Business Credit Scores: Breaking Down the 5 Factors (And How to Check It)

Do you know your business credit score? If you’re like most small business owners, you’re probably looking at the question and scratching your head. According to a 2016 survey by Manta, an online small business community, 72% of people who own small businesses are clueless about their business credit scores, and 60% don’t know where to find the numbers!

Your credit score affects your ability to qualify for a loan when you need funding to fill gaps in cash flow, purchase new equipment or grow your business. If you’re in that position, it’s important to know not only what your score is right now but also how to monitor it on a regular basis. The higher your score, the less of a liability your business poses to lenders, and the more financing options you have.

Here’s everything you need to know to understand, monitor and improve your score (and boost your ability to access funding).

What Affects Your Business Credit Score?

Your personal FICO score depends on five factors:

  • Payment history: On-time payments, missed due dates, how often you pay before bills are due and the overall reliability of your payment schedule
  • Credit utilization: How many accounts you have, your total available credit and how much of this credit you’re using at any given time
  • Credit history or age: The length of time you’ve been building your credit history
  • Recent applications or credit inquiries: The number of times a lender or other entity has checked your credit score in the recent past
  • Types of credit: How many different types of credit you’re using (also called credit mix)

Business credit ratings are calculated a little differently than personal scores. 

Unlike your personal FICO score, which relies on an industry standard, the way business scores are determined varies between each of the three reporting bureaus: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian. These bureaus don’t always collect and verify the same types of information, and the factors they take into account differ:

  • Dun & Bradstreet looks at payment data reported directly to the bureau or its partners
  • Equifax examines the size of your company, your available credit limit and evidence of delinquency on non-financial transactions
  • Experian collects information from suppliers, lenders, legal filings and company background along with credit history and any known liens, judgements or bankruptcies
  • The risk level of your industry may further influence your score

Credit inquiries and credit mix matter more for your personal score than for your business. If you’re a small business owner and you apply for a type of funding where personal score is important, though, these factors can affect your eligibility. 

Where and How to Check Your Business Credit Score

Business credit reporting agencies don’t use the same information or criteria to calculate your score. For this reason, you need to work a little harder to understand the numbers than you do with a personal score. 

Personal FICO numbers are reported on a scale ranging from 300 to 850. A score of 670 to 739 is considered good, 740 to 799 is very good and 800 or more is excellent. About 46% of people fall into the “good” or “very good” ranges.

As a business owner, you have to look at several numbers from each bureau to get an idea of how your financial status appears to lenders who check your credit when you apply for a loan:

  • Dun & Bradstreet uses a PAYDEX score of 0 to 100; 80 or more is considered good. They also calculate a commercial credit score between 101 and 670 and a “financial stress score” of 1,001 to 1,610. This score determines how likely you are to default on debt payments. You need to request a DUNS number for this bureau to start tracking your financial status.
  • Equifax also uses a payment index of 0 to 100, along with a credit risk score of 101 to 992 and a “business failure score” of 1,000 to 1,610.
  • Experian uses the Intelliscore Plus model, a scale of 1 to 100 showing the approximate risk level of lending to your business. You need to score above a 76 to be in the lowest risk category.

There’s also the FICO LiquidCredit SBSS score, which is a little more straightforward. The number is based on both personal and business credit information. Generally, a score of 140 or more on the 0-300 scale is what you need to qualify with most lenders.

How can you perform your own business credit score check? Unfortunately, you can’t grab a free report once a year like you can for your personal FICO score.

Dun & Bradstreet charges $61.99 for a report, Equifax charges $99.95 and you can get an overview from Experian for $39.95.

If you want to check your business credit score for free, you can sign up for a free trial of a service like CreditSafe or Credit.net. However, it’s important to be aware you’ll eventually have to pay if you want ongoing monitoring. You’re also entitled to a free credit report if you’re turned down after applying for a bank loan.

Business Credit Tips to Improve Your Score

Although paying to get your credit score can be a bit of a bummer, it’s important to check your numbers on a regular basis. The information bureaus use to calculate business credit scores isn’t always correct, and mistakes can have a negative impact on your ratings. You want to catch and dispute these mistakes as soon as possible to clean up your report!

If your report is error-free but you still want to see higher numbers, you can boost your score by:

  • Making payments on or before due dates
  • Keeping your credit utilization above 0% (but below 30%)
  • Separating business and personal finances to prevent them from affecting each other
  • Utilizing trade credit to make purchases from suppliers
  • Using bookkeeping software or services to maintain your budget
  • Hiring a credit monitoring service to keep an eye on changes and catch reporting errors

Remember that some types of business financing also take personal credit into account. Be sure to follow these same principles with your personal finances to improve your FICO score, too!

Your Business Credit Score Isn’t All That Matters

When it comes to qualifying for business financing, different lenders have different parameters. For some types of financing, personal FICO might be crucial. For others, your business credit score might hold greater weight. 

But even when your business credit is in question, the score might not be all that the lender examines.

After pulling your business credit report, some lenders may look closer at one particular aspect, rather than the score as a whole. Particularly, many lenders are only interested in your payment history, which speaks the loudest about your trustworthiness.

Bad Business Credit Profile? You May Still Qualify for Funding

A low credit score often bars you from getting a bank or SBA loan, which can make it hard to push through a slow season or invest in growth. 

The Business Financing Advisors at National Business Capital & Services understand not every business has perfect credit. That’s why many financing options require no minimum credit score and other financial factors are taken into account when determining eligibility. If you need funding fast but your credit score isn’t exactly where you want it to be right now, National can help.

National Business Capital & Services is the #1 FinTech marketplace offering small business financing and services. Harnessing the power of smart technology and even smarter people, we’ve streamlined the approval process to secure over $1 billion in financing for small business owners to date.

Our expert Business Financing Advisors work within our 75+ Lender Marketplace in real time to give you easy access to the best low-interest SBA loans, short and long-term loans and business lines of credit, as well as a full suite of revenue-driving business services.

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About the Author, Joe Camberato
Joseph Camberato, President at National Business Capital & Services, developed a passion for business at a young age. Joseph has a true respect for anyone who owns a business and enjoys engaging them in discussions of how they “made it happen.”