Most people know they have personal credit scores. But not all entrepreneurs are aware that they may have a separate business credit score as well.
Much like the individual credit scores that most people are aware of, business credit scores are numbers that are meant to evaluate the financial standing of a business and their ability to repay loans. A business credit score can impact a wide array of financial decisions for a business. So understanding what goes into calculating this number and how to track or improve your business credit score can be a major benefit.
Business vs Personal Credit Scores
Business and personal credit scores are similar in concept. Both are designed to show credit worthiness and evaluate potential risks for lenders or other financial partners. And both business and personal credit scores take into account various factors like the ability to repay debts and make timely payments.
However, the ways in which personal and business credit score is calculated and rated vary. More specifically, most consumer credit rating agencies offer a range between 300 and 850 for personal credit scores, while most business credit scores are rated on a scale of 0 to 100. However, different reporting agencies like Dun & Bradstreet and Experian have different calculations and numerical values that correspond to specific levels of business credit risk.
Additionally, individuals are usually able to access their free credit reports from each source about once per year. And there is no shortage of online services that offer these free credit reports. But a business can only access this information for free from a few specific sources that specialize in business credit reports. In addition, business credit scores are readily available to the public, though often for a fee, unlike personal credit scores, which are only available to the individual in question and any potential lenders.
While business credit scores are important for any company that may want to access financing or take out new lines of credit, your personal credit score as an entrepreneur is also important. Business owners often have to guarantee small business loans or be a named party on another form of credit in order for small businesses to obtain financing. So both the personal and business credit score numbers are often tied together. Additionally, if you have no credit history for your business, you may need to use your personal credit score alone to obtain financing and get your business off to a solid financial start.
What are Business Credit Scores Used For?
Business credit scores are generally used to determine the ability of a business to repay a loan. The higher the business credit score, the more confident a lender, financial institution, or third party business can feel about completing a financial transaction that requires credit.
More specifically, business credit scores are used by lenders to determine the following:
- Make loan and credit decisions — A lender will usually want to see a summary of a company’s credit worthiness before approving them for a loan or line of credit. They may also use this number to determine specific repayment terms and interest rates.
- Do business with another company — A business credit report can help one company determine whether another company is financially solid before entering into a long term partnership or contract. Entering into an agreement with a company that has a high business credit score is often less risky than working with a partner that has defaulted on loan payments or failed to pay invoices on time in the past.
- Extend trade terms to a customer — Some businesses extend terms such as net 60 delayed payments or installment payments when entering into trade agreements with clients or customers. A high business credit score can instill confidence in these businesses that their part of the trade agreement will be honored. It may also help your business receive favorable trade terms in deals.
- Appeal to potential investors — If your business wants to seek capital from angel investors or venture capitalists, those individuals or companies may want to know that your financial history is solid before backing you. A business credit score indicating low risk can give them extra confidence.
- Determine business insurance rates — Insurance providers often feel more confident giving good rates to a company with a good business credit that has a solid history of repaying their debt. They often use a specific insurance credit score, but it follows many of the same factors as a traditional business credit score.
Savvy small business owners also monitor their own credit report, scores and history, so that they can:
- Avoid credit denials– If you stay on top of your business credit reports, you can correct inaccuracies and protect your business from getting denied for loans or new lines of credit when you need it most.
- Get better loan terms — By establishing a business credit history and improving it over time, you can qualify for a higher loan amount or better interest rates. This can ultimately help you improve your financial standing even more.
- Lower insurance premiums — When you build up a solid financial history with good business credit score, insurance providers are more likely to give you better rates. This means you can enjoy lower monthly payments for the coverage you need.
- Stay competitive — You may be able to win more contracts with quality vendors and business partners if you are perceived as being a solid business financially.
- Access capital — If you’re able to demonstrate a solid financial history, investors are more likely to feel confident in backing your business. Monitoring your credit reports can help you determine the right time to seek outside funding.
How is a Business Credit Score Calculated?
A business credit score is calculated based on factors that include debt, payment history, and general risk. Each reporting agency (Equifax, Experian, etc.) weights factors like length of time in business, paying bills on time, late payments, and amount of debt and available credit. However, each agency has one has its own specific scoring style and qualifications. The score you get from Experian may be different from that of Dun & Bradstreet.
