When you have a complaint or dispute with a creditor, lender, credit bureau, or debt collector, it's best to communicate in writing. Many disputes are time sensitive and a letter, especially when sent via certified mail with a return receipt request, gives you a timestamp to track the business's response time. In some cases (as with a credit card billing error dispute), you must send a letter to protect your rights.
Here are seven sample letters you can customize and send to handle tough issues like billing statement errors, credit report disputes, and debt-validation requests.
Sample Credit Report Dispute Letter
You have the right to an accurate credit report. If you find an error on your credit report (for example, an account that doesn't belong to you), send a dispute letter to the bureau who provided that credit report. The credit bureau generally has to investigate within 30 to 45 days.
Sample Cease-and-Desist Letter
A cease-and-desist letter will stop calls from debt collectors. The letter informs the collector that you no longer wish to be contacted. You don't have to admit to anything or promise to pay later (you probably shouldn't do either of these anyway). Just state that you want to contact to end.
The cease-and-desist letter only applies to a specific debt collector, so you will have to send another one if a new collector takes over that debt or you have debts with multiple debt collectors. You can also use a cease-and-desist letter to stop wrong-number collection calls.
Sample Debt Validation Letter
Within the first 30 days of being contacted by a debt collector, you can dispute the validity of the debt and request the collector send you proof that the debt is actually yours. Once the debt collector receives your written validation request, they have to cease collection efforts until they've provided you with proof of the debt.
Sample Letter for Cancelling a Credit Card
You can close a credit card over the phone, but following up with a letter provides confirmation that you requested the account closed at a certain date. The letter might come in handy if there's a future discrepancy over when your account was closed or that you requested to have your account closed at all.
Sample Pay for Delete Letter
A "pay for delete" letter is an offer to a creditor or debt collector to remove a negative credit report entry in exchange for payment. You can make an offer over the phone, but a signed letter from the creditor or collector is solid proof that an agreement was made.
Sample Expired Statute of Limitations Letter
The statute of limitations doesn't relieve your obligation to pay a debt, and it doesn't stop collectors from trying to get you to pay. (Instead, it limits the time that debt is legally enforceable.)
You can customize this sample credit letter and send it to debt collectors who continue to attempt collections on a debt that has an expired statute of limitations.
Be careful that you don't say anything in your letter that could restart the statute of limitations. Even acknowledging that you owe the debt can restart the clock, giving the collector more time to sue you.
Sample Billing Error Dispute Letter
Many people instinctively call their credit card issuer when they spot a billing error. It's a quicker way to get errors cleared up, because the credit card issuer can start investigating right away.
A written billing error dispute letter is necessary if you want the card issuer to abide by the Fair Credit Billing Act. The law requires creditors to investigate your dispute as long as your letter is sent within a specific timeframe. It also allows you to withhold payment for the disputed amount while the investigation is underway.
Tips for Sending Credit Letters
Letters are a powerful tool to use in communicating with creditors, debt collectors, and other businesses. Keep in mind that thousands or even millions of people may be using the same letter templates as you. Customize sample credit letters when necessary to fit your circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should I say to a creditor if I can't pay?
Calmly tell the creditor the reason why you can't pay, whether it be because of job loss, illness, or any other legitimate reason. Let them know what you are doing to try and meet your financial obligations and what you can pay, even if it's $10 per month until you get on your feet. Creditors want to get the money you owe them. In most cases, they will work with you.
What is a hardship letter to creditors?
A hardship letter lets creditors know that you are experiencing a hardship that makes you unable to pay your bills. Reasons could include job loss, illness, death in the family, divorce, or any other extreme event in your life. A hardship letter can help a creditor determine how they should proceed with collection of your debt.
Is it better to send a letter to a creditor or call?
You can call a creditor to discuss your situation, but you should always follow up with a letter so you will have a record of your communications. You should also take detailed notes about any phone conversations you have with your creditors.