As a small business owner, you likely have many competing goals for your startup, including hitting certain revenue targets, securing the best possible team, and building awareness in the marketplace. Here’s another important goal that may not be on your list: building your business credit. It’s a task that’s even more vital right now, amid an uncertain economy that could veer into a recession.
Building business credit is one of the most important steps a startup or SMB can take to get their business on a path toward financial security. And it’s an important task to focus on early on, since new businesses typically have no credit history at all for lenders to evaluate.
If you can establish good business credit, you’ll have an easier time obtaining a business loan if your business needs require one later. Good business credit can also save you money by unlocking lower interest rates and even lower insurance premiums. Having good credit can also give you access to alternative forms of financing, such as accounts receivable financing or invoice discounting.
While some businesses can operate without credit, most startups need access to capital at some point in order to maintain their cash flow to support ongoing operations. But how do you get started building business credit? One easy way is to start using net-30 accounts.
What follows is a comprehensive guide to understanding how establishing trade lines with net-30 vendors can help you build your credit.
What are net-30 accounts?
Net-30 accounts, also known as trade credit or vendor lines of credit, are accounts in which vendors allow their clients to pay in full 30 calendar days (including weekends and holidays) after the date of the invoice. So, for example, if an invoice has a due date of March 1, you would have until March 31 to pay it in full without incurring interest or late fees. That said, some net-30 accounts charge an annual fee for the credit line.
As long as the vendor reports to small business ratings agencies, (the top three are Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax Small business, and Experian Business), your on-time payments will build up your credit score. Net-30 accounts may also make it easier for your company to budget variable expenses, since rather than paying upfront, you’ll know 30 days before bills are due how much they’ll cost your company.
Most vendors require that the business be operating for at least 30 days and the applicant have at least a 25% ownership stake. They also may have a minimum dollar amount for orders on which they’ll extend credit and others may require a deposit for new customers.
Typically, you’ll need to fill out an online application form that asks for information such as your name and business name, employer identification number and location. Some vendors also require that you have a DUNS number, a nine-digit ID from Dun & Bradstreet that you can request through the rating agency. One thing to keep in mind is that the amount of credit extended may be limited at the start of the relationship.
What to look for in a net-30 vendor?
When choosing a net-30 vendor, it’s important to make sure that they report your payments to one of all of the small business ratings agencies. However, it’s also important to choose vendor accounts that offer a product or service that makes sense for your business, and that does so at a competitive price.
Just as you can negotiate with vendors on price, you may also be able to negotiate other payment terms, including the length of time you have to pay invoices, as part of the procurement process. Keep in mind that some vendors charge a fee for a net-30 credit application, so you’ll need to determine whether the benefit of opening that account is worth the cost.
12 best net-30 account vendors for new businesses
There are many net-30 vendors with which your company can choose to work. Here’s a look at several of the best vendors offering net-30 terms that allow you to make a purchase now and pay for it 30 days after receiving the invoice without accruing any interest.
Newegg Business offers a Net 30 Credit Line to companies purchasing computers and other IT equipment. It can take five to 10 business days for the company to process your application.
Looking for company swag? You can purchase t-shirts, jackets, and accessories with net-30 terms. Simply fill out the online application for net-30 terms.
Summa Office Supplies
Clients of Summa Office Supplies can get net-30 terms for items like pens, notebooks, and tape. Once you’ve activated your account, click on the button that says “Bill My Net-30 Terms Account” at checkout.
Uline, a family-owned business selling industrial and packing materials, makes it easy for new customers to get net-30 credit by using the customer number on the back of their catalog. If the company needs further information, a credit agent will reach out to you.
Customers who place an online order for at least $100 of office products can request net-30 terms at checkout. Quill will run a credit check on your business, typically completed within 24 hours.
Crown Office Supplies
Crown Office Supplies is another office supply vendor that provides net-30 terms to qualified customers, including new businesses. Apply for a net-30 account on the company’s website.
To qualify for a net-30 account at Office Garner, your business must be at least 30 days old. You can use the account to pay for traditional office supplies in addition to electronics or services like Web site design.
The CEO Creative
This site sells a variety of office supplies and services, including printed products like business cards and brochures. You can apply for a net-30 account on the website.
