What Are the Business Credit Bureaus?



What are the Business Credit Reporting Agencies and Business Credit Bureaus?

Three major business credit bureaus issue small business credit reports: Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax. If you want to check your business credit score these are the places to start.

Consumers are entitled to one free report per year to check their personal credit score, but no such right exists for business credit reports. Still, these business credit reporting agencies offer various options to see your business credit report information, update your profile, correct inaccuracies, and more.

There are other business credit reporting agencies beyond the big three business credit bureaus that you may be unaware of. And while you may never use them yourself, your creditors and lenders might, so we will explain the credit bureau landscape to help you understand how it could affect your business credit score record.

There’s also Nav.com, a third-party credit score information service for small businesses that provides copies of each report, matches companies with financing and business credit cards, and offers continuous business credit score monitoring.



3 Major Business Credit Reporting Agencies

The three major business credit reporting agencies run corporate credit reports that use a mix of information drawn from diverse sources to generate credit scores, which may differ from each other. Each agency also produces multitudes of reports with various names and scales. Experian and Equifax also handle consumer credit reports, while Dun & Bradstreet is business only.

1. Dun & Bradstreet (D&B)

Even if you already have a business credit file started at Dun & Bradstreet, you should register your D-U-N-S (Data Universal Numbering System) Number. A DUNS is a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses, proprietary to D&B, widely used by federal and commercial entities. Think of it as a “social security number” for your business.

A DUNS number is used for anyone who wants to run a credit check on business. It’s also used to better understand your company’s credit history and creditworthiness or to decide whether to work with you. It has become the gold standard for tracking business financial information across the globe.

Dun & Bradstreet focuses primarily on how timely your business is about paying vendors and suppliers when generating its PAYDEX score. Scored from 0-100, companies have both a D&B PAYDEX score and a risk category or ranking. You can request a copy of your score using D&B’s iUpdate.

Many lenders, including banks, use the D&B PAYDEX report to determine whether they will grant your business a loan and what interest rate they will charge. Other credit reporting agencies also pull the report as part of their credit scoring.

Additional credit score factors unique to D&B include:

  • D&B Viability Rating – This consists of a viability score of 1-9, a portfolio comparison of 1-9, a data depth indicator of A-M, and a company profile score qualifier of A-Z.
  • Delinquency Predictor Score – This predicts whether a business is likely to pay slowly or not at all. Scores are further broken down into Delinquency Predictor Risk Classes of 1-5. The lower the numbers, the higher the risk.
  • Financial Stress Score – Other businesses use this score to evaluate how likely a business is to pay outstanding invoices and debts in the next 12 months. The score ranges from 1,001 to 1,875.

Dun & Bradstreet allows you to manage and improve your credit file using its free D-U-N-S Manager service. Another service, CreditSignal, gives you free access to changes in your D&B scores and ratings. You can also get a partial report called Quick View for free, but you will have to pay for a full report.

Two paid services, CreditMonitor ($39 per month) and CreditBuilder ($149 per month for CreditBuilder Plus and $199 per month CreditBuilder Premium) let you:

  • Monitor your credit scores and ratings in real-time;
  • Submit your good payment history (that could otherwise go unreported);
  • Receive alerts when others request your business credit report;
  • Get unlimited access to your D&B scores and ratings, and more.

2. Experian

Experian Business collects information from public records and private sources, including legal filings, credit obligations, and marketing databases. Unlike primary competitors, Experian calculates only one business credit score, 0-100, where a higher score is best.

Experian offers many business credit score reports and subscription plans. However, the Experian Intelliscore Plus is the most notable. It analyzes more than 800 variables, including tradeline and collection information, public filings, new account activity, key financial ratios, and other performance indicators. Experian claims the report can predict the likelihood of serious credit delinquency in the next 12 months.

Businesses have the option to:

  • Obtain Experian credit reports online
  • Monitor their credit report health;
  • Receive Experian change alerts;
  • Dispute errors and request corrections to their business credit report;
  • Make credit risk decisions about prospective business partners, suppliers, and customers.

None of this is free, however.

