How to check a small business's credit report
By Elaine Pofeldt | Published: December 12, 2016
Your Business Credit
Dear Your Business Credit,
How do I check my credit report for my small business? – Dena
I’m really glad you’re asking this question. Your business credit can be a very valuable asset. If your credit is good, it will give other businesses the confidence to work with you. It will also affect the interest rate that lenders will give you when you apply for a loan. A high business credit score may qualify you for better interest rates on both small business loans and credit cards.
So how do you check your business’s credit? I would recommend that you look up both your personal credit reports and scores as well as those of your business, because both influence your access to business loans. Small business owners must often personally guarantee loans and credit cards they take out for their companies.
To check your personal credit score from the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax), go to MyFICO.com or use the credit check tool on our website, where you view your VantageScore and get a free TransUnion credit report. To get the other two credit reports for free, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. If there are any major dings on your personal credit reports, you will likely need to do some credit repair before you can get a business loan or a credit card at an attractive interest rate.
Once you have a handle on your personal credit, I’d move on to checking your business credit reports and scores. Experian, Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet are the bureaus for business credit reports, and you should know what your report looks like with all three bureaus. To find out if your business is listed with Experian, Equifax or D&B, use the free searches on their sites. However, unlike your personal credit report which you can access for free annually, you'll need to pay for access to your business's credit information. The cost is worth it though, as you'll want to know if your report contains any fraudulent transactions that could hurt your business in the future.
Your business credit score is calculated differently from your personal credit score, and ranges between 0 or 1 and 100. The three business bureaus calculate your credit score differently, taking into account a multitude of factors, including how long you've been in business and your credit utilization and lines of credit you've opened up in the last six months.
What if your business isn’t listed with these credit bureaus? You can get on the radar screen of the major credit bureaus by taking steps to formalize your business. For instance, open a business bank account, instead of using your personal bank account to do business. Get a federal tax ID (TIN), which the credit bureaus use to identify businesses. To get listed with D&B, apply for a free nine-digit DUNS number through the site. If you have established trade credit with other businesses, ask them to report your timely payments to credit bureaus. Having a business credit card will also contribute to your business credit score.
Once you have a business credit score, nurture it with the same care you give to your most important customer relationships. The way to do that is simple: Pay your bills on time.
If you are running a newer small business or one that is in a growth phase, it may be tempting to max out your credit cards to make investments in your business. That can be dangerous. Sales may not roll in as quickly as you think, and if your minimum payments are high, you might fall behind.
Look for creative ways to keep your budget in check, such as renting space in a co-working facility instead of your own office, so you have some cash reserves and can fund some of your growth out of cash flow. Also make sure you get invoices out early and keep up with collecting on them.
It’s not easy to stay on top of details like these, but if you run a tight ship financially, you’ll keep your business in good financial shape. When your business is healthy, a high credit score will naturally flow out of that. Good luck!
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