If you need to submit a credit report dispute, you are not alone. Recent research shows that one in five Americans has a mistake on his or her credit report. Inaccurate information can create financial hardships that you do not deserve. Just one mistake could make it impossible for you to qualify for low-interest credit cards, mortgages, and other types of credit.

If you find a mistake on your credit report, you need to submit a dispute to have it removed. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion will let you dispute information online or over the phone. While those options may sound more convenient, you should always submit disputes in writing.

Written Disputes Create Paper Trails

Sending a dispute through certified mail creates a paper trail that you may need later, especially if one of the credit bureaus doesn’t remove the inaccurate information quickly. The bureaus are required to remove inaccuracies within 30 to 45 days of notification. When you send a letter through certified mail, you have proof of when you made contact with the companies.

You can keep a log of when you contact bureaus by phone or email, but a certified letter holds more weight in court than your personal jottings. If you end up having to fight a bureau in court, you need the support that certified mail offers.

You Can Include More Information in Written Disputes

When you submit a dispute online, you have to use the interfaces created by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The websites don’t always give you a way to include evidence that supports your claim. For instance, if you have a receipt or credit card statement showing that you paid a bill, you might not have a chance to include it with your online dispute.

When you send your dispute in writing, you can include any evidence that fits in an envelope. That evidence is the cornerstone of your dispute. Without evidence, the bureaus may decide that the damaging information belongs in your credit report.

Make photocopies of anything that you think may help your case, and include them with your letter.

It is best to send all of your supporting evidence with the first letter. Any information that you submit after that gives the bureau an extra 15 days to investigate the claim.

You Can Explain Yourself Better in Writing

Websites often have limitations that only let you submit a certain number of words. That often makes it difficult to explain your situation. Phone calls are an even worse option. Trying to explain a complicated issue over the phone is usually much more difficult than explaining the situation in writing.

When writing your dispute, make sure you fully explain the situation and why you need the information removed. You should have a coherent argument so no one reading the letter can misinterpret your words.

If you feel a little nervous writing a letter, use this template as a guide. Also, have a few people read the letter and give you feedback. This can help you correct typos and awkward phrases.

Writing a good letter with supporting evidence is one of the best ways to have inaccuracies removed from your credit report. If you need to dispute an item, you should always send a letter instead of relying on emails or phone calls.