based on the balance while the other focuses on the cost of each debt. 

You might choose the debt snowball if you want to get rid of some smaller debts quickly. The joy of paying off a debt as soon as possible could be a great motivator to stick with the plan when you're paying off $50,000+ in credit cards. 

The debt avalanche could save you money on interest if your credit cards have high rates.

Make more than the minimum payment

Your minimum payment is the smallest amount your credit card issuer requires you to pay each month. It's tempting to pay only the minimum if your budget is tight, but that can hurt you eventually.

Paying as much as you can afford over the minimums can help you chip away at what you owe faster. Even if it's just a few extra dollars a month, that can make a difference in the long run. 

Explore debt consolidation options

Debt consolidation means combining multiple debts into one, usually through a loan. Here's an example of how it could work. 

  • You get a $50,000 personal loan and use it to pay off all your credit cards. 

  • Assuming you no longer use your cards, you don't owe anything else to them. 

  • You then have one monthly payment to repay the loan according to the payment terms set by the lender. 

If you own a home, you might consider a home equity loan or HELOC to consolidate debt instead of a personal loan.  

Debt consolidation is something you might consider if you're tired of trying to keep up with multiple debt payments. Having just one debt payment to make instead of many can feel less overwhelming, even if the amount of debt is the same. 

Consider professional help

Sometimes debt ends up being too much to handle, even when you're trying your best to manage it. When you find yourself in that situation, it's okay to ask for help. 

When your debt is overwhelming, possibilities you might not have considered might include:

Debt management plan: A plan set up by a nonprofit credit counseling agency to fully repay your unsecured debts in 3-5 years. 

You make one monthly payment and the credit counselor distributes it to your creditors. You’ll generally have to agree to stop using credit while you’re in the DMP, but the credit counselor might be able to get the interest rates lowered on your accounts. Even so, many debt management plans fail because the payment is unaffordable.

Bankruptcy: There are two kinds of bankruptcy that individuals typically pursue. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you walk away from your eligible debts, but you may have to give up some of the things you own. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you don’t give anything up but you’ll make a monthly payment for 3-5 years. The required monthly payment can be crushingly high. The court will order you to pay all of your disposable income to your plan. More than half of Chapter 13 cases fail.

Debt resolution: If you have a financial hardship that leaves you unable to fully repay your debts, your creditors might be willing to accept less than the full amount you owe and forgive the rest. 

In some situations, negotiating is in everyone’s best interests. This isn’t an easy out. You’ll need to set aside money so you can make offers to your creditors, and they aren’t obligated to work with you. You can try to negotiate your own debts if you’re comfortable with advocating for yourself. Or you could hire a professional debt resolution company to negotiate on your behalf. If you do, their fees will reduce your total savings. Debt resolution programs usually take 2-4 years to complete.

Talking over all the options with a debt expert who understands what you're going through can help you figure out which one, if any, might be right for you. 

Tips for managing debt in the future

Once you're on the right track, it helps to develop some habits to manage debt in the long term.  

Here are a few tips for keeping debt under control:

  • Review your budget every month so you’ll know how much money comes in and what you spend it on.

  • Once your credit cards are paid off, avoid carrying a balance.

  • Focus on building emergency savings so you don't have to rely on credit to cover unexpected expenses. It’s not easy, but start small and keep at it.

You don't necessarily need a higher income to tackle debt, even when the balance is significant. Putting together a plan that weaves in these tips can help you get control of your finances and feel better about your debt situation going forward. 

What's next

  • Get out a calculator and add up your debt if you haven't done that yet. 

  • Look at your budget to determine what you might be able to pay toward your debt each month using the snowball or avalanche method. 

  • Consider scheduling a chat with a debt expert to discuss possible solutions for managing your financial situation. 

Rebecca Lake - Author

Rebecca is a senior contributing writer and debt expert. She's a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a banking expert for Forbes Advisor. In addition to writing for online publications, Rebecca owns a personal finance website dedicated to teaching women how to take control of their money.

Jill Cornfield

Jill is a personal finance editor at Achieve. For more than 10 years, she has been writing and editing helpful content on everything that touches a person’s finances, from Medicare to retirement plan rollovers to creating a spending budget.

Frequently asked questions

Credit card companies can sue for unpaid balances. If you get sued by a creditor, you have a right to challenge the case in court. Answer the summons and meet the deadlines in your court papers. Should a creditor win a case against you, they could take additional steps to garnish your wages or bank account. That means they could require your employer or your bank to send them a portion of your money.

Enrolling in a debt management plan could affect your credit score if one of the conditions is closing your credit card accounts. Closing credit card accounts that have a balance can negatively affect your credit utilization. Credit utilization measures how much of your available credit you're using and is a major factor in credit scoring. 

Being enrolled in the DMP doesn't affect your credit score, but it may be noted in your credit file for other creditors to see. 

If you fell behind on your payments before you started a DMP, those late payments could continue to affect your score for seven years, but the negative effect gets smaller over time.

There are no government programs that offer financial relief for credit card debt. You could seek bankruptcy protection under federal law, but that's not a program that provides funding to help you pay off credit card debt. 

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A clear path out of debt

Get rid of your debt and free up your cash flow without a loan or great credit.

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