Gary Skrehot was earning just enough money to pay his bills every month. That is, until he got a notice from his credit card company. Chase Bank was more than doubling his monthly minimum payments.
Instead of paying $266 per month, Gary now would have to come up with at least $655 every month.
"I cannot pay more than I was paying before," he said. "I would have to cut off other card companies, or not pay rent, or not eat."
Gary's credit card agreement locks in a low interest rate on a transferred balance. But that low rate will skyrocket if he doesn't keep up with the minimum payments and now that's really in jeopardy.
"I don't have a new job, I don't have a new source of income, I haven't won the Lotto," he said. "There's no way I can afford tripling, almost tripling a payment."
Then, Gary saw a 7 On Your Side report about how thousands of Chase customers who were suddenly facing bigger payments. In that report, Chase said customers could not afford the higher minimum should just call the number on the back of their card and work out a deal.
So, that's what Gary tried to do.
"I was told there's nothing you can do. You can make the payment or that's it," he said.
Gary got nowhere. Chase offered to reduce his minimum payment, but only if he accepted higher interest rates -- 7.99 percent now and 27 percent in 2011.
Gary said no thanks, and just kept paying what he could afford. But the bank said it wasn't enough.
"Then I'm getting calls every day from the collections department. You're past due on your payments. When are you going to make your payment," he said. "I just want one person at Chase who has the power to do something.
So he called 7 On Your Side and we contacted Chase Bank.
Chase declined to talk about Gary's case in particular but said: "We strive to be easy to do business with, and the vast majority of the times, our tens of millions of customers are satisfied with us. We encourage any customers who have questions or concerns about their accounts to call the number on the back of their cards."
But he already tried that. So, we called Chase again and a company spokesperson agreed to talk to Gary right in our offices.
"They will pass this on to executive corporate side and they will appoint an advocate to deal with me. That's one step," said Gary.
Since that phone call, Gary says the Chase collections people have stopped calling him. The bank has reduced his past due balance by 75 percent and he is still working with the advocate on a plan for paying off his debt.