If you own a small business, make sure to stay on top of your business credit scores. There’s no shortage of sites online to get your personal credit score but you might not know where to go for your business credit score. We’ve got you covered – check out the following sites and get your score today. These three numbers can impact your ability to operate profitability and expand.
Difference between personal credit scores and business credit scores
Business credit is based on your business’s financial history and is tied to your business’s employer identification number (EIN). An EIN is a unique nine-digit number that is assigned to a business entity and allows the IRS to easily identify businesses for tax reporting purposes.
All businesses that meet certain criteria must have an EIN before they can begin operating.
Personal credit is based on your personal spending history and is tied to your social security number.
Because these two types of credit are distinct, your business credit score is also separate from your personal credit score and is calculated using different factors—even though each is essentially a numerical evaluation of creditworthiness. Although different, business credit and personal credit are often connected and business owners should monitor both carefully.
Factors that determine business credit scores
Here are five factors that may impact your business credit:
Lenders have to believe that a business and its owners are reliable and can be depended on to repay on a loan, business line of credit, etc. The personal credit reports of an owner(s) and business credit reports of the company are the primary tools used to assess creditworthiness.
In addition, trade references will most likely be required on a business credit application as part of the credit decision making process. Typically, a credit application for a business will ask for three trade references.
Before applying for business credit, it’s important to evaluate both your personal and business credit files for accuracy. Be sure to clear up any issues or outdated information as soon as possible.
This is an evaluation of your company’s ability to repay on a loan or business line of credit. This includes positive cash flow, bank history, payment history, and additional cash sources and reserves. The best way to show your credit capacity is with positive cash flow, a favorable bank rating, and positive payment history with other businesses.
When it comes to payment history, banks, lenders, and suppliers want to know how long an account has been opened, the credit limit extended, and how many times the account has been paid late.
One of the factors bankers use during a business loan evaluation is the amount of funds the owner has invested in the business. Most likely there will be a more favorable consideration for a business loan if there is a “reasonable” amount invested in the business from the owner.
How long your business has been in operation is very important and can make the difference between an approval and denial. Banks examine the business’ debt-to-equity ratio to understand how much money you’re asking for compared to how much money you have already invested in your business. The smaller the ratio the better.
Commercial real estate, heavy machinery, business equipment, inventory, stocks and bonds, and other expensive business assets that can be sold if a business fails to repay the loan are considered collateral.
Once a bank accepts your collateral, it will determine the loan-to-value ratio of the collateral based upon the nature of the asset. Each lender considers the loan-to-value ratio differently, so you’ll need to ask your lender how they intend to set that value.
Most traditional banks require collateral with a business loan, but there are other lenders who do not require any collateral to approve a loan.
Be prepared to prove that the conditions are right for your business. Make sure there is market potential, an industry, positioning, competitiveness, and experience to backup your plan.
When applying for business credit, it’s important to establish personal and banking relationships. It’s always advantageous to apply for funding with a bank you already have an established relationship with. The less risk you pose to a bank or lender, the greater your chance of securing funding at favorable interest rates.
Is a business credit score necessary?
Having access to business credit is the lifeline for a business. It enables you to obtain the capital you need to expand, cover day to day expenses, purchase inventory, hire additional staff and allows you to conserve the cash on hand to cover your cost of doing business.
How is a business credit score calculated?
Business credit scores are determined using the following factors: payment history, age of credit history, debt and debt usage, industry risk and company size. Personal credit scores are determined using different factors: payment history, amount of debt, new credit, credit mix and average length of credit history.
Where to get your business credit report
Dun & Bradstreet®
Dun & Bradstreet uses payment history, outstanding balances, business transactions, and more data to calculate a series of business credit scores and ratings. Business partners, like potential lenders and creditors, can get a glimpse into the ﬁnancial health of your company by checking your D&B business credit file. NOTE: These scores and ratings can ﬂuctuate often, changing based on your ﬁnancial activity.
Your credit score from Equifax is calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether. Results may vary. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds.