See the next section for a detailed description of how the different services calculate a business credit score.
Where Do You Get a Business Credit Score?
Typically you get a business credit score from one of the four main business credit reporting agencies: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, Experian, and FICO. Three of them give a numerical credit score, and one, Equifax, offers three different numbers to provide insights into different areas of a company’s financial standing. Here’s a rundown of all the main options to help small business owners understand what each of these business credit scores means.
Dun & Bradstreet
Dun & Bradstreet uses a score called PAYDEX. This number only measures the amount of time it takes a business to pay off its debts. Scores range between 0 and 100. If you pay all your bills at least 30 days ahead of time, your business may receive a score of 100. Pay them on the due date and receive a score of around 80. Any late payments result in the number going down even more. In order for your business to receive a PAYDEX score, you must first register for a DUNS number with Dun & Bradstreet. This is just an identifier for your business that helps them track your transactions.
If you’re considering a partnership and want to check a company’s credit rating beforehand, you can order a report online for that business.
Equifax assigns businesses three different scores. One describes your traditional credit history, including your years of credit history, amount of debt and available credit, and payment delinquencies. This number ranges from 100 to 992.
Equifax looks at payment history. That measures your ability to pay back creditors on time. It gets measured on a scale of 1 to 100.
Lastly, Equifax assesses the risk of your business failing. It takes into account your industry risk, history, and financial standing. This score ranges from 1,000 to 1,880.
If you want to see a potential partner’s Equifax business credit scores, order them here.
Experian’s Intelliscore is a single number from 0 to 100 that sums up the overall credit worthiness of your business. It takes into account your company history, payments, overall debt, and available credit. It doesn’t reward companies for making early payments, only for avoiding delays or defaults. Your business credit report may also take factors like your industry risk and personal credit history into account.
If you’re interested in getting a credit score from Experian for another business, head to their website to order.
FICO Small Business Scoring Service
Very large banks and lenders use FICO business credit scores. They check thousands of small businesses each month.
The Small Business Administration uses FICO scores for SBA loans, for example.
The credit reports number ranges from 0 to 300. And takes into account a huge array of financial information. Much of it also included in scores from other services like Equifax and Experian. Your personal credit history may also be part of this report.
This option isn’t popular for ordering single credit reports. So if you need to run a business credit check on your own company or a potential partner, you’re better off going through one of the services mentioned above. However, there are third-party services that can help you access this information if you want to find out your chances of obtaining an SBA loan or similar financing options.
Aside from these main four, there are several niche and specialty credit agencies or services that provide background information about businesses. This information may be used for credit decisions in specific industries, or for other background research about companies. Some of these services include Seafax, Cortera, and Ansonia.
Read in more depth at: What are the Business Credit Reporting Agencies?
Each of the four main credit reporting agencies takes different data into account and provides a different scoring method for your business. To understand where your business or a potential partner lands on the various credit reporting scales, here is a comparison chart.
|Reporting Service||Score Name||Score Range||Report Cost||Update Own Profile?||Sample Report|
|Dun & Bradstreet||PAYDEX||0 - 100||$189||Yes||Sample Report|
|Equifax||Equifax Business Credit Report||100-992, 0-100, 1,000-1,880||$99.95-$399.95||Yes||Sample Report|
|FICO||SBSS Score||0-300||N/A||No||Sample Report|
How Can I Check My Business Credit Score?
To check your business credit score, choose the reporting agency whose report you want to view or choose a third-party service to order from. Some agencies allow you to check your own business credit report for free. And a few even let you claim and update the credit information of your business so you can correct errors and gain more control over what appears on your credit report.
There are also third-party services and websites that small businesses can use to check their business credit reports. Some services offer alerts and help managers monitor events that may impact your score and business credit report. Here are some of the top options for checking your business credit reports:
- Nav.com – Nav offers a free service with some limitations and sells an upgrade. It includes information from Experian, Dun & Bradstreet, and Equifax. To access your free business credit report, just sign up for an online account. Or you can upgrade to a paid account to receive your updated business credit reports and information each month.
