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Just as individuals are assigned credit reports and scores from major credit bureaus, so too are businesses. Business credit reports from the “Big Four” business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax and FICO SBSS) are used by suppliers, lenders, vendors, contractors and others who want to know whether you’re likely to pay your bills on time.
Where Can You Check Your Report?
You can check your credit scores directly with the credit bureaus or via third-party providers. In some cases, the information is free, but frequently you will have to pay to get or establish your credit report and score. The scoring systems used by the Big Four differ significantly in their scopes and ranges, but each gives a quantitative indication of creditworthiness. It behooves business owners to periodically check their credit reports for completeness and accuracy. Incorrect or missing information can hurt your credit score, negatively impacting your access to credit and the terms you’ll be offered. Let’s review how to get your business credit report, how much it costs and what the credit scores mean.
Checking Your Report Directly With the Credit Bureaus
Checking directly with a credit bureau is the most secure way of obtaining your credit report and score, because it avoids possible scams associated with some fraudulent third-party providers. It’s also likely to be the costliest way to get your credit reports.
Dun & Bradstreet
The principal D&B business credit score is called PAYDEX. Its range is 1 through 100 and is based upon the business’s average days to pay its bills. A score of 100 denotes payments on average 30 days sooner than the due date, 80 means paying on the due date, and scores below 20 shows average payments 120 or more days after the due date. Naturally, higher numbers indicate better creditworthiness. You can obtain your D&B credit report, which includes the PAYDEX score, for free using the D&B Company Update feature, which also allows you to update your report, dispute inaccuracies and provide new financial statement information. D&B also offers a free service called CreditSignal that automatically alerts you to credit score changes.
Experian’s business credit score, Intelliscore Plus V2, ranges from 1 to 100 and is based upon a business’s credit history, company demographics and public filings. The following table describes the credit score’s interpretation:
|Score Range||Risk||Delinquency and Default Rate|
You can purchase the Experian credit report one time for $39.95 or subscribe annually for $179. The report is displayed online and can be printed.
Equifax offers an online Business Credit Report for $99.95. It includes two risk scores:
- Business Credit Risk Score: This score indicates the likelihood of your business incurring a charge-off or 90-day severe delinquency over the next 12 months. Its range is 101 to 992, with higher scores indicating lower risk.
- Business Failure Score: This score predicts the likelihood of business failure/bankruptcy over next 12 months. Its range is 1000 to 1610, with higher scores indicating lower risk.
FICO, famous for its personal credit scoring systems, also offers the Small Business Scoring Service. The SBSS Score is used by the U.S. Small Business Administration for prescreening 7(a) loans. The score ranges from 0 to 300, with higher scores indicating lower credit risk. Most lenders require a minimum score of 140 to 160. The score is based upon credit history for the business and its owners.
Generally, you can’t get your SBSS score directly from FICO. Instead, the score and credit report are sent to your bank or other credit provider. However at least one third-party provider, NAV, offers SBSS scores for free.
Checking Your Report Through Third-Party Providers
Since Experian, D&B and Equifax provide their own credit-checking services, there may be no need to use a third-party provider for this information, particularly since these providers get their information from the credit bureaus. However, third-parties do offer this convenience: They can package together all of your business credit scores in one report.
Third-party business credit report providers include:
Capital One's Business CreditWise: We recommend using Capital One's newly launched Business CreditWise service. Business owners view a report based on live data from LexisNexis Risk Solutions. It's free and available to non-Capital One customers as well. Within the report you'll be able to see your business details, credit usage, public records (bankruptcies, liens, etc.), and more.
Nav: Nav charges a monthly fee of $49.99 for access to the Big Four credit scores.
Credit.net: Credit.net offers a proprietary credit score as part of their business credit reports. It offers a free seven-day trial. After that, you can get a single report for $17.95, a monthly subscription for $195 per month or an annual subscription for $2,145 per year.
CreditSafe.com: A provider of credit-related services, including online credit reports and its own proprietary risk rating. CreditSafe.com offers a free trial period and then various subscription packages at different price points that vary with the volume of requests you make.
Scorely: This is a smaller credit bureau that offers proprietary credit reports and scores. You can get two reports for free and then unlimited reports for $50 per month. The Scorely database lists more than 16 million active small businesses, which is more than 60% of all U.S. small businesses. It offers three ratings—Customer, Partner and Credit—plus a Trust Rating that averages the other three.
If you receive an email from an unfamiliar third-party credit score provider, be sure to check it out before releasing any identifying information, like Social Security number or date of birth. Some might be fly-by-night scams out to steal your identity.