How to understand your business credit score

Building business credit is an essential part of successfully growing your business. Similar to your personal credit score, your business credit score acts as a track record for your business’s financial responsibility. In the event that you apply for a business loan, lenders will use your business credit score to determine the likelihood that you pay them back on time. A higher credit score means more opportunities with other companies, investors and financial organizations. 

Whether you’re bootstrapping your way to success, or your company is well established, it’s critical to establish good credit for your business to qualify for better interest rates, loan terms, and negotiation leverage down the road. 

Who is monitoring my business credit score?

Your business credit score is monitored and calculated differently than your personal score, and each major business credit bureau uses different methods to determine your score. 

Firstly, it’s important to know that business credit scores are rated on different scales compared to your personal score, and not all scales are the same. But like personal scores, the higher the score, the better your business’s payment performance. Here’s a list of the top business credit bureaus and how each calculates business credit scores:

Dun & Bradstreet

Dun & Bradstreet uses PAYDEX, a dollar weighted indicator of a business’s payment performance based on the total number of payment experiences in D&B’s file. The PAYDEX score ranges from one to 100, with a higher score indicating better performance. For example, if your score is between 80-100, your business’s risk interpretation is “LOW risk of late payment,” with averages prompting to 30 days within terms. D&B uses the following factors to build your score:

  • Past payment history
  • Payment trends
  • Up to 875 payment experiences

Your PAYDEX score will reflect your business’s payment history and payment trends with suppliers and vendors that D&B does business with. Each experience represents a different supplier and reflects how timely your bill payments are. This firm collects up to 875 payment experiences to calculate your PAYDEX score. 

Equifax

Equifax compiles financial information on your company to provide an in depth analysis that can help you make better business decisions. This firm uses three main factors to determine the financial viability of your company:

  • Payment Trend and Payment Index – A 12-month payment trend and comparison to your industry’s standards. 
  • Business Credit Risk Score – Predicts the risk of your business incurring a 90-day severe delinquency or charge-off over the next 12 months. 
  • Business Failure Score – Predicts the likelihood of your company failing through formal or informal bankruptcy over the next 12 months. 

Experian

Experian uses Intelliscore Plus, Experian’s credit score model, to calculate a one to 100 percentile risk score. Intelliscore Plus assesses over 800 variables to calculate your score. Some of those factors include:

  • Years in business
  • New lines of credit opened
  • Payment history

FICO

The FICO Small Business Scoring Service (SBSS) calculates the likelihood of your business to make payments on time. This score ranges from 0 to 300, the higher the better. Your business needs a minimum score of 140 to pass, but most lenders set their minimum score at 160. FICO uses the following factors to determine your company’s credit risk:

  • Personal credit history
  • Business credit history
  • Other: Age of business, number of employees, revenue and asset information, etc. 

Checking your business credit report

It’s important to regularly monitor your credit reports to make sure that you’re building healthy credit for your business, because any company can access your business credit reports. That means potential business partners and investors can tap into your financial information at any time before they decide to do business with you. Here’s how to check your business credit report with each credit bureau listed above:

Dun & Bradstreet

Every company that builds a complete credit report with D&B has a D-U-N-S number, which is a 9-digit number that identifies your business. You can get this for free if you don’t have one already. 

Equifax

You can attain a free copy of your business’s Equifax report every 12 months by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You can also create a myEquifax account and enroll in Equifax Core Credit™ for a free monthly Equifax credit report. 

Experian

You can contact www.annualcreditreport.com to get a free annual copy of your Experian credit report. 

FICO

You can check your SBSS score through three different packages:

  • FICO Basic – For $19.95 per month, you receive one Bureau Monitoring Plus a Monthly Credit Report, with updates available monthly. 
  • FICO Advanced – For $29.95 per month, you receive three Bureau Monitoring Plus Quarterly Credit Reports, with updates available every three months. 
  • FICO Premier – For $39.95 per month, you receive three Bureau Monitoring Plus Monthly Credit Reports, with updates available every month. 

Keep your business credit report in tip-top shape

Good credit history is essential for the success of your business and can open doors to endless opportunities. You are much more attractive to other businesses and lenders when your company is financially healthy and stable. Whether you’re in the process of building business credit, trying to correct it, or simply wanting to maintain your score, here are a few tips to help you stay on track:

Establish your business

You can’t effectively establish credit that’s separate from your personal credit information without putting your business on the map. Get a business phone number, open a bank account under your legal business name and obtain an employer identification number to get started. 

Pay your vendors on time, all the time

This may seem like an obvious tip, but if not taken seriously, can severely affect your business credit score. Paying bills to your vendors on time shows that your financially reliable and that your business can effectively manage debt. 

Apply for a business credit card

In order to build a healthy business credit report, you need vendors that can report your payments to the credit bureaus. This is where a business credit card can come in handy, as long as you’re making payments in a timely manner. Some business credit cards even offer benefits and reward programs that are particularly beneficial to you as a business owner.