AmEx Optima Card ($15k) 1 Collection Agency Consolidated 3 of my Cards for a Total of $17k A few Retail Dept Cards: $5k and a few other Credit Cards.. All these cards, I havcen't paid a single cent on since 1997. I am now in the situation where I have income and can make payments and would like to build my credit.. I spoke to the collection agency NCO who has 3 of my debts consolidated into one. They are willing to settle for $6,500. The told me the original debt when they bought it was $14k or so, but now it is at $17k. I am trying to negotiate it for $5k and have 3 payments.. the first month being 1k, the folllowing 2 months for $2k each. Now, my question is what should I do?? How are these credit repair firms such as Lexington? Will they help me? Also, how effective is it to have them.. and how much is the charge usually? AmEx Optima has never contacted me once.. so I am wondering how to settle this out? Does anyone have any sample letters I can write to get the derogatory things removed from my credit reports? My fear is that once I start trying to take care of these debts.. that they will state today's date and the 7 years will begin again.. how do I avoid this? Now, for positive credit marks.. I have the following: 1) Financial Aid Debt ($15k) 2) Car Payments 3) Corporate Credit Card 4) Cosigned Credit Card For the following 4 above, I have had zero late payments and perfect credit.. all my car payments are completed and the other 3 I am paying off and have never been late and havre excellent history.. Any advice is greatly appreciated.. I just need a place to start! thanks in advance and sorry for the long post!