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Death of a Credit Card Balance, Part 4


Separate what you know, what you think you know, and what you hope you can do.

Editor's Note: This is Part 4 in a multi-part series about paying off credit card debt and dealing with collection agencies. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

The journey of a credit-card balance from 30 days to 180 days delinquent is a long, painful, emotionally and mentally draining experience. At least it was for me. I have one account that has made such a trip, which finally came to a conclusion last week.

I think one of the hardest things is separating what you know, what you think you know, and what you hope you can do. These are the things that color your decisions when you make them.

And then, you get to the point of no turning back. The decisions you could have made (or maybe could have made better) are now being made for you. You start to lose control over your options. The people that are calling aren't sounding as nice as they did 60 days earlier.

In my case, I knew what I owed. I knew I wanted to pay it all back and resume my relationship with the credit-card company. I knew how much money I had in the bank, and what my other financial obligations were every month.

I thought money was coming in at the end of the month from the clients I was currently working with. I thought I could square up and get all accounts back on track in a relatively short period of time (certainly before any one of them reached the 180-day mark).

I hoped my business was going to turn around faster than it did. I hoped I was going to make it through this in one piece, because with every passing day, my state of mind got to be a darker and darker place.

For me, the worst was having an account charge off after 180 days. It actually came as a complete shock. I'd been working with a collection company with whom I had a repayment agreement and I was holding up my end of the bargain.

Every month I had a "bucket" amount that had to be paid, or it would go past the 180-day mark, and cause the account to charge off. I was faced with two substantial buckets that had to be paid back-to-back, and it was going to take every dime of resources I had to make this happen. I even worked a deal with my landlord one month to pay him later so I could make this big bucket payment, and thus buy myself another 30 days, which I considered to be like a "stay of execution."

One day in early October, out of the blue, I get a call from a woman who informs me (after all her required disclosures about trying to collect a debt) that she will be my account representative on the account I'd been sweating blood over for months. I'm thoroughly confused, because she's with an entirely different collection firm, and the agreed-upon arrangement I had seems to be out the window. I ask her "What happened to GC Services? I had a great relationship with my gal there, and everything was working out fine."

She states matter-of-factly, "Everything is obviously not working out fine, or your account wouldn't be sitting on my desk. So, what are you going to do about paying my client back the money you owe them, Ms. Smith?"

I was floored. A thousand questions come to my mind, none of which she can (or wants to) answer. She makes her point perfectly clear: She's the end of the line. No one else will be dealing with me from this point forward, unless it's an attorney's office who will drag me to court and sue me for the entire balance in front of a judge. But, she can help me avoid letting this get any worse than it is by making a payment of $1,915.00 today.

Is she kidding? Almost $2,000 she wants from me right this minute? I tell her I don't have that kind of money right now. I'm still feeling like Peter's pockets are a little short since paying Paul. She doesn't care. Her client wants their money NOW, and she's their delivery girl.
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