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I am way behind on credit card bills and have received my first collection letter. I owe American Express $18,000 on one card and $3,000 on another and they are getting ready to send the big balance to collection. The smaller balance is the one that the first collection letter is for. I have tried calling to negotiate but they want too much money a month. I was laid off in January and don’t want to declare bankruptcy, but instead want to get all my past due credit cards at least in some kind of budgeted payment plan that I can afford. I also have another smaller cards I owe on, a Chase card for a little over $4,000. I am also saddled with about $800/month in student loans, but at this time they are in forbearance due to my unemployed status.
Is there anything I can do to get control of this? American Express does not work with Debt Counselors, so that leaves me to my own devices here. I do not want to declare bankruptcy. I know debt collectors only have so much power and they remind me of a thumb-breaking thug, but do I battle with them, ignore them, or try and settle? Do I wait for the big American Express balance to go to collection, then try and work something out with these people? I know they buy balances for less than the total, so I know why they can afford to settle. I know the game. Please help! I am ready to fight for my financial freedom!