Standard Experian reports are $39.95 (one-time fee). Detailed reports are $49.95 (one-time fee). The “Business Credit Advantage” report costs $189 per year. It comes with unlimited access to scored reports, alerts, dispute resolution, and more.

3. Equifax

Equifax uses banking and leasing information from the Small Business Finance Exchange (SBFE) and the Equifax Small Business Enterprise database to generate three business risk scores:

  • Delinquency Score of 101-662
  • Business Credit Risk Score between 101-992
  • Business Failure Risk Score of 1,000-1,880

Equifax lists businesses when a leasing company, supplier, bank, or another lender you do business with furnishes it or the SBFE with your company information.

The agency offers a business credit report that includes your company profile, credit summary, public records. It also offers something other reporting bureaus do not: risk scores. Risk scores use predictive analytics to determine the possibility of business delinquencies, charge-offs, or failure from bankruptcy.

Like the other services, Equifax charges for business credit reports. A single business credit report costs $99.95; a multi-pack (5 for the price of 4) is $399.95.

Equifax also offers credit monitoring on a subscription basis for $16.95 per month. This includes business alerts via email when new activity is detected, secure login to review alert details, and unlimited credit reports on monitored businesses.

FICO Small Business Scoring Service (SBSS)

Just as FICO provides credit scores widely used by consumers, it also has a small business scoring service. The FICO Small Business Scoring Service combines both your personal and business credit files into one score of 0-300, with 300 being the best. It represents your creditworthiness and probability of paying back a loan.

The United States Small Business Administration uses the score to pre-screen SBA 7(a) loan applicants. Small business owners must maintain good credit ratings, personally and for business, to keep the score high because lenders will look at both.

You cannot buy a single copy of a FICO SBSS report. Only large institutions and lenders typically see these. However, it is possible to get this information through Nav.com.

Nav.com: Another Way to Get Business Credit Reports

Unlike business credit bureaus, Nav.com is like a credit score aggregation service. Think of it as a small business version of Credit.com or CreditKarma.

The company provides free access to personal and business credit report summaries. You can also get access to alerts and tools for how to build business credit, and a marketplace that connects users to pre-qualified financing via a business loan or business credit card.

Paid plans give you even more options, including FICO SBSS scores and in-depth reporting.

Additional Business Credit Bureaus

The three business credit bureaus mentioned above and FICO are not the only credit bureaus for businesses. There are many others, including these ten, which serve different niches:

  • Ansonia – favored by construction trades; partners with Tarnell to share data.
  • Tarnell – provides deep financial insights on suppliers of industrial material and equipment to the plastics industry.
  • Lumbermens Credit Reporting Group – uses personal and business data to provide reports to commercial mercantile and construction.
  • Cortera – specializes in the transportation industry, specifically with businesses under 500 employees.
  • Seafax – credit bureau for the food industry.
  • Lexis-Nexis | Accurint – a partnership between Lexis-Nexis and the Better Business Bureau offering reports similar to Business Experian.
  • Credit.net – database lists 25 million U.S. and Canadian companies, including very small businesses.
  • Global Credit Services – offers B2B trade payment information on U.S. and Canadian companies.
  • Creditsafe – collects trade data on invoice payments.
  • National Association of Credit Management (NACM) – NACM members share their credit data with other members.

Review Your Business Credit Scores Regularly

Regardless of which business credit bureaus you use, make it a point to review your business credit score regularly. There are several good reasons to do so. Mistakes can happen that could affect your score; business credit fraud is becoming more commonplace. Scores change each time new information gets reported by lenders and vendors. Most of all, knowing your score is the first step to starting on a path toward improvement, leading to better rates the next time you need funding.

Related reading: How to Fix Your Credit

Final Thoughts

As a small business owner, you work hard to grow your business. To keep both your business and consumer credit scores as high as possible, pull regular credit reports and review them for errors, pay bills and invoices promptly to establish a strong payment history, and stay on top of your finances. The success of your business depends on it.

Photo via Shutterstock

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Gail Gardner Gail Gardner is the Small Business Marketing Strategist who founded GrowMap.com and co-founded the Blogger Mastermind Skype group. She mentors small businesses and freelancers, especially writers and social media marketing managers.

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