How to Pay Off $50,000 in Credit Card Debt: Strategies and Advice (2024)

Running up $50,000 in credit card debt is not impossible. About two million Americans do it every year.

Paying off that bill? Well, that’s not impossible either, though it is considerably less fun.

Some of the best ways to address that much debt include:

  • Put your card in the freezer and create a budget that includes a line item for reducing debt
  • Get a second job and devote that income to retiring debt
  • Downsize everything from house to car to nights out on the town
  • Negotiate a deal with the card company for a lump-sum payment to settle the debt
  • Automate payments so funding and paying become automatic

Accumulating $50,000 of credit card debt typically occurs over a long period of time and can lead to some negative consequences. You can dig a deep hole of debt by eating at restaurants or getting takeout three or four nights a week, picking up bar tabs a few times, buying new furniture or appliances, taking on an expensive hobby like golf or skydiving or just going on vacation.

More than 200 million American adults have at least one credit card and the average consumer with a credit card carries four of them. The average credit limit for cardholders in 2020 was $30,365, according to Experian’s end-of-the-year U.S. credit assessment. With that much credit available, you don’t even have to max out your credit cards to get to $50,000 in credit card debt.

So, the question remains: How do you get out?

Advice for Paying Off $50,000 in Credit Card Debt

While the amount Americans owe on credit cards went down in 2020 – the first time that’s happened in eight years – it began creeping back up in 2021. Personal consumption expenditures plummeted to the lowest in five years in mid-2020, but by mid-2021 were higher than they’d ever been. And let’s face it, the up and down nature of other people’s spending really doesn’t have an impact on the $50,000 or more you owe. At 16.13% interest (the U.S. average), or likely higher, it’s a situation that has to be tackled. Most of the options fall into four categories:

  • Find a credit counseling agency with a good Debt Management Plan
  • Look into a Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Plan
  • Pick one of the many debt-reduction methods and “Do It Yourself
  • File for bankruptcy

The first three require a great deal of thought, discipline and effort. They also require time. Depending on your resources, it takes 3-5 years to put that much credit card debt to bed.

The final option – bankruptcy – is a last-ditch effort that should be considered only when attempts at the first two have not produced the desired result.

Before You Start Paying Down Big Debt

No matter which choice you make to resolve your credit card debt, there are some steps you can take to ensure a more positive outcome.

It goes without saying, put the credit card away, except for dire emergencies, and start paying for all purchases with cash. This is the first step toward regaining control of your finances. By paying with cash, instead of a credit card, you begin to understand just how much money you’re spending every time you reach into your pocket.

It hurts, and it should. It’s a lesson learned and should make you much more disciplined about when and where you spend money.

Beyond that, here are five steps that will help you conquer $50,000 of credit card debt.

  1. Budgeting– Do you really know how much money you spend every month and what you get for all that money? While a 2021 survey by Coinstar showed the pandemic has pushed many Americans to get serious about budgeting – 3 out of 4 said they now have a household budget – that means one quarter of consumers still aren’t planning their monthly expenses. There are plenty of phone apps that will help you track spending as you do it. Take advantage of one and discover why a budget is a great bailout.
  2. Find a Second Income – A second job provides extra income that allows you to hammer away your debt every month. Finding someone to share basic expenses (rent, utilities, groceries, transportation) turns that into a sledgehammer.
  3. Downsize – It’s almost a certainty that you can create more income by living in a smaller place, driving a less expensive car, stop buying any clothing or accessories and limit eating out to no more than once a week. Some less dramatic but equally effective ways to reduce expenses include cheaper cell phone service; no cable TV; and no birthday, anniversary or Christmas gifts. Less will mean more.
  4. Negotiate with Your Credit Card Companies – Card companies want to get paid … something! If you have been making payments every month – even just the minimum – play the loyalty card and ask them to accept less than what you owe to eliminate the debt.
  5. Automate Payments – Paying your bills this way helps you on two fronts. First, you’re on notice every month to have money in your account to pay bills or you get slapped with penalties for insufficient funds. Second, you remove the all-too-familiar excuse that “I forgot to mail the check.” This is a very healthy step toward taking responsibility for your finances.

