DEAR HARRY: I negotiated with my bank to let me pay the balance due on my mortgage for a $15,000 discount. This was in accordance with a letter they sent me suggesting that we discuss an early payoff. I sent them a check in October marked "payment in full." They deposited the check and sent me back a canceled note that I signed when I got the mortgage in 2001. My wife told me that she heard that I could use that same "paid in full" statement to pay off some credit-card debts. She said that she heard that people do this all the time to get a fresh start with their banks. I know what you say about things that sound too good to be true, but this sounds like it's worth a try. How about it?


WHAT HARRY SAYS: You'll be wasting your efforts. Unless you are involved with a dispute with the creditor over the amount of the debt, you don't have a chance in a pig's eye of getting out of hock this way. Some creditors have the words "without prejudice" as part of their endorsements to give them added ammunition against people like your wife. Your writing on the check with the mortgage payoff was unnecessary, since you both agreed with the amount. If you had drawn the check for a lower amount, they could have nixed the whole deal.

Email Harry Gross at or write to him at the Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia 19107.