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Besides customer reviews and balance sheets, business owners have one more item to keep their eye on – their business credit score. Like a personal credit score, the business credit score tells lenders and others how you manage credit. Before applying for a new loan or switching insurance providers, checking your score is worth the time.
What is a Business Credit Score?
Your business credit score ranges between 0 and 100. Just like a school exam, the higher your score, the better. You want to have a score of at least 80 to have good credit. This means you pay your bills on time before the due date. When you begin making 15 or 30-day late payments, your score can dip below 80.
Note that the one exception to the above scoring model is the FICO LiquidCredit Small Business Score, which goes up to 300 points.
This score is separate from your personal credit score. You can have lousy personal credit and excellent business credit and it may not affect the other. However, the FICO business scoring model also accesses your personal credit history, which may have some effect.
Like your personal credit score, several factors determine your business credit score. There is some overlap, but obviously, some of the credit factors are going to be business-only:
- Company Size
- Credit Utilization
- Industry Risk
- Length of Credit History
- Outstanding Debts
- Payment History
- Public Records
There are three different bureaus that calculate your credit score, although each has a slightly different scoring method using the above factors. Your credit utilization, payment history, and outstanding debts are always the most important factors.
When you do business in a risky industry or have a smaller business, your score might naturally be lower. Since you probably can’t influence these factors much, focus on keeping impeccable finances to maximize your score.
If you have a small business credit card, make sure you pay your balance in full each month to maximize your score.
Uses of Business Credit Score
Just like your business credit score is used to make approval decisions for credit card and loan applications plus determining your insurance premiums, your business credit score is used for similar purposes (and a few others):
- Loan application decisions
- Determining interest rates on approved loan applications
- Forwarding your outstanding debts to a collections agency
- Deciding if you are a stable supplier
Because of this, it’s important to be aware of your score and pay any business debts.
Three Bureaus Provide Business Credit Scores
With personal credit scores, you either have a FICO Score or VantageScore that’s generated by either Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Business credit scores are slightly different as you essentially have three different scores.
Your business credit score is calculated by three different bureaus:
- Dun & Bradstreet Paydex
- Experian Intelliscore Plus SM
- FICO LiquidCredit Small Business Scoring Service
Dun & Bradstreet Paydex
Your Paydex score is calculated by Dun & Bradstreet. It’s primarily used by vendors and suppliers that are considering new trade terms with your business. Dun & Bradstreet uses up to 850 payment interactions to determine your Paydex score. These interactions are retrieved from your business credit file (similar to a credit report). You can submit payment history to Dun & Bradstreet to potentially improve your score.
Intelliscore Plus SM from Experian
Experian provides personal and business credit scores. The IntelliScore Plus SM is their business score product.
You should focus on this score for loans and lines of credit. With any business credit application, the lender will probably pull your score from at least two bureaus, and there’s a good chance that Experian can be one of them.
FICO LiquidCredit Small Business Scoring Service
FICO is the “gold standard” for personal credit scores and it’s arguably so in the business world too. In fact, there are some loan applications that require a FICO LiquidCredit score instead of the other two. When you need to apply for an SBA Loan, plan on having your FICO business score pulled. It’s also a popular score for loan and line of credit applications too.
This score is definitely the most comprehensive because it analyzes your business and personal credit reports. It also has a score range from 0 to 300. You want a score above 140 to qualify for most credit types.
Equifax Business Credit Score
A fourth player is Equifax. They assign each business three different credit scores:
- Payment Index (History of past payments)
- Credit Risk Score (Potential risk of delinquent payments)
- Business Failure Score (Likelihood of going out of business in the next 12 months)
Each of these scores has a different score range.
The Payment Index score ranges between 0 and 100. A higher score is better.
Your Credit Risk Score ranges between 101 and 992 and analyzes your complete credit picture. This score is going to be most similar to the Paydex, Experian IntelliScore, or FICO LiquidCredit scores. You want as high of a score as possible since 992 is a perfect score.
Finally, the Business Failure Score ranges from 1000 to 1610. A higher score means you’re less likely of closing shop. Equifax determines this score by analyzing the payment history on your credit file and any submitted invoices that are paid in full or late.
Can You Get a Free Business Credit Score?
It’s not as easy to get a free business credit score as it is a free personal credit score. You should expect to pay between $70 and $100 for a one-time score. For 24/7 access, you can pay up to $1000 per bureau. On the bright side, this expense might be eligible for a tax write-off!
Thankfully, you have one free option from Dun & Bradstreet. It’s their CreditSignal service that provides free alerts when any information on your Paydex changes. You can also access basic credit file information to quickly spot reporting errors. Plus, you can see how often your Paydex score or business file has been accessed by others.
At this time, no service offers free business credit file access. Federal law currently requires all three bureaus to offer access to your personal credit report (but not your credit score) once a year. You still have to pay to see your full business credit file to make sure your credit information is correct with all the bureaus.
Your business credit score is very similar to your personal one, but it also includes several business-specific factors to determine your score. That is why optimizing your business credit score should be taken seriously. You will need to go directly to one of the credit bureaus to request your score. In almost every case, you will need to pay to access your score or file.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.