Key takeaways

  • A business credit score is like your personal credit score, only it applies to the financial health of your businesses.
  • Business credit scores help separate your personal and business finances, lower insurance rates and make business financing more accessible.
  • Business credit scores are determined by payment history, age of credit history, debt, industry risk, company size and other factors.

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 for your business. Just as with your personal credit score, a higher business credit score tells these 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 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 such company details as 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 may notice 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 several ways:

  • Personal finances are kept 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 used to offset any financial issues with your business.
  • Access to financing is easier. A good business credit score can help you take out business loans at lower interest 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. A good business credit score may help your business attract low rates.

Differences between personal and business credit scores

There are plenty of differences between your personal credit score and your business credit score.

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, 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 your business’s payment history, age of credit history, debt and debt usage, industry risk and company size.

Personal credit scores are determined using your personal payment history, amount of debt relative to total available credit, 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 Employer Identification Number — or EIN. This helps you keep your personal financial information private while you build and maintain your business credit score. You must legally register your business 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 see a higher score if you’ve been around longer. Debt and debt usage are also considered as part of your 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 considered is your payment history.

A few platforms allow you to check your business credit score, including credit reporting agencies Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian. You will need to pay a fee for unlimited access and monitoring, however, free options are available for access.

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 the highest business credit score possible, consider the following moves:

  • Pay your business bills and expenses on time. Your payment history affects your business credit score more than any other factor, which means you’ll want to prioritize paying your bills early or on time.
  • Establish business credit reported to reporting agencies. Not all business creditors report trades and lines of credit. To start building business credit, applying for a business credit card is a good place to start.
  • Use credit regularly and responsibly. Use 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 as you keep an eye on your personal credit score over time, you should monitor your business credit score for changes and updates, reporting any errors you spot to the appropriate bureau or creditor.
  • 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 your personal credit score, your business credit score provides 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 arise along the way.