Why does it matter?
Financing is crucial in the small business world. The National Small Business Association (NSBA) says 73% of small firms surveyed use financing over the course of a year.2 In another NSBA survey, 20% of small businesses said they were denied financing because of their business credit score.3 Because financing is often a necessary path to growth, few things are as important to small businesses as their credit score.
A good business credit score does more than just determine whether or not you receive financing from a lender or creditor, but also how much money you can access and the terms of your loan or credit, including your interest rate. Your business credit score can also affect rates offered to you by insurance carriers and even commercial landlords.
How can I access it?
There are three companies that maintain credit scores for small businesses: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian. They each have their own requirements — and fees — for accessing your credit score and monitoring your credit report.
- Dun & Bradstreet requires businesses to apply for a Dun & Bradstreet D‑U‑N‑S® Number to even establish their score.4 You can then sign up for free reports on changes to your credit file, or pay for different levels of access to your scores and file data.
- Experian offers both one-time access for your score for a fee, as well as monthly or annual subscriptions to continually monitor it.5
- With Equifax, you can pay a one-time fee to see your business credit score.6
How can I improve my business credit score?
The process of improving your small business credit score is similar to your personal one in a key way: The concept is easy, but doing it takes time and effort. If you pay all of your bills on time and in full, and pay down your debt, you're moving in the right direction. Here are more steps you can take to boost your business credit score:
- Set up credit accounts with vendors that report trades to the credit bureaus. Not all businesses do, so check first. Then, pay them promptly and in full to build your credit score.7
- Use and promptly pay down business credit cards. Using your business credit and then making on-time payments builds your score.
- Watch your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit your business has access to versus how much you're using. Giving your credit card limit some breathing room is a smart move.
- Keep your personal credit separate from your business. Establish business credit cards and personal credit cards, and keep them entirely separate.8 Using your business credit for business expenses builds your business credit score.
- Correct any errors on your business credit reports. Mistakes happen. You can contact any credit bureau to challenge errors that negatively affect your score.
- Get your personal credit score in shape. Small business lenders can and often do look at a business owner's personal credit score along with their business scores.9 While boosting your personal score won't actually improve your business scores, it will help you reach your goal of accessing financing.