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Similar to individual credit scores, a business credit score—also known as a commercial credit score—is assigned to a company to indicate how trustworthy it is as a borrower.
If you’re a business owner interested in applying for credit or loans, you should know what a business credit score is. Banks, lenders and financial institutions may consider a company’s business credit score when making loan approvals or determining loan interest rates and borrowing terms. A high business credit score indicates to lenders that a company will likely pay back its debts on time and in full.
Having a business credit score and report can make it easier for your company to borrow money with better terms. You’ll also often find that when you can show lenders a strong personal and business credit score, you can be approved for larger loans. Lastly, a business credit score can allow you to borrow under the company’s name, which can help keep your business and personal finances separated.
How is a business credit score different from a personal credit score?
Personal and business credit scores are similar in purpose but different in execution.
- Range: Your personal credit score is typically a number in the 300 – 850 range. In comparison, business credit scores are usually given between 0 and 100.
- Industry standards: Your personal credit score usually comes from FICO® or VantageScore®, as those are the two dominant credit scoring systems used by almost all consumer credit bureaus. However, the business credit score is much less standardized. Business lenders can choose to use the popular rating agency Dun & Bradstreet® or develop their own methods for evaluating commercial credit scores.
- Getting your score: Consumers can access their personal credit scores for free from various sources (banks, credit bureaus, etc.). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for business credit scores. You’ll likely have to get your business score from one of the four major providers (more on those below), and there will be a charge.
- Access to your score and report: Your personal credit score can only be accessed by you or authorized users. such as lenders you’ve applied to, employers and landlords. In comparison, anyone can pay to look up a business credit score.
- EIN vs. SSN: Your personal credit score is tied to your Social Security number. Your business credit score is linked to your Employee Identification Number, which you receive after legally registering your business.
How are business credit scores calculated?
Your business credit score takes into account many of the same factors as your personal credit score, such as payment history, credit utilization and public records like bankruptcies. Each of the four leading credit scoring firms that provide business credit scores (Equifax®, Dun & Bradstreet, Experian® and FICO) has its own specific set of factors.
Equifax offers comprehensive business credit reports for small businesses up to large international companies. The following is some information found in these reports:
- The company profile, including the company name, address and contact information
- A credit summary that has an overview of the business’s credit accounts, service providers and more
- Any public records associated with the company such as tax liens, judgments and bankruptcies
- The risk score for the business
- A 12-month payment trend and an analysis of how that compares to the industry averages
Find out more here.
Dun & Bradstreet
Dun & Bradstreet’s business credit score is called the PAYDEX® score, which is meant to show the overall financial health of a company. When pulling a business credit report and an associated PAYDEX score from Dun & Bradstreet, you may receive the following information:
- Contact information about the company, such as name, address, phone, number of employees, and state of business registration
- Public filings, such as tax liens, judgments, lawsuits and bankruptcies
- Late payment indicator
- Delinquency risk score
- Company “family tree” detailing ownership
Find out more here.
Experian offers business credit scores under the name Experian Intelliscore Plus® (with a V2 and V3 option available). An Intelliscore Plus score may use a combination of the owner’s personal credit and the business’s credit to evaluate the overall risk for the company. The score will be based on the owner’s personal credit information if the business is relatively new and has minimal credit available. The Intelliscore Plus score looks at factors such as payment history, credit utilization and public records.
The information that appears on an Experian business credit report includes the following:
- Company ownership and background details, such as parent companies or subsidiaries
- The assessed risk level of the company based on its financials
- The organization’s payment history
- Public records, including liens, judgments and bankruptcies
Find out more here.
FICO Small Business Scoring Service® (SBSS) specializes in business credit scores for small businesses. Unlike other business credit scores, the FICO SBSS range goes from 0 to 300. It takes into account the owner’s personal credit score and the company’s details when creating a business credit score.
Additionally, the FICO SBSS evaluates business details such as years in business, total number of employees, value of business assets and more. The combination of personal and business data allows FICO to create a business credit score that represents the company’s credit risk.
Find out more here.
How can you check your business credit score?
You can check your business credit score by reaching out to any of the main business credit reporting agencies we’ve just covered. For a comprehensive overview of your business credit standing, it’s best to order a report from each of these companies.
Business credit reports aren’t usually free, so you should expect to pay a fee. If you’d like credit report monitoring or frequent access to your business credit score, this will often cost extra.
Tips for building your business credit
Some easy steps you can take to build your business credit are:
- Incorporate your business, get an EIN and open a business bank account: These steps will legitimize your business, create a financial track record for your company and keep your business actions separate from your personal finances.
- Apply for a D-U-N-S® number: A D-U-N-S number is an internationally recognized number used to identify a company’s Dun & Bradstreet business credit file. Some lenders will only work with businesses that have a D-U-N-S number. You can get one on the Dun & Bradstreet website.
- Pay all your business bills on time and in full: Payment history is a significant part of your score, so you’ll want to keep up with your accounts. Autopay can be a helpful tool to ensure you stay up to date.
- Use a business credit card and limit your credit use: A business credit card will build up credit history for your company and show lenders your organization handles credit responsibly. A general rule of thumb is to keep credit utilization below 30 percent to impact your credit score positively.
- Regularly monitor your business credit: Credit reports can sometimes include errors or mistakes that pull your credit score down unfairly. Check your credit often, and take action if you see a sudden unexplained dip in your business credit score.
Taking care of your business credit is similar to taking care of your personal credit. You need to keep a close eye on your credit standing to ensure you can be approved for loans in the future when your company needs them. A strong credit score will give your organization access to more lending options at better rates and terms, saving your business thousands.
Start by reviewing your personal and business credit reports to ensure they’re accurate. The consultants at Lexington Law Firm may be able to help by reviewing your personal credit reports and helping you file disputes if needed. (Note: Lexington Law Firm does not review business credit reports.) Reach out to our team today for more information.
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