Even if you only adopt bits and pieces of the five suggestions, you will have enough ammo to shoot down your debt problems.

The next question then is: What method should you choose?

Debt Management Program

Debt management plans might be the simplest way to address excessive credit card debt because credit counseling agencies help with the most difficult parts: reducing interest payments on debt and setting up a budget you can live with.

Credit counselors work with credit card companies to consolidate payments into one bill helping you manage multiple credit cards. They also lower interest rates and the monthly payment to something you can afford. The interest rate of the average InCharge client is reduced to somewhere around 8%, and some go even lower.

To see how dramatic a difference that makes, look at the difference in monthly payments and interest charged on a $50,000 credit card debt paying the national average of 16.13% and one paying a rate of 8% secured through an InCharge credit counselor over a five-year period.

Interest Rate:15.3%8.0%
Monthly Payment:$1,197$1,014
Payout Period:5 years5 years
Total Interest Paid:$21,843$10,840
Total Amount Paid:$71,843$60,840

You would save more than $200 a month on payments and $12,333 over the course of a five-year payout plan. And remember, the pay-it-yourself method only works if you never use the cards or acquire more debt. If you do, the amount you’ll pay keeps going up.

The second thing credit counselors offer is just as valuable: Setting up a budget and offering tips on how to manage your money. The counselors review all your income and spending and then make suggestions on how to set up a monthly budget so you have enough money for the basics (food, shelter, transportation), but create enough space to start paying down the credit card debt.

It is important to do your research before choosing a credit counseling agency to work with. You’ll want to be sure you are speaking with reputable credit counselors when providing sensitive financial information.

A few things to keep an eye out for:

  • Are they nonprofit?
  • Are they accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling?
  • Are they open and honest about the service being provided?

Credit Card Debt Forgiveness

This program is offered by a specialized group of nonprofit credit counseling agencies, including InCharge Debt Solutions, and is similar to for profit debt settlement. The difference is that there is no negotiating with lenders involved. Creditors agree in advance to accept 50%-60% of what is owed in 36 fixed monthly payments. No interest is charged on the debt, as long as payments are made on time. Not all credit card operators or nonprofit credit counseling agencies participate in this program.

There are four conditions that must be satisfied for you to participate in a Credit Card Debt Forgiveness program:

  1. Your creditor must be on the list of creditors, banks, law offices or debt collection agencies that agreed to participate in the program.
  2. Your account must be charged off completely, meaning you haven’t made a payment in over 120 days.
  3. You must have a balance of at least $1,000.
  4. The balance must be paid off in 36 months. There are no extensions allowed.

Do-It-Yourself Repayment Options

This might be the most difficult option, if only because you must make every choice yourself, starting with the method you plan to use to attack your debt.

Debt avalanche? Debt snowball? Zero-interest balance transfer? Set up your own monthly payment schedule? Mix-and-match?

Who knows?

For the sake of this argument, we will assume you have six or seven credit cards that are maxed out, or nearly maxed out, at their spending limit of $10,000 and the total debt owed is $50,000. If the minimum payment due for each card was 2%, you would be paying $150-$200 per card, or a total of somewhere around $1,200 a month. That’s just for the minimum amount due!

Here is a look at the pros and cons of some do-it-yourself repayment plans:

Debt avalanche – The goal is to pay down debts with the highest-interest rates first because they cost you the most. You make minimum payments on each card, then devote whatever money is left in your monthly budget to paying off the card with the highest interest rate. When that card is paid off, move to the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until you’ve paid off every card. Pros: You will save a lot of money paying off high interest rate cards first. Disciplined, on-time payments will be rewarded. Cons: The monthly payment on some high-interest cards can cripple your budget. It would be easy to get discouraged because it’s a slow process.

Debt snowball – The goal is to pay off the smallest debts first and that success will keep you motivated as you move to the larger ones. Make minimum payments on the largest debts, then throw whatever money is left at the smallest debt until it is paid off and move on to the next smallest debt. Pros: It’s easier to stay focused when you have victories, even small ones. Cons: The interest on cards with larger debt grows uncontrollably when all you do is make minimum payments. If something happens and you don’t pay off the small debts quickly, you could be in big trouble.