- Dun & Bradstreet Report – Dun & Bradstreet gives you the option to purchase a business credit report or access your own information for free. You can also sign up for free alerts to find out when information that impacts your D&B score has changed.
- Experian Credit Report – Experian allows you to purchase your business credit reports or sign up for regular monitoring. You can sign up to receive alerts when there are changes to your information or just access a one-time report and score for your business or another company.
- Equifax Business Risk Monitor – Equifax offers a few different products for viewing and monitoring your business credit report and score. You can sign up for account monitoring, receive alerts, view risk information, or access a cloud-based solution for managing your information.
- FICO SBSS – FICO’s business credit scores are mainly used by large banks and financial institutions, so it’s not really set up to offer one-off reports. However, NAV offers access to this information within its credit reporting platform.
- Credit.net – Credit.net is owned by Infogroup, which keeps a huge database of U.S. businesses. Business reports include information from the company’s databases, as well as credit information from bureaus like Experian. You can get a one-time report for as little as $17.95, or purchase a monthly plan to keep track of your business credit.
- Credit Signal – Credit Signal gives your business access to their Dun & Bradstreet scores for free. In addition, the site offers alerts and monthly monitoring plans. You can also purchase an upgraded plan to see what industries or parties are purchasing your business credit file.
- CreditSafe.com – CreditSafe uses its own blend of business data to give companies an idea of their overall credit worthiness. The site looks at business history, industry, location, structure, officer information, and financials to develop a score. You can then get a free one-time score or sign up for monthly monitoring for a fee.
Does Every Business Have a Credit History?
Not every small business has a credit score or history like consumer credit. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered, “does my LLC have a credit score?” the answer is: it may, but just as likely may not. If your company has a long history of keeping its own accounts and building up financial transactions, you can probably access fairly reliable credit information about your business. However, here are some of the reasons why you may not have anything of substance to measure when it comes to your business credit.
A startup may not have a history yet because of a lack of dedicated business transactions. A sole proprietorship or home-based business may not have a separate business credit record. That’s because the business owner conducted operations under their own name. For example, a sole proprietor uses a personal credit card instead of a business credit card.
Another reason for not having public records is that the business simply has not had the kinds of transactions that get reported to a particular credit agency. For example, if you used non-traditional financing to get your business off the ground, you may not have had monthly payments to make by a certain deadline. So they don’t become part of the public records. Since this is the specific type of data the Dun & Bradstreet measures, you’re unlikely to have much of a history in that area.
Businesses also usually have to be legally registered in order for credit reporting bureaus to measure their payment history and financial transactions. Your business may need to be registered as a corporation or LLC. Or at least sign up for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), so bureaus have the necessary information to track your business credit and start calculating a credit risk score.
Some credit reporting agencies require you to register with them before they measure your business credit record. For example, Dun & Bradstreet uses DUNS numbers to track business activities. So if you haven’t signed up for this key identifier yet, that’s likely why you would have no history from this particular bureau. And this means no public records other businesses and financial institutions can access to gauge your credit risk and find out whether you pay your bills on time.
Finally, if your business is brand new, you’re unlikely to have any payment history of financial transactions to measure. If you start using credit in a smart way, you can start to build up those scores over time and improve your risk score.
If you don’t have a credit history or much of one, experts recommend you create one. There are steps you can take to make that happen, including paying debts, making on-time payments, and applying for credit cards and loans that you can repay as quickly as possible.
For a more thorough list of tips, read: How to Build Business Credit Fast
Finally, many of the major credit reporting agencies in the U.S. have taken note of the extraordinary circumstances small businesses are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have added complimentary access to free reports so businesses can keep track of their finances and make sure they stay on track during this time of uncertainty and potential revenue loss.
At the time of this writing, Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax are all offering at least some credit information for businesses free of charge. So you can sign up and access, at least, your basic financial information without paying extra.
Maintaining a handle on your finances with access to business credit scores can help you take control of your finances. It helps get the funding you need. And it maintains beneficial partnerships to move your company forward.