You likely know your personal credit score, but you may not know your business credit score. The two credit scores are not the same, although they serve a similar purpose. Your personal credit score illustrates how well you pay your debts on time. And your business credit score demonstrates your company’s ability to pay its debts in a timely manner.
You should review your business credit report for the same reasons you check your personal credit score: to find and fix errors, learn what may be helping or hindering your score, and establish a baseline to improve your score.
There are also two other significant reasons to check your score: Your customers, suppliers, and business partners can access your score for a fee, to determine your creditworthiness. Lenders examine your business credit report as well, to decide whether to approve you for small business financing and at what interest rates.
How to Check Your Business Credit Score
Many business credit reporting agencies exist, but the best way to check your business credit score is to start with one of the major business credit bureaus: Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), Experian, and Equifax. These provide the most comprehensive information you can find, although none are free to use, with certain exceptions.
1. Dun & Bradstreet
With over 70 million business credit listings, Dun & Bradstreet is the largest of the three.
To get a report from D&B, you must first apply for a D-U-N-S Number, a unique identifier that D&B assigns to your business to establish your file (sort of like a business “social security number”).
D&B also has its own scoring mechanism — PAYDEX — a dollar-weighted numerical indicator of how a company paid its bills over the past year, based on trade experiences reported to D&B by various vendors.
Once you have your D-U-N-S number, you can sign up for Credit Signal, D&B’s free credit monitoring service, which lets you know when your score has changed. It only monitors your business credit score, however; you still have to pay for access to reports.
Speaking of which, D&B offers three different products as part of its business credit score lineup:
- There’s CreditBuilder Plus at $149 per month,
- CreditBuilder Premium at $199 per month,
- And CreditBuilder Concierge. You must contact D&B for pricing on this.
Each of the options includes CreditSignal as well as an expedited D-U-N-S Number and D&B credit file.
Unlike D&B, which is a business-only credit reporting bureau, Experian aggregates credit information for both individuals and businesses.
Experian Business Credit provides access to business credit information on more than 27 million credit-active businesses in the United States. It offers a range of purchase options:
- CreditScore report – single standard report ($39.95)
- Profile Plus report – single report offering more detailed information ($49.95)
- Valuation report – a single report showing a business valuation ($99)
- Business Credit Advantage – an annual subscription that offers unlimited access to scored reports ($189)
- Business CreditScore Pro – the most expensive and comprehensive plan ($249 per month; $1,495 annually)
The available options provide varying levels of detail, from the basic facts of a business to in-depth business credit, payment, and public record histories. The company also provides international business credit reports for $59.95 each.
Equifax also offers personal and business credit reports. The business reports provide in-depth information that includes a company profile, credit summary, public records, and business credit risk scores.
Prices range from $99.95 for a single report to $399.95 for a “multi-pack.” It includes five reports (5 for the price of 4 the company says), which you can access any time over 12 months.
Each of these bureaus likely has a credit profile of your business, but you will need to set up an account and claim it for updating purposes.
D&B lets you update your company’s information for free using its D-U-N-S Manager service, but Experian and Equifax require you to purchase a business credit report first.
If you believe your company’s Experian data contains inaccurate or outdated information, you can initiate an update by going to the Business Credit Facts website. Equifax has an online dispute center to submit or view the status of a dispute.
Where to Check a Business Credit Score for Free
Consumers have lots of free places to get their personal credit reports and scores, but businesses don’t have that luxury. Most, like the three listed above, require you to pay to review the information they have on your business.
Nav.com is one place where you can access free business credit information from Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax, with no credit card required. Setting up an account only takes a few minutes. It gives you business credit grades and summaries of your Experian Intelliscore and Dun & Bradstreet Paydex report, as well as your personal credit score from Experian, and tools to help you learn how to build your business credit.
Creditsafe is another source to find free credit scores and reports. Signing up for a free trial gets you access to up to 50 domestic business credit reports, which include business credit scores and limits, core business data, and payment information.
How to Run a Credit Check on a Business
As important as it is to check your business credit report, there are times when you will need to run a credit report on other companies as well — to gauge how likely they are to pay their invoices on time, how much of a credit risk you will be taking on, the amount of credit to extend, and whether they are worth the headache.
Regardless of the reason, checking their credit scores could give you critical information to make the best financial decision possible. All three major credit bureaus facilitate such requests. Typically, all you need is the business’s name and address to process the request.
D&B Credit Reporter
Dun & Bradstreet has an entire line of credit checking options, all residing under the banner “Credit Reporter.” Depending on which you choose, D&B provides a credit summary, business credit risk score, and financial stress score. Reports also include a PAYDEX score, which helps you determine your risk in extending payment terms to the business in question.
Credit Reporter products include:
- Credit Evaluator Plus – $61.99
- Business Information Report – $121.99
- Business Information Report On-Demand – $189 (gives you access to five D&B credit scores and ratings and continuous monitoring of a company’s business credit file)
- Credit Reporter Plus – $799 (you get access to multiple companies)
D&B also offers a free report, but it comes with a catch: You have to sit through a product demonstration to qualify. You are limited to one free report per D&B D-U-N-S Number.
Experian’s Business Information Services provides comprehensive, third-party-verified information on 99.9 percent of all U.S. companies.
The information is continually updated and includes the Experian business credit score (both the Intelliscore Plus and Financial Stability Risk rating), credit trade payment information, corporate registration, public business records, and key personnel.
An Experian one-time standard report will cost $39.95.
Equifax business credit score reports include public records information (like bankruptcy) and a business failure score. That predicts how likely it is that a business will fail in the next 12 months, along with possible reasons why.
The Equifax reports may also include business demographics, payment history, and any other people or companies associated with the business.
A one-time business credit report costs the same as a report on your own company, $99.95.
Credit Checks by Landlords
It’s not just business owners who need to run credit checks from time to time on customers, vendors, and business partners. Landlords may also want to run a credit report on business tenants. There is no better way to determine a tenant’s creditworthiness than looking at the business’s credit history.
Please understand, there is a difference between checking the business credit of a business tenant and doing a background check on a personal tenant. Experian offers comprehensive background checks as part of its services. To see a full list, read the Small Business Trends article “15 Best Places to Get a Tenant Background Check.”
Regularly Monitor Your Business Credit
By now, you should need no further persuasion that knowing your business credit score, how to get it, checking it regularly, and keeping it error-free is of great value.
The bottom line: A good score is your ticket to more favorable financing and a way to ensure suppliers, business partners, or customers will want to do business with you. Also, knowing how to check other businesses’ credit reports and scores is a way to stave off problems and protect yourself against unnecessary risks. It pays to be prepared, and now that you know, you have no excuse!