Your business credit score is a measure of your business’s creditworthiness based on how it has historically handled debt. You’ll need to start by establishing credit that’s tracked by credit bureaus, registering with these bureaus and regularly signing in to view your score.
A good business credit score can help you secure a business credit card or small business loan. Keep reading to learn the basics of a business credit score, including the factors that influence it and the information included in a business credit report.
Business vs. personal credit scores: key differences
Understanding the differences between business and personal credit scores is the first step to properly managing your personal and business credit profiles. A personal credit score measures your individual creditworthiness to determine your ability to repay debts. The score ranges from 300 to 850 and is tied to your Social Security number.
The credit reporting bureaus use your credit history and SSN to assign a score to your creditworthiness using the FICO score algorithm. The FICO score for personal credit considers your payment history, the amount owed and the length of your credit history. Based on these factors, making payments on time is one of the best ways to boost your personal credit.
On the other hand, a business credit score focuses on your business’s ability to meet its financial obligations. It ranges from 0 to 100 and is connected to your Employer Identification Number, a unique number that the IRS uses to identify your business for tax purposes.
Business credit bureaus don’t have a uniform system like FICO for scoring businesses. Instead, they use their proprietary models to assess business credit risk. The bureaus will consider how you pay your business bills, the debt you’re carrying and your industry to determine your credit score for business loans.
Types of business credit scores
You can check your credit score by getting reports from various business credit bureaus. You should note that lenders may consider scores from different bureaus when determining your eligibility for a business loan — so it’s best to check with various credit reporting agencies.
Here are the various types of credit scores for businesses:
Experian’s business credit score is called the Intelliscore Plus, with scores ranging from 0 to 100, and classifies your level of risk as low, medium or high. Your business’s credit score is high-risk if it’s between 1 and 49 and low-risk if it’s between 80 and 100.
With Experian, you’ll get your business credit score, plus insight into other related factors. These include your financial stability risk rating, account histories, payment trends, tax liens and credit summary.
An Equifax business credit report contains comprehensive information about your business, including a credit summary, a company profile, public records details and a risk score. The range for the Equifax credit score is 101 to 992 and evaluates the risk of delinquent payment or business failure. A higher score means lower risk.
The report also includes a payment index score ranging between 1 and 100. This score evaluates your payment history, with a high number of delinquent payments leading to a lower score. Equifax allows you to get a free business credit report, but you must provide proof that you’re applying for business credit. You can also contact Equifax to get a credit report of your competitors.
Dun & Bradstreet
If you want a Dun & Bradstreet business credit report, you must first apply for a DUNS number. DUNS is an acronym for Data Universal Numbering System, a unique nine-digit number used to identify a business. Once you get the number, Dun & Bradstreet will assess your business’s financial health and assign you a Paydex and delinquency predictor score, among other ratings.
Paydex evaluates your business’s performance on past payments and scores it on a scale of 1 to 100. A score of 80 or above indicates a low risk of payment failure, which will increase your credibility with lenders when applying for a business loan.
If you’re wondering how to check your business credit score for free, Dun & Bradstreet will provide a business credit report at no cost. The free report will show your four scores, including Paydex and delinquency predictor scores. You’ll also get free business credit inquiries and alerts if your score changes.
Business failure score
Some business credit bureaus, like Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet, provide a credit score that evaluates the risk of your business filing for bankruptcy or closing. This is referred to as the business failure score.
For instance, Dun & Bradstreet assigns failure scores on a scale of 1,001 to 1,875. These scores are broken down into ranges based on failure percentile and failure classes ranging from 1 to 5. A low score of 1 indicates that your business will likely face financial stress and fail in the next 12 months.
FICO Small Business Scoring Service (SBSS) credit score
The SBSS scoring tool is designed to evaluate the creditworthiness of small businesses in particular. Business credit card issuers, banks and other lenders can use the FICO SBSS score to decide whether to lend to small businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) requires lenders to use the score to screen borrowers who apply for SBA loans.
SBSS credit scores range from 0 to 300. Higher scores indicate good credit and lower scores suggest that you may have difficulty obtaining credit or financing.
Factors that influence a business credit score
Various factors influence a business credit score. Understanding these factors can help you build an excellent credit profile and make qualifying for loans or credit easier. Here’s a breakdown of the key factors that influence a business credit score:
Age of accounts
The age of an account refers to how long your business credit account has remained open. The length of time you have held accounts open on the credit report serves to verify your business’s reliability from both a financial and operational perspective.