You can find office décor, such as desk accessories and furniture accents at JJ Gold International. The company has approved more than 25,000 customers for net-30 accounts. To qualify, your order must be worth more than $80, and new customers must make a deposit of 50% of their order.
Strategic Network Solutions
While many of the vendors on this list sell goods, you can also get net-30 terms for service providers as well. Strategic Network Solutions provides net-30 terms for up to $2,000 in credit for IT and services such as endpoint security and business continuity assistance.
With this company, you can get net-30 terms for digital marketing services, such as content strategy or site search engine optimization (SEO). The verification process takes three to five days.
JAM Industrial Supply
You can get net-30 terms from JAM Industrial supply for purchases of wide range of business products, from office cleaning supplies to health and safety equipment. To apply, you’ll need to download and print out an application and send it back to the company for approval.
Alternative ways for small businesses to build credit
Maintaining good credit can give your business a competitive advantage, one that could be especially important amid a potential economic downturn. By contrast, having poor credit could ultimately end up costing your company money over time, due to higher interest rates.
Business credit reporting agencies typically use a scale of 0-100 to rate companies, with higher scores indicating better creditworthiness, according to their scoring models. Dun & Bradstreet’s approach, for example, assigns a “Paydex” score that looks at factors such as on-time payments and debts in collections.
Net-30 accounts are one way that small businesses can build a credit profile, but it’s not the only way to do so. Adhering to the following best practice can also help improve your rating with business credit bureaus.
Pay bills on time
Having net-30 accounts is just the first step in using them to build your credit profile. You also need to always pay your invoices from those vendors on time—or early. Some companies offer terms that provide a discount of 5% or more off the bill if you pay early.
Keep in mind that just as on-time payments for net-30 vendors can improve your company credit score, missed or late payments can have the opposite effect, pulling down your credit score and potentially making it harder or more expensive for you to borrow money in the future. You may also owe late fees to vendors when you fail to pay invoices by their due date.
One way to make sure that your invoices always get paid on time is to use an automated bill pay platform, such as the one Ramp offers, which can minimize the chance the bills fall through the cracks. Ramp Bill Pay automates every part of the accounts payable (AP) team and offers features like one-click bill creation that automatically extracts relevant details and automatic detection of duplicate invoices.
Automating your bill payment can also free up your AP team for more high-value tasks like transitioning clients to digital invoicing or looking for ways to more efficiently manage your company’s finances.
Monitor your credit reports
Just as it’s important to check your personal credit score at least once a year for mistakes or signs of fraudulent activity, as a business owner you should also make a habit of regularly checking your business credit reports. You can order your business credit reports directly from the three credit reports for a fee.
If you’re a very early-stage startup, your business credit may be tied to your personal credit, so it’s important to make sure that you’re monitoring your personal credit reports and taking steps to buoy your personal credit score as well.
(Note: Ramp does not use personal credit checks or personal founder guarantees as determining factors in underwriting.)
Use a corporate card
In addition to making it easier for you to separate business and personal finances and put spending controls in place, having a corporate credit card is an important step to building business credit.
Applying for a card will typically trigger a credit search, which can impact your business credit score, but over the long-term, regular, on-time payments on a corporate card will boost your company’s credit rating. Remember that if you use a personal card for business purchases, your payments on that card will not go toward building your company credit.
Look for a card that makes it easy (or even automatic) for employees to submit their receipts and get quickly reimbursed for their expenses, provides cash back rewards that you can put back into your business, and makes it easy to implement embedded spend controls.
Opting for a charge card rather than a credit card means you don’t have to worry about how carrying a balance or a utilization ratio will impact your credit score. As with net-30 vendors, you’ll want a card that reports to the major business credit rating agencies.
Be in control of business spending
This is particularly important right now, as the economy appears to be cooling down. By managing your spending to keep your costs down, improve your bottom line, and reduce the amount of credit that your company need and improve its credit profile over time.
Two easy ways to reduce unnecessary spending are cutting back on zombie spends (small, forgotten expenses like subscriptions and recurring memberships) and maverick spend (spending that doesn’t follow business and procurement processes).
Learn more about how Ramp can help you build your company’s credit score by saving your company time and money.