American Express Is Just Another Credit Card Company

When the credit card companies notified me that they were increasing my rates to 30%, they gave me two choices: I could accept this highway robbery or close the accounts at the current interest rates.   So I closed out the accounts.  Only later on did I learn that this is classic “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” situation.

I couldn’t afford to accept the status quo with the new rates.  Turned out I couldn’t afford the closed accounts when the interest rates stayed the same but the minimum balance payments doubled or tripled from before.  Paying these outrageous amounts wasn’t in my best financial interest after being out of work for a year and I no longer had any savings.  So I restructured my budget to pay my credit card bills 90% less than I was paying before the rate increases.

What comes around goes around.

After I closed out those accounts and started making reduced payments, I got an American Express card after I read that charge cards were coming back in style.  What did I use my charge card for?  Paying off all my monthly utility bills and expenses when they came in, and then paying off the entire balance a few days after the billing statement close.  This saved me some money since I wasn’t paying late fees because my cash flow often didn’t match when the bills were due.  Very convenient.

Unfortunately, American Express requested my credit score and canceled my card based on that.  Turned out that closing those credit card accounts and reducing payments by 90% had adversely affected my credit score.  I also spent twice my usual amount this month since my car needed repairs and I got some stuff for Dad after he was released from the hospital to stay at my place.  All of which I was reimbursed for by Dad.  I was now a credit risk to American Express.  Never mind that I had used my card responsibly and made prompt payments.  That doesn’t count.  Funny how I thought universal default was outlawed in the recent credit card reforms passed by Congress.

I’m not sure what I want to do next.  If I reapply for another American Express card and get approved, I would have to pay a $25 USD reinstatement.  Uh, no.  My card shouldn’t have been canceled in the first place.  I’m not going to pay an extra fee for the privileged of being screwed over.  I would’ve kept my credit card accounts opened if I wanted to be screwed over.  I’m still waiting to see if this same nonsense will happen with my business credit card that was opened under my Federal Identification Number.  If so, I will be out of credit cards entirely.  Cash will be king in my life.  Thanks to the Great Recession and the greedy credit card companies, that might be the best thing to happen to me.


Driving Mister Dad – Part 1

The moment we got out of hospital, he tried to assert his independence and insisted on driving to San Jose in his truck.  That was a scary ride with him straddling the lanes and nearly hitting some cars in a zero visibility rain storm.  My brother and I forced him to give up the keys at a gas station in Fairfield.  Only later when I went through the medication that he’s taking did I discovered that he was driving under the influence.

I drove his truck back.  A big Dodge Ram with a Hemi engine that my Dad was reluctant to let me drive.  I have never driven a truck before and never a vehicle with an engine that powerful.  However, I did followed my brother all the way back without incident and Dad fell asleep because I’m a careful driver.  My brother is the one who routinely gets tickets for speeding and tossing his cigarette butts out on the highway.  I went into computers and he went into cars, which I have to constantly remind Dad about when he thinks I’m driving too carefully.

He’s been getting better since I’m taking care of him now.  I used to take care of a roommate for four years who died from Lou Gerhig’s Disease.  All the old habits of denying myself to take care of someone else kicked back in.  Although I’m squeamish about needles, I got used to injecting Dad with insulin four times a day.  The swelling in his legs has gone down and the sores on his feet are healing.  A home nurse visits us once or twice a week and we been to Kaiser in Santa Clara for doctor appointments.

While I been driving Dad around in his truck to doctor appointments at Kaiser in Santa Clara, my own car ended up in the shop.  For the last two months, the engine been stalling out in idle every two weeks in the parking lot at my apartment complex.  Then it started happening more frequently at intersections and once on the highway.  When I drove back from seeing Alice in Wonderland at Oakridge Mall last Saturday night, I noticed the battery light flickering on the dashboard and told my friend that the engine would stall out a moment before it did at my apartment complex.  I went over to Kragen to have the battery tested and it appeared that the alternator was overcharging the battery.  I took the car over to the John’s Bascom Auto for troubleshooting and the mechanics couldn’t figured out the problem.

Then Dad mentioned a loose ground cable may be the cause.

My car used to be his car.  Unless I’m having a problem with the car, he never tells me what problems he had.  (After having the car for two years now, everything should be fixed.)  When I informed the mechanics, they fixed two ground faults, replaced a vacuum hose to the brake booster and installed a brand new battery.  Seems like I’m driving a completely different car and the brakes are no longer stiff.  I’m taking the old battery back to Kragen to exchange under warranty.  The mechanics said they would buy back their battery if I got mine replaced.  Dad is paying for the repairs since I been fixing all the problems that he had worked around to avoid fixing.

How is this affecting me as a writer?  A lot.  My dedicated office space was cut in half to make room for another twin bed.  Since Dad has the TV running 24 hours a day, he’s been respecting my privacy to work on writing after dinner.  I had submitted my short story collection to the Prairie Schooner Book Prizes contest last weekend after spending months editing the 28 short stories that I written over the last three years.  This week I’m finalizing my vampire novella to submit to an ebook publisher.  I had reviewed two-third of the current draft today while in a waiting room at Kaiser today.  Next week I start editing my first novel in earnest for the next nine months.  Plus being in a hospital environment is giving me a lot of useful medical information for future stories.  If Dad is going to stay with me for a while, writing is the only escape I have from the TV and his snoring.