Business Credit Reports: How Your Experian, Equifax, and D&B Scores Are Used
You know the importance of staying on top of your personal credit score. You’re constantly reminded how a good credit score can help your finances — and how a bad one can harm it.
What about your business credit score?
Well, businesses should be just as interested in their credit score as individuals are in their personal credit. This number can seriously impact the finances of a business.
Of course, personal credit scores and business scores are calculated a little differently.
This article will outline the differences.
If you are a business owner, knowing your business credit score can be very helpful. It will tell you where your business is succeeding and where it needs improvement.
We’ll not only discuss how your business credit score is calculated, but we’ll also talk about the three big business credit report agencies and the steps that you can take to improve your business credit score.
Personal Credit vs. Business Credit
Here are some of the main differences between personal and commercial credit scores:
Credit Score Ranges
The score range for a personal credit score starts at 300 as the lowest and can climb up to 850. Most lenders want to see a credit score of 650 or above to approve a loan.
Two of the three primary business credit reporting agencies (D&B and Experian) rate scores on a scale from 1 to 100. Equifax’s scale ranges from 101 to 992
Most lenders want to see a score of at least 75 from a business to grant them credit.
Another big difference between personal and business credit is who has access to the information on these reports.
Access to a personal credit report is restricted under federal law to those with “permissible purpose.” You need to sign a form allowing an entity — banks, potential employers, landlords, etc. — to gain access to your personal credit report.
On the other hand, business credit reports are not private. Anyone who wants to learn the credit scores of a business must simply pay a one-time fee to gain access.
Both Experian and Equifax track personal and business credit.
Dun & Bradstreet is known as a top business credit reporting agency, but they do not offer personal credit monitoring.
TransUnion, on the other hand, monitors personal credit monitoring but does not monitor business credit.
As a small business owner, your personal credit score and your business credit score can be very different.
However, if you are a sole proprietor, your business credit score and personal credit score may be the same. We’ll talk more about that later in this article.
What Factors Determine Your Score?
The factors that determine a business credit score vary depending on the agency doing the calculations.
Of course, many factors are used by all three reporting agencies, but some place a higher value on different factors.
Some of these factors will look familiar since they are also used for your personal credit reports.
As to be expected, your business’s payment history is taken into account when determining a credit score.
This would include how many payments were made on time and how many were or are delinquent. Late payments will have a negative effect on your business credit score.
This is also true of the payments made to your vendors and suppliers. They may report your payment history to credit reporting agencies, so it’s important to prioritize these payments.
Age of Credit
Along with the expediency of your payments, the age of your credit plays a part in your credit score.
How long has your oldest account been active?
This can work against newly established businesses, but if you keep your credit lines open and let time pass, your score will increase.
Similar to a personal credit score, the amount of credit used by your business can affect its credit score.
Your credit utilization rate is the percentage of credit you’ve used versus the amount you have left available.
For example, if you have a $50,000 line of credit and you have used $25,000 of that, your credit utilization rate is 50%.
If you have multiple loans and credit cards, each will have its own credit utilization percentage. Your total credit utilization rate would be the average of each of those.
One factor that is unique to business credit is the type and size of the business itself.
As unfair as it may seem, some business types are just more of a risk to lenders.
Banks look at your SIC code, or Standard Industrial Classification code, to determine your industry risk factor. You are assigned this four-digit code by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
This article can help you better understand how your SIC affects your creditworthiness and shares a list of industries considered high risk.
How Is Your Business Credit Score Used?
Banks will use your score to determine eligibility for loans. Your score will affect both the loan amount and terms.
Those with higher scores will see several benefits:
- Higher acceptance rate
- Higher loan offers
- Better terms (interest rates, length of repayment, etc.)
In other words, a strong credit score helps to create more opportunities for your business to expand and grow. A good score improves your odds of landing business partners, investors, and capital.
The Big Three Business Credit Reporting Agencies
Each of the three business credit bureaus use a slightly different approach to their credit calculations.
Below, we outline the key differences of each agency.
1. Dun & Bradstreet
Dun & Bradstreet is the biggest and most popular business credit reporting agency. Their credit reporting program is called PAYDEX.
