Skyrim: Here Is How To Pay off a Bounty

how to pay off a bounty in Skyrim

Whether you’ve stolen an item from the marketplace or accidentally killed a chicken, you will not be able to escape the wrath of Skyrim’s peacekeepers. Occasionally all of us run into trouble with the law, and we will acquire a bounty. Bounties can be low or high depending on the severity of the crime, but no matter the amount, they have one thing in common, we have to get rid of them in order to move through holds freely without any disturbances. Having said that, let’s see how to get rid of a bounty in Skyrim

  • Article Breakdown:
  • You can get rid of a bounty in Skyrim by paying it off, bribing a guard, persuading a guard, declaring a thaneship, or paying a bounty collector.
  • If your bounty is low enough, the most cost-effective approach is to try to persuade a guard. If the bounty is, on the other hand, large, the best approach is to try and bribe the guard or, if you’re able, to declare Thaneship. 

What does it mean to have bounty in Skyrim? 

Bounty in Skyrim means that you have committed a crime, someone saw you committing a crime, and now the guards are pursuing you to pay a certain fee (or go to prison) to have the crime forgotten. 

Bounties can be as low as five gold (for pickpocketing and trespassing), but they can be much higher and more serious, 1000 gold for murder and shape-shifting. Animals, like horses, can also be witnesses to crimes for some reason, and if you want to exonerate yourself, you’re going to have to eliminate any animal that was nearby when you committed a crime. 


Each hold in Skyrim tracks its bounties separately. Having a bounty in The Rift doesn’t mean that the guards in Whiterun Hold will attempt to arrest you and vice versa. If your bounty is high enough and the crimes have been severe enough, the guards will attack you on sight. We’ve made a separate guide for that on how to stop the guards from attacking you.  You can check out your bounty under the Statistics tabs in the menu.

How do you pay off your bounty in Skyrim? 

There are several approaches to paying your bounty and exonerating yourself. Most of those approaches include various interactions with the guards. Generally, you can pay off your bounty in Skyrim in the following ways. 

  1. Paying your bounty by interacting with a guard 
  2. Persuading a guard 
  3. Bribing a guard
  4. Declaring Thaneship 
  5. Paying your bounty off with the Bounty Collector
  6. Winning Civil War 

Now that we’ve covered this, it’s time to analyze every approach in more detail.


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Paying your bounty off by interacting with a guard 

This is the most straightforward way to get rid of a bounty and the only one available during the game’s early portion. This is the least cost-effective way to approach bounties since you will always pay a full bounty. All you need to do is approach the guard and select the “pay bounty” dialogue option.

paying bounty

Paying your bounty off by persuading a guard 

This option becomes available to you as soon as you raise your speechcraft skill. You can attempt to persuade a guard to have your bounty written off or lowered in the worst case. This only works for smaller bounties, however. If your speechcraft skill is not high enough, the persuasion will fail.

persuading guard
As you can see, my original bounty was 1 gold, and the bribe would cost me 1195 gold

Bribing a guard 

Once you join the Thieves Guild, another option will become available to you. You will be able to bribe a guard for your bounty to be lowered. There are better strategies than this when it comes to lower bounties, as the amount you will have to pay is often much higher than the original bounty. It’s a good strategy, though, when you’re bounty is high. In that case, the amount you will have to pay will always be lower than the original amount. In any case, bribing a guard will clear off your bounty without any items being confiscated. 

bribing guard 1

This option also becomes available if you unlock the “Bribery” perk from the speechcraft skill tree. You can unlock this perk as soon as you reach level 30 in speechcraft and if you already have acquired the “Haggling” perk. 

Clearing your bounty by declaring Thaneship 

As soon as you become a Thane in a certain hold, you have the option to “declare” Thaneship. Declaring Thaneship will clear off any bounty and crime as long as the bounty is under 3000 gold. No questions were asked, and no items were confiscated. 

declaring thaneship

This will only work in the holds in which you hold Thaneship. If you’ve managed to become a Thane of Whiterun, don’t expect your crimes to be forgiven in Solitude on account of Thaneship. 


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Paying your bounty off with the Bounty Collector

This is the least cost-effective way to pay off your bounty. Bounty collectors are NPCs that can track you down in a different hold than in which you’ve committed a crime. For example, if you murder someone in Whiterun and acquire a bounty in Whiterun Hold, a bounty collector sent by the Jarl can track you down in Windhelm.

how to pay off a bounty in Skyrim

A bounty collector will be sent after you only if your bounty exceeds 1000 gold. This is the worst way to pay off a bounty since you will have to pay a 20% fee on top of what your original bounty was. Even if you pay the bounty and then kill the bounty collector, he will not have that money in his inventory upon dying. Also, paying a bounty collector does not guarantee that the bounty will actually be cleared.

Clearing your bounty by winning the Civil War 

If your side wins the civil war and assumes governing of a certain hold from the opposing side, and you have a bounty in that hold, it will be immediately cleared. You can likewise do this only once, and you can’t really time this and “save” it for higher bounties. This is a good bonus but not a good long-term strategy idea. 

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