Credit card companies are generally reluctant to lower your debt with them, but in certain economic and personal situations they may be more likely to negotiate. If you can convince the company that you may be on the brink of insolvency and that they are more likely to get some money through negotiation rather than none at all, you may have a chance to reduce your debt. Bear in mind that there may be income tax ramifications to your negotiations.
Evaluate your economic situation. If you can reduce your expenses, increase your income or otherwise find a way to pay off your debt, the long-term ramifications for your credit will generally be improved. If you cannot find the money to pay off all of your debt, determine how much you can realistically afford to pay. This is the number you can use in your negotiations.
Miss a few payments. Although your credit score may drop dramatically, if you want to have leverage in your negotiations, you have to demonstrate that you are unable to make your payments. Credit card companies rarely negotiate with borrowers who are making timely monthly payments as they are representing that they can afford to pay their debts.
Call and ask for a balance reduction. Normally, if you miss a few payments, your credit card company will make you some type of offer, often starting with a reduced interest rate or a "payment holiday" where you do not have to make a minimum payment for one or more months. Tell them you cannot afford those offers but need a substantial balance reduction.
Wait. The more months that elapse since you make a payment, the more likely you can negotiate your way to a better balance. Sometimes, a credit card company will even make unsolicited offers to reduce your balance.
Make a final offer after five months. A credit card company must "charge off" your debt after six months since your last payment, meaning it records your debt as a loss in the financial statements and will often sell your debt to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar. As the company will want to get as much value as possible out of your debt, if you approach them just before this six-month period elapses, you have the best chance of securing a decent offer.
Pay your taxes. In addition to your credit score being significantly damaged, if you negotiate a reduction in your credit card balance, you will have to pay income tax on the amount that was forgiven. For example, if you negotiate your $30,000 balance down to $10,000, you will owe the Internal Revenue Service income tax on that $20,000.