Not all lenders use Experian credit files, and not all lenders use scores impacted by Experian BoostTM. Your credit score is calculated from the information found in your credit report including payment history, amount of debt, credit history length, amount of new credit, and credit mix.
CreditSafe generates a business credit report as a free trial. The length of your free trial is determined when a CreditSafe.com company representative calls to set you up. After you access the free trial, you have the option to subscribe to three different packages depending on your business needs.
CreditSignal provides companies with free access to changes in their Dun & Bradstreet® credit scores and ratings. CreditSignal also provides information and advice about how to interpret and manage your scores.
How to establish business credit
Consider these tips to help establish business credit. Don’t “set it and forget it”! Be sure to monitor your credit activity regularly and address any problems pronto:
Apply for a business credit card
Business cards typically carry credit limits of $50,000 or more. This makes it much easier to purchase high dollar goods and services that you need to run your business efficiently. Using a business credit card responsibly can boost your credit rating. Note that a business credit card stands alone. Your personal credit rating is not impacted by your business transactions. A business credit card also helps you control employee spending and track business expenses. Bonus: Many business credit cards have great perks.
Work with vendors that report payments and pay them early
Vendor accounts that report to business credit reporting agencies will help your business build business credit. A vendor can be any business – look into where you get your office supplies, inventory, and other outside products or services.
It makes it easier to create a business credit file when you form a separate legal entity for your company like an LLC or corporation. This move also makes it easier to qualify for business financing and may also provide tax advantages and can protect you from personal liability you might have as a sole proprietor.
Separate business and personal expenses
They always say don’t mix business with pleasure and in this case business owners should avoid mixing their personal and business finances. This is something you should be doing from the get-go. If you haven’t already, make clear definitions between your personal and business finances with separate accounts, this will give you a better vision on what you are spending and where.
Get an employer identification number (EIN)
If bringing on employees, you need to register for an employer identification number (EIN). An EIN is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS used to identify the tax accounts of employers (and certain others who have no employees). The IRS uses the number to identify taxpayers who are required to file various business tax returns. Apply for an EIN on the IRS website.
Open a business banking account
According to the SBA, as soon as you start accepting or spending money as your business, you should open a business bank account. Common business accounts include a checking account, savings account, credit card account, and a merchant services account. Merchant services accounts allow you to accept credit and debit card transactions from your customers. You can open a business bank account once you've gotten your federal EIN.
Establish a business address and phone number
It’s important to establish your business with an address and phone number. Here are some guidelines:
How to get a physical address for your business
- Get a P.O. Box from the United States Postal Service
- Get a Mailbox Through the UPS Store
- Use the Address of a Co-Working Space
- Get a Virtual Business Address
Keep business information current with the bureaus
Each business credit bureau collects different information and has unique scoring models. Different suppliers and different lenders report different kinds of data. Because a lender or supplier could pull your business credit report from any or all of the main bureaus, it’s important that you are maintaining all three.
You are allowed to update basic information about your business like employee number and years of business. A complete profile is the best practice to keep information current.
Calculating Overall Business Health
Do you want an overall picture of the financial health of your business beyond your business credit score? This knowledge is particularly important if you’re seeking low cost funds for working capital, debt refinance or for a commercial real estate purchase or refinance.
Business owners may not realize that banks calculate several metrics, not just personal credit and business credit. Those metrics include combined debt coverage, business debt coverage, business debt usage, personal debt usage and business revenue trends.
It may sound daunting to calculate each but you don’t need advanced accounting skills. SmartBiz® has a free tool, SmartBiz Advisor, that calculates these metrics and generates your “Loan Ready Score”.
This score can tell you where you stand if you’re seeking an SBA loan with low rates and long terms, a bank term loan, or another custom financing solution. Sign up today, free of charge, here: Welcome to SmartBiz Advisor.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The SmartBiz® Small Business Blog and other related communications from SmartBiz Loans® are intended to provide general information on relevant topics for managing small businesses. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed. Please consult legal and financial processionals for further information.