Guide to business credit scores
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Whether you’re in the early stages of a startup or have a well-established business, a good business credit score is crucial for gaining the funding your company needs to grow.
In this guide, we'll explain how business credit scores work, what they're used for, and what measures you can take to improve your score.
What is a business credit score?
A business credit score is a numerical rating of a business's creditworthiness, based on its credit history. This score reveals the financial health of a company. It tells lenders how much financial risk they'd take on by giving you a loan and how likely you are to make timely payments. The higher your business credit score is, the easier it'll be for you to get business loans.
Your business credit score is accessible to vendors, lenders, and anyone else considering doing business with you. If it’s low, you’ll be deemed a high-risk company一making it difficult to build relationships and grow your business.
Business credit scores aren’t limited to larger businesses with employees. Sole proprietorships and single-person LLCs can have credit scores as well. To do so, you'll just need to obtain a business license and register a “Doing Business As” (DBA) name with your state. Credit reporting agencies will receive this information and begin tracking the credit of your business.
Business vs. personal credit scores
Just like your personal credit score measures your individual creditworthiness, your business credit score measures the creditworthiness of your business. However, there are some key differences between the two scores:
- Range: A personal credit score typically ranges from 300 to 850. Business credit scores usually range from 0 to 100.
- Employer Identification Number (EIN) vs. Social Security number: Personal credit scores are linked to your Social Security number. Business credit scores are tied to an EIN. You’ll need to first register your business to get an EIN.
- Standardization: Consumer credit bureaus use the FICO algorithm to determine your personal credit scores. Business credit score algorithms vary between credit bureaus.
- Rating agencies: You can get free personal credit scores at least once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Conversely, you’ll need to pay to see your business credit score. You can use the three major business credit bureaus: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian.
- Privacy/access: Only you and a few other parties have access to your personal credit score. With business credit scores, the information is publicly accessible to those who pay for access. This can include potential lenders, suppliers, business partners, or even competitors.
The main difference between business and personal credit scores is how they're calculated. Business credit scores are calculated using multiple factors:
- Trade credit transactions: A significant component of a business credit score is its history with trade credit. This includes details such as payment history with suppliers and vendors, and how consistently the business meets its trade obligations.
- Public records and legal filings: Business credit scores often incorporate information from public records, such as bankruptcies, liens, and judgments. These elements can have a substantial impact on a business’s credit score.
- Company size and industry risk: The size of the business and the industry it operates in are also considered. Certain industries may be deemed riskier than others, and larger businesses might have different credit capacities compared to smaller ones.
- Credit utilization and financial health: Business scores look at how much credit the business is using relative to what’s available, similar to personal credit scores. However, they also consider the broader financial health of the business, including revenues and assets.
On the other hand, personal credit scores are calculated using the following factors:
- Payment history: The most significant factor in personal credit scoring is payment history. This includes the timeliness of credit card, loan, and mortgage payments.
- Credit utilization ratio: This measures how much of the available credit is being used. High utilization can negatively impact personal credit scores.
- Length of credit history: Personal credit scores factor in the length of time each credit account has been open and the average age of all accounts.
- Credit mix: This refers to the variety of credit types an individual has, including credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and auto loans. A diverse mix can positively impact the score.
- New credit and inquiries: The number of new credit accounts and hard inquiries into an individual’s credit report can affect their score. Opening many new accounts in a short time may negatively impact the score.
How to run a business credit check
So, how can you run a credit check for your business? There are two options for checking the financial status of your business: free and paid.
To check your business credit score with Dun & Bradstreet, you’ll need a DUNS number. It’s free, but it can take up to 30 days to receive. Once you have it, they’ll assign you a Paydex score, a delinquency score, a business failure score, and other information about the financial health of your business.
The Paydex score ranges from 0–100, and it evaluates payment history. The delinquency score is from 101–607 and estimates the likelihood of your business making late payments. If your score is high, it means your business is low risk.
The business failure score ranges from 1,001–1,875 and predicts the chances of a business shutting down or declaring bankruptcy in the next 12 months. A low failure score means your business is viewed as a higher risk.
Dun & Bradstreet’s Credit Signal package lets you check your credit score for free, but you'll need to pay for additional ratings or information.
Experian offers a business credit score report package that starts at $39.95 per report. The main factors of the report are your business credit score and financial stability risk rating.
Their business credit scores ranges from 1–100, and Experian considers your payment behavior. It also considers delinquent accounts and the number of accounts you have with payment terms beyond net-30 days.
The financial stability risk rating looks at the probability of payment defaults or bankruptcy in the next 12 months. This rating is from 1–5. A lower score means that your business is a low risk for potential lenders.
Along with its standard Credit Score report, Experian offers a Business Credit Advantage package for $189 per year. You’ll get unlimited access to your financial information, additional analysis, and alerts.
Similar to Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax’s business credit report also includes multiple scores to assess your business. They provide a credit risk, failure risk, and payment index score.
The credit risk score ranges from 101–992 and assesses the chances of delinquency or business failure. The higher your score, the less risk your business poses. Payment index scores range from 1–100 and evaluate payment history. The failure risk score runs from 1,000 to 1,880 and predicts the likelihood that your business will shut down in the next 12 months.
