What is a business credit score and how does it work?
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A business credit score provides credit agencies, loan issuers and vendors or suppliers with a general idea of how trustworthy you are when it comes to borrowing money. Just like your personal credit score, a higher business credit score tells interested parties that you’re more creditworthy. If you’re a business owner and you want to establish strong business credit, keep reading to learn more.
What is a business credit score?
A business credit score is exactly what it sounds like it would be: a credit score that applies to businesses instead of individuals. Generally speaking, business credit scores are determined using information from a business credit report, which can include company details like the number of employees a business has, historical data of the business, past payment history, account information, amounts owed and more.
When it comes to business credit scores, you’ll probably notice right away that they don’t fall in the same numerical range as personal credit scores. Most business credit scores are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, while business scores using the FICO Small Business Scoring Service (FICO SBSS) range from 0 to 300.
Benefits of a business credit score
Building a strong business credit score can help small business owners in several different ways.
- Personal finances are separate from your business finances. Having a business credit score can help you access credit for your business without leaning on your own personal credit. This can be immensely helpful when it comes time to file your taxes each year as well. Since the U.S. tax system requires that you keep your business and personal finances separate if you plan on deducting expenses, this separation can also help ensure your personal assets aren’t leveraged against you if your business has financial issues.
- Access to financing is easier. A good business credit score can help you take out business loans at lower rates. If and when you take out a business loan, you won’t have to sign a personal guarantee that makes you personally liable.
- Insurance policy rates may be lower. Insurance rates can be high, especially for a growing business. However, a good business credit score may help your business receive low rates.
Differences between personal and business credit scores
There are plenty of differences between your personal credit score and your business credit score, including the following:
Business credit scores are on a smaller scale
While personal credit scores typically fall on a scale of 300 to 850, business credit scores range from 1 to 100.
Anyone can check a business credit score
While personal credit scores are private and can only be accessed in specific situations, anyone can check a business credit score to see how a business ranks.
Business credit scores are determined using different factors
Business credit scores are determined using the following factors: payment history, age of credit history, debt and debt usage, industry risk and company size. Personal credit scores are determined using different factors: payment history, amount of debt, new credit, credit mix and average length of credit history.
Business credit scores use your Employer Identification Number (EIN)
While your personal credit score is tied to your Social Security number, your business credit score is tied to an EIN. This helps you keep your personal financial information private while you build and maintain your business credit score. You will need to ensure your business is legally registered in order to obtain an EIN.
How are business credit scores calculated?
Like your personal credit score, the most important factor that makes up your business credit score is your payment history — whether you make sufficient on-time payments on your debts. Business credit scores also consider the age of your company, and you may achieve a higher score the longer you’ve been around. Debt and debt usage are also considered when figuring out a business credit score, as well as the type of industry you’re in and the size of your firm.
Keep in mind that, unlike personal credit scores that can consider multiple factors, some business credit scores only consider one. With the Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX business credit score, for example, the only factor they consider is your payment history.
How to check your business credit score
While it’s easy to get a free look at your personal credit score using a variety of platforms, the same cannot be said about business credit scores. In some cases, you’ll have to pay to see a business credit score for your own business or any other.
Here are some details on how to check your business credit score with each of the credit reporting agencies that determine business credit scores: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian.
Dun & Bradstreet
Consider signing up for Dun & Bradstreet Credit Signal, which lets you monitor your Dun & Bradstreet business credit score (known as a PAYDEX score). This free program also lets you track when your business profile is being accessed, and you get the chance to view four Dun & Bradstreet business credit scores and ratings for a 14-day period.
So how is your PAYDEX score calculated? Trade references are the most important factor. A trade reference is a source that reports your payment information to Dun & Bradstreet. They are essentially records of your payment experiences with vendors and suppliers that are registered with Dun & Bradstreet.
Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX
|Score range||Risk class|
Equifax offers several products related to business credit. You can explore these options on the Equifax website.
- Credit report: A single business credit report for $99.95 or a package of reports for five businesses for $399.95
- Credit risk score: A score that predicts the likelihood of a consumer becoming 90+ days delinquent
- Business failure score: A score that predicts the likelihood that a business will cease operations while owing debt to creditors within the next year due to bankruptcy
- Payment index: A numeric measure of a business’s payment habits
Experian Intelliscore Plus
Experian also lets you check your business credit score and business credit report, although how much you’ll pay depends on the plan you select. You can see your business credit report for as little as $39.95, but you can pay for an annual plan that lets you monitor your business credit reports and score for $189 per year. Experian offers more details on how to get started.
Intelliscore Plus from Experian
|Score range||Risk class||Risk description|
|51-75||2||Low to medium|
|11-25||4||Medium to high|
FICO’s Small Business Score
FICO is one of the most widely used credit scoring models for consumers, and they also offer business credit scores, known as SBSS or Small Business Scoring Service. This score is especially important because the Small Business Administration (SBA) requires lenders to use this score when selecting SBA loan recipients. Most SBA lenders require a minimum SBSS of 160-165.
This scoring model draws on information from your Experian, Dun & Bradstreet and Equifax scores. You can not purchase your SBSS from FICO. Only lenders who are FICO customers can see it.
How to improve your business credit
Improving your business credit involves many of the same steps you would take to boost your personal credit score. If your goal is to have the best business credit score possible, consider the following moves right away:
- Pay your business bills and expenses early or on time. Your payment history will likely impact your business credit score more than anything else. As a result, you should pay all your business expenses and bills early or on time.
- Establish types of business credit that report trades. Also, keep in mind that not all business creditors report trade lines and lines of credit. If you need to start building business credit, applying for a business credit card is a good place to start.
- Use credit regularly and responsibly. Utilize your business credit as much as you can, and know that you’ll slowly build business credit as you borrow money and pay it off on time and on good terms.
- Monitor your business credit score. Just like you’ll want to keep an eye on your personal credit score over time, you should monitor your business credit score for changes and updates.
- Don’t max out your business credit. Experian recommends keeping your credit utilization on business credit cards and other lines of credit below 30 percent for the best results.
The bottom line
Establishing good business credit is immensely important when it comes to building a strong business. As with personal credit scores, business credit scores provide powerful insight into how successful a business is to potential creditors, investors and business partners.
You can stay on top of it by building solid financial habits, starting with choosing the best credit card for your business, regularly monitoring your credit reports and disputing any errors that may appear along the way.