Zero-percent balance transfer – The goal is to transfer the balance from a high-interest rate card to a zero-percent interest card and make big payments every month to reduce the balance. If you can pay off the debt before the zero-percent interest offer expires, you’re way ahead. Pros: Paying zero-percent interest vs. 15%-25% is a no brainer. Cons: Some cards might allow you to qualify with credit scores of 650 or higher, but the best deals require a credit score above 720. This means it’s not a great option for getting out of debt with bad credit. Also, there is a 3% transfer fee on most cards and a 12-24 month time limit before regular interest rates apply.

Set up your own payment plan – Start by creating a line in your monthly budget that is devoted to credit card payments. Apply for a zero-percent balance transfer card or two, if you can get them. Choose a starting point – either high interest cards or low-balance – and attack it. This could be tricky, but if you have a good plan and a lot of discipline, it might work.

Bankruptcy Is a Worst Case Scenario

Bankruptcy is treated like a disease, but it’s a financial cure for a lot of people.

Every financial analyst or debt lawyer would agree to aggressively pursue every other possible solution, but if you can’t eliminate $50,000 in credit card debt in five years, either through a debt management program or your own do-it-yourself plan, bankruptcy is a legitimate answer.

There will be severe consequences from bankruptcy – most pointedly the 7-10 year blot on your credit report and credit score – but bankruptcy gives you a chance to start all over again and there is nothing wrong with second chances.

Because credit cards are considered unsecured debt, the obvious choice for bankruptcy is Chapter 7. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you keep what is known as “exempt” property such as a house, car, equipment you use at work and any retirement savings and liquidate “non-exempt” property such as second home, second car, bank accounts, stock investments, card collections.

The money gained from selling assets is applied to your debt and whatever is left over is forgiven.

Another option is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Instead of liquidating assets, a repayment plan is structured to pay off your creditors in three-to-five years.

If this is your only option, it’s best to hire a bankruptcy lawyer to take you through the necessary steps to successfully file. It’s worth noting that every year, 90% or more of people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy had their debts discharged.

Pay off Your Debt: Start Now

It takes years to accumulate $50,000 in credit card debt, so don’t expect to be able to pay it off today. But one thing you can do today is to get started on the path to becoming debt free.

It starts with small steps like working out how to balance your budget. Once you are net positive, you can begin to take bigger steps like choosing a debt relief strategy.

If you are having trouble getting started, consider participating in a credit counseling session with InCharge Debt Solutions is a great first step. It’s free, and the counselors at InCharge can help you with both the big and small steps. First, they’ll help you create a budget. Then, based on that budget, recommend the debt relief option best suited for you.

How to Pay Off $50,000 in Credit Card Debt: Strategies and Advice (2024)


How to Pay Off $50,000 in Credit Card Debt: Strategies and Advice? ›

It will take 47 months to pay off $50,000 with payments of $1,500 per month, assuming the average credit card APR of around 18%. The time it takes to repay a balance depends on how often you make payments, how big your payments are and what the interest rate charged by the lender is.

How to get out of $50,000 credit card debt? ›

Advice for Paying Off $50,000 in Credit Card Debt
  1. Find a credit counseling agency with a good Debt Management Plan.
  2. Look into a Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Plan.
  3. Pick one of the many debt-reduction methods and “Do It Yourself”
  4. File for bankruptcy.
Nov 16, 2023

How long to pay off 50k in credit card debt? ›

It will take 47 months to pay off $50,000 with payments of $1,500 per month, assuming the average credit card APR of around 18%. The time it takes to repay a balance depends on how often you make payments, how big your payments are and what the interest rate charged by the lender is.

Is $50 000 a lot of credit card debt? ›

It's never easy to get out from under your credit card debt. But it's one thing to have $6,473 (the average American credit card debt) and another to have $50,000 or more. At that level of debt, you're likely paying hundreds each month -- if not a thousand dollars or more -- just to meet interest payments.

What is the best strategy for paying off credit card debt questions? ›

Try the snowball method

With the snowball method, you pay off the card with the smallest balance first. Once you've repaid the balance in full, you take the money you were paying for that debt and use it to help pay down the next smallest balance.