Equifax doesn’t publish its pricing on its website. You’ll need to contact them to purchase a business report for yourself or another company.
What is a good business credit score range?
Business credit scores vary depending on the business credit reporting agencies. In general, a score above 75 is looked at favorably.
To understand the business credit score spectrum, let’s look at the Dun & Bradstreet Paydex scoring system:
- Paydex range 80–100: A score of 100 means that all your payments go through before their due date. A score of 80 reveals your payments are on time. This is considered good credit.
- Paydex range 50–79: A score of 70 shows that your payments often come 15 days late. A score of 50 is given to businesses that tend to pay 30 days late. This is considered fair credit.
- Paydex range 0–49: Scoring 40 or less means that you make payments 60 days past the due date. This is a bad credit score.
If you want to know what scores are considered “good,” you’ll need to know which credit bureaus your desired lenders or vendors are working with. In the meantime, here’s a brief breakdown of good business credit scores from popular reporting agencies:
- Dun & Bradstreet: 80–100
- Experian: 76–100
- FICO SBSS: 140–300
- Equifax: 75–100
How is your business credit score used?
Lenders use your business credit score to evaluate whether they can offer you a business loan. Your business credit score also impacts your interest rate and the size of the loan you’ll receive.
Business credit scores help lenders understand the creditworthiness of your business. A higher credit score indicates that your business makes timely payments to vendors and other lenders, has a relatively low credit utilization ratio, and consistent revenues. Ultimately, lenders rely on your business credit score to determine how likely you are to repay your business loan.
How your credit score will affect business operations
For business owners, a good business credit score can result in increased opportunities, easier access to financing, and lower insurance rates. But what if your business score is on the lower end of the spectrum? What problems can you expect to run into?
Here’s how a bad credit score can negatively affect business operations:
- Difficulty securing new loans: A bad business credit score makes it harder for your business to secure favorable terms on new loans.
- Impacts vendor relationships: New vendors are usually reluctant to work with a business with bad credit.
- Expensive utility costs: Your bad credit could cause you to pay higher utility costs.
- Higher interest rates: Poor business credit means higher interest rates for loans.
- Expensive insurance premiums: Insurance companies view low business credit scores as evidence of poor business dealings. They’ll increase your premiums to protect themselves when providing you with coverage.
What does a new business credit score start at?
Unlike personal credit scores which often start from the lowest possible score, business credit scores may start from around the midpoint.
For Dun & Bradstreet’s PAYDEX score, one of the most commonly used business credit scores, a business usually needs to have at least three trade references reporting to D&B to generate a score. The starting point for a new business could be around the middle if there's limited credit history.
Experian and Equifax, other major business credit bureaus, also have their own scoring models with different scales and criteria. A new business might not have a score at all until it has enough credit history.
6 ways a small business can improve its business credit score
At the start, you might find it hard to build business credit. A low business credit score can be discouraging if you made some financial mistakes early on. Even so, your business can still improve its finances.
Let’s explore six ways you can increase your small business credit score and prove your creditworthiness to finance providers.
- Avoid closing accounts: Credit bureaus factor your business credit history into your credit score, so don’t rush to close accounts. Even if you don’t use them often, leave them open to contribute to the growth.
- Pay your bills on time: Working to pay your bills on time is the best thing you can do to improve your credit score. Making regular payments proves that you’re not a risk to lenders and vendors.
- Pay off balances: Paying off balances works to decrease your credit utilization ratio. If you can’t pay them off completely, try getting them as low as possible.
- Increase your credit limit: Increasing your credit limit lowers your credit utilization ratio, and will help improve your credit score.
- Open a separate business bank account: Instead of using a personal card for business purposes, open a separate business bank account. Only use money from this account to pay off debts.
- Maintain lines of trade credit: Credit extended by suppliers and vendors is crucial to financing your business. Building successful relationships with these vendors and suppliers by paying on time will help you maintain a good credit score.
How Ramp can help startups manage their credit with finance automation
It’s not enough for your startup to simply secure lines of credit—you need help managing and controlling spending. If you're looking for a way to build credit while saving time and money, Ramp can help.
Instead of leaving your business open to surprise charges and untracked spending, Ramp provides startups with advanced spend controls. Control spending before it happens by setting limits that are automatically enforced as employees use their cards.
Save time and money with AI-powered savings insights to find areas where you can cut back and reduce spending. Real-time expense reporting allows you to monitor company spending trends and take action to save money. Ramp ensures that business resources are used to give your business a solid foundation to grow and thrive.
Ramp reports to the major business credit reporting agencies. Every purchase you make with Ramp’s corporate card helps you build your credit and foster good relationships with vendors and suppliers.
To see how Ramp can benefit your startup, try it out for yourself with this product demo.
In general, business scores run from 0 to 100. Small business lenders prefer companies to have a business credit score of 75 or higher. However, local or smaller lenders may consider businesses with a credit score of less than 75.
Yes, it does. If your business is registered with the state, credit reporting agencies can get this information from the state and begin tracking your business's credit.
A credit report is a compilation of your business credit history. This includes your past and current credit activity, lines of credit, and payment history. Your credit scores are determined based on the information in your credit report.