One thing that sets this agency apart is that they accept direct reporting from non-financial institutions. This means that your vendor payment history can impact your credit information.
Your D&B Rating or PAYDEX Score
Your D&B credit report will include two separate sections:
- Financial strength: This is determined by the history and size of your company and the amount of money generated by your company.
- Composite credit appraisal: D&B uses your payment history, number of employees, financial statements, and public records to assign you a score between 1 and 4 (1 being the best).
D&B’s CreditSignal is a product they offer that allows you to track changes to your credit scores for up to four businesses.
Experian’s Intelliscore Plus is their business credit monitoring product. They give a score between 1 and 100. This credit monitoring system is the most similar to personal credit rating.
It uses around 800 factors, but the top five are as follows:
- Remaining credit ratio
- Number of active commercial accounts
- Business type and size
Equifax’s scoring method is slightly different from the methods used by the two companies above.
Their Commercial Insights Delinquency Risk Score ranges from 101 to 992.
Here are the key factors that affect your Equifax credit profile:
- Age of your oldest commercial account
- Credit utilization ratio
- Company size
- Delinquent payments
Note: Your FICO Score Is Important, Too
Another credit monitoring system that shouldn’t be forgotten is FICO’s Liquid Credit Small Business Scoring Service.
Although this score is solely used by the SBA for their own business loan approval process, knowing this score is helpful for small businesses.
The SBA offers some of the best small business loans on the market. Even though the application process is lengthy, the terms of the loans are worth the extra effort.
FICO scores range from 0 to 300, with a higher score being better. Unlike the other three business credit monitors, this system uses both personal and business credit to determine your score.
The SBA uses this score to set a credit limit recommendation and other loan terms.
The most important factor in your score is on-time payments and long-held accounts. But, the score also uses these factors to determine your credit risk assessment:
Improving Your Business Credit Score
Now that you know how important your business credit score is to your company’s success, let’s talk about the steps you can take to improve your score.
Establishing Credit for a New Company
If you are a new business, there are some key steps you should take to build business credit.
1. Separate Personal and Business
To begin establishing credit for your business, you need to delineate your business as a separate entity from yourself.
It is also helpful to get a listed business phone number and to set up a Google My Business with this number.
2. Register for a DUNS Number
In order to give lenders access to your credit history, you need to get a DUNS number for your business. This is done through the D&B website.
3. Register for an EIN (Employer Identification Number)
Another important number that your business must have is an EIN. You should already have one of these if you have been paying taxes and you are an LLC or corporation.
If not, you can register for one here.
4. Open a Business Bank Account
Don’t use your personal account as your business account. Open a new account for your business and keep the expenses separate.
This helps to solidify the business as a separate entity.
5. Get Business Credit Cards
Paying a credit card bill on time will help to jumpstart your business credit.
Increasing Your Credit Score for an Existing Business
If you’ve been in a business for a few years and just recently found out that your business credit scores are low, you can take some steps to rectify this as well.
1. Check Your Credit Report
You can’t fix bad credit without knowing what is on your credit report. You should purchase a copy of your business’s credit report from all three credit reporting agencies (and FICO if desired).
Review the information carefully and dispute any mistakes you see. It is not uncommon for credit reports to have some errors.
It can also help to submit any missing or outdated information. This can be done by contacting the individual agencies.
2. Make Early Payments
On-time payments are good, but early payments are even better.
Whatever you do, don’t make late payments as they will reflect poorly on your scores and make it look like you are in financial distress.
3. Request Trade References
References can help. Ask a business associate to submit information to D&B about your financial status with them. This will increase your D&B PAYDEX score.
Just as your personal credit score can affect your personal financial stability, a business credit score reveals much about how well your business manages its money.
Keep in mind that there are some other factors a lender might take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend you a loan:
- Net worth
But, your credit history is almost always going to be a factor in the outcome of a loan application.
When your business’s credit scores are low, financial entities may consider doing business with you too risky.
It is certainly in your business’s best interest to establish and strengthen its credit.
Your score is more than just a number – it can have a big impact on the growth opportunities available to your business.
And remember — if you’re looking for cash flow to help you grow your business, Now can help you turn your unpaid invoices into working capital.