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Business credit scores: What they are and how they work

Keeping a healthy business credit score can help your business get access to credit in the best possible terms. Here’s everything you should know

Summary

Business credit scores are not the same as personal credit scores, but they can measure your business’s creditworthiness. Read on to learn the components of business scores, how to access them and how to keep yours in good shape

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No matter your business, good credit can be essential to its short- and long-term success.

There are several similarities, but business credit scores and personal credit scores aren’t the same thing and it’s important to know the difference. If you’re just starting out with building credit or are hoping to improve your business’s credit rating, this guide covers all you’ll need to know about business credit scores.

See related: Best business credit cards

What is a business credit score?

A business credit score is a number that represents the creditworthiness of a business, contingent on several factors.

At first glance, that sounds a lot like personal credit scores, but they aren’t exactly alike.

“Business credit and personal credit are both measures of creditworthiness, but business credit is based on a business’s financial history, whereas personal credit is based on an individual’s spending and debt history,” says Jeffrey Bumbales, director of marketing and strategic partnerships at Credibly.

Business credit scores can influence a business’s reputation and represent the likelihood of your business defaulting on a payment. Similar to personal credit scores, there are several scoring models you can use to measure your business’s credit health. These business services, however, each have their own method of determining a business’s score, including significantly different score ranges:

ServiceScore Range
Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX Score0-100
Equifax Business Credit Risk Score101-992
Experian Intelliscore Plus0-100
FICO SBSS Score0 to 300

Personal credit scores, which typically range from 300 to 850, are measured on a different scale from the business models. In all cases – both personal and within the four business scoring models – a higher score correlates to a lower risk in lenders’ eyes.

What factors make up business credit scores?

Business credit scores differ from scoring model to scoring model, but there are a few universal factors used in each: payment history, credit utilization and credit age. Another parallel to personal credit scores: A business’s payment history is the most influential factor when measuring creditworthiness. Some models consider it more important than others, however.

Every scoring model is different in terms of the information it collects and how it weighs each factor, so a business’s score may reflect a different level of creditworthiness from model to model. To gain a better understanding, explore how to check your score, the details of each scoring option and how the differing factors, such as business size, industry risk, key financial ratios and several others, apply to your business credit score.

Why business credit scores matter

Sometimes people can’t avoid using personal credit to get their business up and running, but establishing a separate business credit score will pay off in the long run. Maintaining a good business credit score comes with several benefits:

  • Good business credit makes financing easier – Business loans, credit cards and other lines of credit are easier to obtain when you have well-established business credit. Additionally, qualifying for lower premiums, better terms and lower interest rates is more likely.
  • Save on insurance policies – The cost of insurance will likely go up as your business grows. You can save thanks to insurers rewarding strong business credit scores with low rates.
  • Make your business look good – In addition to creditors and insurance companies taking note, potential investors, vendors and business partners may be interested in a business’s credit score.
  • Separate business and personal finances – By establishing a credit profile for your business, you remove some of the personal liability surrounding business loans. For tax purposes, tracking business and personal expenses will be much easier.
  • Increase borrowing power – On top of increasing the likelihood of getting financing, a high business credit score can increase the amount you can borrow.

How to check business credit

There are several options for checking business credit, some of which are free, and others that involve a fee. Sites like Creditsafe and Credit.net allow anyone to search a business’s credit history at no cost, but there’s much more that can be unveiled to help your business strategy. The price and process vary from service-to-service, so explore your options:

Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX

The Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX model primarily focuses on payment history for accounts you’ve opened with suppliers and vendors. In addition to on-time payment history, the PAYDEX scoring model considers overdue accounts and accounts that have gone to collection.

Based on its 1-100 scale, D&B groups businesses into three risk levels for late payments:

D&B PAYDEX ScoreRisk Level
1-49High
50-79Moderate
80-100Low

Simply put, the earlier your business’s bills are paid, the better the PAYDEX score.

As a free way to view and track your score, you can sign up for D&B’s CreditSignal, a monthly service similar to the free credit monitoring services you can use to monitor personal credit.

Viewing your credit file and further understanding your score requires filing for a DUNS number on the D&B website and signing up for its Credit Evaluator Plus product, which costs $61.99 per month.

FICO SBSS Score

FICO’s Small Business Scoring Service (SBSS) ranks applicants based on their likelihood of making timely payments. This score takes both personal and business credit history into consideration, as well as business data such as revenue, number of employees, assets and more. There is a mystery to some of the madness, but this is meant to be an all-encompassing financial picture rolled into one.

The Small Business Administration often uses this score to prescreen the loans it insures. Based on FICO SBSS’s 1-300 scale, your business may be automatically denied a small business loan due to a score below 155.

The FICO SBSS is delivered through the FICO LiquidCredit Service. For further details visit FICO’s website.

Equifax Business Credit Risk Score

Similar to the FICO model, this Equifax score takes a multitude of factors into consideration. The Business Credit Risk Score is measured on a 101-992 scale and looks to predict the likelihood a business will face a greater-than-90-day severe delinquency within the next year.

Equifax’s Business Credit Report can help identify potential risks to your business’s payment schedule and track your credit activity and financial health. You can check your score through Equifax, where one of these reports can be purchased for $99.95, or you can purchase five at the discounted price of $399.95 ($79.99 each).

Experian Intelliscore Plus

Experian business credit scores are slightly different from the other models. These scores focus on three different categories of information:

  • Credit information from suppliers and lenders.
  • Legal filings from local, county and state courts.
  • Company background information, including public records, credit card debts and collections.

Experian then uses those details to calculate your business credit score on a 1-100 scale based on how much you owe, your payment habits, credit utilization, the size of your business, operating history and whether you have any liens, judgments or bankruptcies on file.

You can check your score by purchasing a report through Experian. Its CreditScore Report is available for $39.95, or you can purchase the more intensive ProfilePlus Report for $49.95, which includes payment history and inquiry details. Experian also has subscription options available.

Ways to improve business credit

Improving business credit isn’t so different from improving your personal credit. The key is focusing on the things you can control.

  • Pay on time – Late payments are a killer to business credit scores and should be avoided at all costs. To take it one step further, some scoring models reward early payments, so sticking to an aggressively early payment schedule might be of help in the long run.
  • Get a business credit card and bank account – Opening and maintaining a business credit card account can be an easy way to get going. Keep your personal and business expenses separate, but using your business credit card wisely can help improve your credit score.
  • Check your credit reports regularly – Routinely reviewing credit reports can help identify the factors that are hurting a business’s score. This can also lead to finding errors on your business’s credit report, which you can dispute to improve your score. Also, be sure that any accounts you already pay are added to your report.
  • Work with the right vendors – Trying to improve a bad business credit score can include outside factors. To make sure your business isn’t falling behind, check that any vendors you work with are reporting payments to the credit bureaus.

With several scoring models and a plethora of factors involved, there’s no surefire way to improve your score. However, by practicing proper financial habits for your business as you would yourself, a reputable score is easily attainable.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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