How can I pay off $50 K in debt fast? ›

Tips for Paying Off $50,000 in Credit Card Debt
  1. Pay More Than the Minimum. ...
  2. Focus on High-Interest Debt First. ...
  3. Pay Off the Card With the Lowest Balance First. ...
  4. Review Your Expenses. ...
  5. Use Extra Cash to Pay Down Your Debt. ...
  6. Home Equity Loan. ...
  7. Personal Loan. ...
  8. Balance Transfer.
Jun 13, 2023

How can I pay off my credit card debt if I have no money? ›

  1. Using a balance transfer credit card. ...
  2. Consolidating debt with a personal loan. ...
  3. Borrowing money from family or friends. ...
  4. Paying off high-interest debt first. ...
  5. Paying off the smallest balance first. ...
  6. Bottom line.
Feb 9, 2024

Does it hurt your credit to pay off debt early? ›

Yes, paying off a personal loan early could temporarily have a negative impact on your credit scores. But any dip in your credit scores will likely be temporary and minor. And it might be worth balancing that risk against the possible benefits of paying off your personal loan early.

How much debt is normal at 50? ›

What is the average debt by age group in Canada?
AgeAmount of debt
1 more row
Feb 22, 2024

What is the snowball method of debt? ›

The "snowball method," simply put, means paying off the smallest of all your loans as quickly as possible. Once that debt is paid, you take the money you were putting toward that payment and roll it onto the next-smallest debt owed. Ideally, this process would continue until all accounts are paid off.

What does the average person have in credit card debt? ›

On average, Americans carry around $5,733 in credit card debt, according to TransUnion's latest report. But when you break it down by age, most carry more than that.

What is considered high credit card debt? ›

The general rule of thumb is that you shouldn't spend more than 10 percent of your take-home income on credit card debt.

How much does the average American own in credit card debt? ›

The Federal Reserve study does not provide numbers for the average credit card balance per consumer. However, according to Transunion, this figure rose from $5,795 in January 2023 to $6,295 in January 2024.

What are the 3 biggest strategies for paying down debt? ›

What's the best way to pay off debt?
  • The snowball method. Pay the smallest debt as fast as possible. Pay minimums on all other debt. Then pay that extra toward the next largest debt. ...
  • Debt avalanche. Pay the largest or highest interest rate debt as fast as possible. Pay minimums on all other debt. ...
  • Debt consolidation.
Aug 8, 2023

What are 3 ways to pay off credit card debt fast? ›

Exceeding your minimum payments each month, targeting one debt at a time to pay off and consolidating debt held across different accounts are all strategies for reducing credit card debt.

What is the smartest way to pay off a credit card? ›

The snowball method advocates paying off the smallest balances first, so you can celebrate the small wins, which could help you build momentum. The avalanche method encourages you to pay off the balances with the highest interest rates first, so you can save money.

What is the fastest way to get out of credit card debt? ›

Strategies to help pay off credit card debt fast
  1. Review and revise your budget. ...
  2. Make more than the minimum payment each month. ...
  3. Target one debt at a time. ...
  4. Consolidate credit card debt. ...
  5. Contact your credit card provider.

What is the easiest way to get rid of credit card debt? ›

Here are six ways to get out of credit card debt.
  1. Create a Payment Strategy. Developing a credit card strategy can give you more control over repaying your debt. ...
  2. Pay More Than the Minimum Payment. ...
  3. Debt Consolidation.
  4. Negotiate With Your Creditors. ...
  5. Review Your Spending and Have a Household Budget. ...
  6. Seek Debt Relief Assistance.
Nov 20, 2023

How to get rid of $40,000 credit card debt? ›

Options For Paying Off Substantial Credit Card Debt. There are a number of strategies to pay off large amounts of credit card debt. They include personal loans, 0% APR balance transfer cards, debt settlement, bankruptcy, credit counseling and debt management plans. You may be able to use more than one of these options.

How do I clear a large credit card debt? ›

6 Proven Ways To Pay Off Credit Card Bills Fast
  1. Convert payment to EMIs. ...
  2. Find a payment strategy. ...
  3. Consolidate debts with a personal loan. ...
  4. Know your billing cycle and take advantage of grace period. ...
  5. Limit the number of credit cards. ...
  6. Consider an automatic bill payment facility.

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