An older account assures lenders and creditors that your business is reliable and consistent with repayments. It suggests that your company has positive trade relationships with suppliers and vendors, which builds trust with lenders considering your business for a loan or other credit.
On the other hand, newer accounts could make your business appear risky to creditors, as there isn’t enough historical data to draw conclusions from. Because of this perception, a newer account can negatively impact your overall business credit score.
Your payment history is an essential aspect of your business credit score. It indicates your reliability as a borrower and includes data from late payments, collection accounts and public records like bankruptcies or court judgments.
Because your payment history is such a strong indication of your ability to handle debt responsibly, it’s also a significant factor impacting your business credit score.
If you consistently make late payments on invoices, debts and loans, your business credit score will be poor. Your score will also be negatively impacted if your accounts are delinquent or if you keep defaulting payments. The more prompt and consistent your payments, the higher your business’s credit score will be.
Debt amount and usage
The amount of debt your business carries significantly impacts its credit score, as this number paints a picture of your capacity to pay off your major liabilities. Too much debt can suggest an increasing need for additional capital, damaging your ability to access loans.
A high debt amount also means you’re required to make high monthly payments, which can make it difficult to meet your financial obligations on time. This can lead lenders to believe your business won’t be able to pay back borrowed money in full, thereby lowering your credit score.
Debt usage refers to credit utilization, the ratio of credit used to credit available. Lenders like to see responsible credit utilization, as it demonstrates the company isn’t overextending itself financially or using too much credit. If you want a higher business credit score, ensure that your company’s credit usage remains under 30%.
What information is included on a business credit report?
Credit reporting agencies have separate data collection and verification processes, but credit reports contain pretty standard information across bureaus. Your business credit report will include the following:
- Company information or business profile: This section contains details like your business’s name, incorporation details, ownership and number of employees.
- Financial data: The financial data portion of your business credit report includes your financial statement and data from your sales report.
- Payment history: The section shows your invoice activity, payment terms, credit limits and outstanding balances. It includes your payment patterns and credit trends from vendors and creditors.
- Public records: This section lists your Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings, collections, bankruptcies, tax liens and legal filings related to your business.
- Business credit score: Just like your personal credit report, a business credit report shows your credit score, indicating your business’s level of credit risk. This score indicates your creditworthiness and is determined based on the details above.
How to build your business’s credit history
Building your business’s credit history doesn’t happen all at once — it requires time, effort and commitment. Here are some practical tips you can use to start building your credit profile.
Strategically utilize business credit cards
A crucial part of building a strong credit history is strategically utilizing your business credit cards. Like personal credit cards, business credit cards have a recommended usage to ensure you improve your credit score. Issuers suggest you don’t use more than 30% of your credit limit.
Staying within this range shows lenders you’re financially responsible and can meet your monthly debt obligations. One way to ensure your business’s credit utilization remains low is only purchasing items that are beneficial to your business and can help you make more money. For example, you might use credit cards to purchase equipment or supplies necessary for operating your business.
Make on-time payments
Your business’s payment history is crucial to building your business credit. Healthy credit starts with simple practices like paying your business bills on time and in full. Timely payments demonstrate responsibility and establish trustworthiness with creditors, suppliers and other organizations.
Making payments early can help your business credit history even more. For example, bureaus like Dun & Bradstreet will assign you a perfect Paydex score if you make early payments. A business checking account can make paying your business’s bills, taxes and supplier invoices more manageable.
Only work with companies that report to major credit bureaus
Making timely loan payments can help you boost your business credit score if the lender reports payments to the major credit bureaus. However, not all lenders do this. Likewise, not all vendors or suppliers report credit payment history to business credit reporting agencies.
To build your small business loan credit score, ensure that you work with lenders and vendors that report business credit to these bureaus. Online business lenders like Bluevine, LendingClub and Funding Circle are typically more accessible to small business owners and generally report to credit bureaus.
Stay on top of your business’s financial health
Knowing how to check your business credit score is important to build your credit, maintain good credit health and stay in control of your finances. For that reason, it’s essential to understand what factors credit bureaus consider when assessing creditworthiness.
A good credit score shows vendors and lenders your business is financially stable and capable of making debt payments. Utilizing business credit cards responsibly, making timely payments and only working with vendors that report credit are some of the best ways to build your business credit score and your business’s financial reputation.