How to Check Your Business Credit - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

Access to capital remains one of the biggest challenges that small businesses face. Research has shown that it gets harder for small businesses owned by African Americans, with 80% of black entrepreneurs who participated in a survey saying lack of capital was their biggest challenge. Knowing how to check your business credit score is key to accessing capital. 

WHAT IS A BUSINESS CREDIT SCORE


A business credit score, by concept, works in a similar way to your personal credit score in that it helps lenders determine your creditworthiness when applying for a business credit card or a business loan.

Lenders use your business credit score to determine how likely your business is to repay debt. Therefore, your business credit score determines the terms and amount of credit you can obtain. This is why it’s important that you know how to check your business credit score. 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PERSONAL AND BUSINESS CREDIT SCORES


It’s important to understand the difference between your personal credit score and your business credit score.

  • Credit score range: Most business credit scores range from 0 to 100, although the FICO’s small business credit scores range between 0 and 300. On the other hand, personal credit scores, particularly FICO scores, which 90% of lenders use, range from 300 to 850 in general.
  • Data used: Business credit scores and reports typically only feature information pertaining to your business. Depending on the scoring agency, business credit scores can include data from credit bureaus, lenders, suppliers, legal filings, state filing offices and other data about your business. Personal credit scores mostly only feature information from your credit report.
  • Accessibility: Individuals have access to free personal credit reports and scores through the major consumer credit bureaus and credit card issuers. Businesses, however, have to pay credit agencies to see their credit score and report. While only selected parties can see your personal credit report and score, business credit information is publicly available to anyone who pays for it.

HOW TO CHECK YOUR BUSINESS CREDIT


Unlike personal credit , which features only one standardized score, business credit providers have more than one score for businesses, which is mostly calculated based on their own models. Here are the four most common ways to check business credit:

    1. Dun & Bradstreet
    2. Equifax
    3. Experian
    4. FICO

Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) 

You can start building your credit information with D&B by requesting a free D-U-N-S number, which is a unique nine-digit identifier for your business. Once you have your D-U-N-S number, you can use the following tools to check your business credit:

    1. PAYDEX Score: This is the major credit score that banks consider when making business lending decisions and it ranges from 1 to 100. A score between 1 and 49 indicates a business with a high risk of late payment. Businesses with a score between 50 and 79 are considered to have a moderate risk of late payment, while a score between 80 and 100 indicates low risk. 

Paydex Score

Explanation

Risk Level 

100 30 days sooner than terms

Low 

90-99 20-19 days sooner than terms
81-89 2-18 days sooner than terms
80 Payments made on terms
70-79 2-15 days beyond terms

Moderate 

60-69 16-22 days beyond terms
50-59 23-30 days beyond terms
40-49 33-60 days beyond terms

High 

30-39 63-90 days beyond terms
20-29 93-129 days beyond terms
1-19 Over 120 days beyond terms

Source: D&B 

2. Delinquency Predictor Score (DPS): This gives insight into how likely it is for your business to be late on payments and go bankrupt. The score is given on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 suggestive of a business with high chances of delinquency.

3. Failure Score: Also given on a scale of 1 to 5, D&B’s failure score looks at industry data and your business history to predict the likelihood that your business will experience financial stress like bankruptcy over the next 12 months. A lower score means a low risk of failure.

4. Supplier Evaluation Risk (SER) Rating: The SER is specific to suppliers and it evaluates the chances that a supplier will shut down within the next 12 months.

Experian 

Experian uses three sets of business information to calculate your business credit score.

  1. Credit history: This includes data around trade experiences with vendors, payment habits, credit utilization, and outstanding debt balance. Typically, favorable trade experiences, consistently on-time and complete payments, and low credit utilization can boost your Experian business credit score.
  2. Legal filings: Since legal issues can be catastrophic for businesses, the Experian scores also consider the liens, judgment or even bankruptcy against your business. It specifically assesses the recency and frequency of legal filings as well as their dollar value. Limiting the exposure of your business to legal issues can boost your business credit score.
  3. Company background: Experian also collects information about businesses from independent sources such as public records, state filing offices, credit card companies, and marketing databases, just to name a few.

Experian uses its algorithms to appraise the information it gathers and gives an Intelliscore PlusSM score that ranges between 0 and 100. The following table breaks down the risk spectrum by score: 

Score Range Risk Level
1-10 High risk
11-25 Medium to high risk
26-50 Medium risk
51-75 Low to medium risk
76-100 Low risk

Source: Experian

Equifax

Equifax uses data from public records to assign business credit scores across three classes.

  1. Payment Index: This evaluates your business payment performances across trade and financial transactions. The score ranges from 1 to 100, with higher scores suggestive of a business that pays on time.
Payment Index Days Past Due
90+ Paid as agreed
80-89 1-30 days past due
60-79 31-60 days past due
40-59 61-90 days past due
20-39 91-120 days past due
1-19 120+ days past due

Source: Equifax

2. Credit Risk Score: This uses banking and leasing trade data to evaluate the probability that a business will be unable to pay its debts, or even declare bankruptcy within a 12-month window. The credit risk scores range from 101 to 992, with lower scores indicating a higher risk of delinquency.

3. Business Failure Score: The score here ranges from 1,000 to 1,610 and it specifically predicts how probable it is for a business to go bankrupt, within a 12 month period. Again, lower scores suggest a high risk of business failure.

FICO

While other agencies mostly use their own models to determine business credit scores, FICO’s Small Business Scoring Services (SBSS) solution uses scoring data from other agencies to determine business credit scores. Due to the flexibility it offers, about 7,500 lenders across the country prefer to use FICO SBSS scores to make lending decisions.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) uses FICO scores to expedite decisions for some 7(a) loans.

FICO SBSS scores range between 0 and 300 and as usual, higher scores indicate a lower risk of late payments — and vice versa.

WAYS TO BUILD BUSINESS CREDIT


It’s possible that you won’t find any credit report for your business when you check with credit bureaus. Oftentimes, that’s because you haven’t established credit for your business. This is the case when you perform business expenses on your personal credit cards. To build your business credit, you need to:

  1. Ensure your business is properly set up
    • Incorporate your business or form a limited liability company (LLC).
    • Obtain a federal employer identification number, which you can obtain for free from the IRS.
    • Open a business bank account using your registered business name.
  2. Establish business credit
    • Obtain a D-U-N-S number from D&B.
    • Apply for and start using a business credit card. This helps build a payment history for your business with credit card companies.
    • Work with vendors or suppliers that report payments. This is important because paying your vendors on time only builds your business credit if they report it to credit bureaus.
    • Employ tools like net-30 accounts to build your credit, quickly, especially if your business doesn’t have a constant need for suppliers. Net-30 accounts are offered by vendors to allow you to pay bills in full within 30 days of purchase.
  3. Maintain your business credit
    • Report your business information regularly to D&B.

Routinely check your business credit reports. These reports can contain errors that you’ll only find by checking them.

DISPUTING ERRORS


A Wall Street Journal study found that about 25% of small businesses who checked their business credit reports found errors or misleading information that made their businesses appear falsely riskier to creditors.

You should be aware that your business credit reports aren’t covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), which, among other things, gives consumers the right to receive notifications if their credit information is used against them.

To fix business credit errors, you need to make a note of the errors and misleading information in each of your reports and then contact the respective credit bureau to begin the dispute process.

IN SUMMARY

Just like your personal credit score, routinely checking your business credit score is the only way to ensure that your business is in good standing with creditors. You might be able to finance your business through personal credit at the beginning, but it becomes difficult as your business grows. Start checking your business credit score early before you need capital inputs.