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Husband Had Cancer and American Express Won’t Help Me With Reduced Payments

“Dear Steve,

I lost my job 2 years ago and have been searching for one ever since.

I am 63 years old and have spent my whole working life in a management position. Now, if I get an interview, they say you are over qualified. In other words I am too old.

So for the past two years we have been using my credit cards to supplement the income I’ve lost. My unemployment and 401K ran out in May 2012. I had been using this to supplement the lose of my income.

My husband had cancer surgery in February and March (2012) now we are faced with medical bills.The monthly obligation to my American Express became so high ( $22K balance aprrox. $700 monthly payment) that I knew I would no longer be able to continue the monthly payment.

I called them before it was late and explained my situation and that I would be mailing what I could but that the amount would be far short of what was due. I asked if there was anything they could do to help me out for at least the n ext 6 to 9 months. Their response was that I was a good customer and I have been paying on time and at least the minimum if not more so there was nothing at this time to help me but to call back after the bill was past due.

I called four days after the bill was due, explained I paid a good faith amount, but still they could do nothing to help me. Needless to say they have been calling me every other day for the payment.

Each time I explain my situation however they still can’t help me, not even for six months. Finally, after two months past due, (which was what one of their callers told me to do) I was transfered to their collections department. I explained my situation, out of work two years, can’t find employment, husband had cancer surgery and we have to pay medical bills, exhausted 401K, having to use credit to pay for necessaries like food, gas and clothing.

Her response was “we can’t help you because of the excessive amount of charges that have been made to the account. WHAT? So now my excellant credit will be effected because I waited like they said to be able to make some sort of arrangement and now past due plus interest has made it impossible for me to come close to catching up.

All of my other unsecured debts are being paid on time and are in good standing.

I think this resembles predatory lending.

I am not sure which way to go. I have only about $25K in equity in my home, still job searching and keeping up with all other obligations except the American Express. Should I continue to pay whatever I can on the AE?

Should I continue to call them hoping to get someone that will work with me? Would a debt management plan be able to lower my monthly payment to AE so that I could salvage my credit? If forced to file bankruptcy should I file chapter 7 or 13?

I don’t want to worry about losing my home and I don’t want to file on my other unsecured debt since I have been able to keep up with them. Would an attorney be able to call AE and get some sort of relief?

I have never been in this situation before and I must confess it is not only embarrassing but stressful and heart-breaking. It has put a strain on our marriage as well. Can you please offer me any solution?”

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The Answer

The underlying issue here is the income. Without resolving that it is not realistic to make repayment promises. So until we solve that I would suggest that you do nothing and don’t make payments you can’t afford.

This will leave you in default and in collections. Creditors can avail themselves of options like suing you and it will negatively impact your credit.

But if you are sued or feel like you will be sued then you could consider a quick chapter 7 bankruptcy which will discharge all your debt in three months or so. You can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney.

From what you’ve shared though I can’t see that you have any income coming in. Is that right?

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

Big Hug!

Husband Had Cancer and American Express Wont Help Me With Reduced Payments
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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Cad33049

    Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. I am not sure of the bankruptcy laws in Indiana or how they work between Chapter 7 &13, that is why I have contacted an attorney. I hope to avoid bankruptcy, but I have to do something to get this under control. Can an attorney negotiate a lower balance, payments or interest?

  • Cad33049

    I receive a social security check once a month in the amount of $1200. I own my home but the equity isn’t enough to pay this bill. I’m concerned about filing bankruptcy, because I don’t want to lose my home. I meet with an attorney next week to weigh my options. Never being in a situation like this before has me extremely upset and anxious.

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Take a deep breath, this is just a process, not an evaluation of your self-worth. You won’t lose your home.

      Please come back and report in after the meeting.

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