Module 4: Building Credit
Business credit reports
While very similar to personal credit reports, business credit reports provide lenders, suppliers and vendors with information about your company’s ability to carry debt, make payments and acquire lines of credit.
As we’re already learned, a personal credit report has four main sections:
- Personal Identifying Information
- Credit History
- Credit Inquiries
- Public Record Information
A business credit report has four sections as well:
- Business Identifying Information
- Business Credit History
- Business Background, Registration and Financial Information
- Public Record Information
In contrast to a personal credit report, business credit reports are generally available to the public. This means potential customers, partners and suppliers can purchase your business credit report from a business credit reporting agency. These agencies may, but are not required to, provide you with a free report on your business upon request.
Who are these business credit reporting agencies?
There are three well-known business credit reporting agencies.
- Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) focuses on how your business interacts with vendors and suppliers (trade credit performance.
- Equifax focuses on how your business has managed its lines of credit and loans.
- Experian Business focuses on credit information reported by lenders and business vendors.
Each reporting agency has different types of information about your business. These may include:
Business Identifying Information
- Business names and aliases
- Business addresses, phone numbers, website addresses
- DUNS number
- Industry classification codes
Business Credit History
- Companies that have granted credit to your business
- Payment data from suppliers and creditors
- Risk scores and ratings
Business Background, Registration and Financial Information
- Registration and incorporation data
- Legal structure and ownership
- History of business
- Corporate financial reports
- Contracts, grants, loans and debarments from the federal government
- Self-reported data
Public Record Information
- Lawsuits, liens and judgments
- Business registrations
- Incorporation and current and past bankruptcy filings from state and county courts
Equal lending practices
Business credit reporting is not covered under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. While not directly focused on credit reporting, other laws and regulations apply to a small business’s access to credit. As an entrepreneur, you have rights under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), which requires creditors to ensure underwriting and pricing are free from discriminatory practices. Creditors are also required to act on your credit requests in a timely manner and keep you informed of their status.
If you feel you have been denied credit or offered credit on worse terms because of your race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age (provided you are old enough to enter into a contract), or because all or part of your income comes from a public assistance program—or if you believe you have been discriminated against in any other way—you have various options to consider:
- File a complaint with the creditor.
- Report the potential violation to your state attorney general’s office, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the bank’s primary regulator (Federal Reserve Bank, office of the Comptroller of the Currency, or the FDIC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as appropriate.
- Hire an attorney
Business credit scores
As with personal credit scores, the scoring used for businesses varies by company. Each major business credit reporting agency has its own scores and rating criteria. Without spending too much time on this, here are a couple of examples:
Dun & Bradstreet uses predictive and performance-based scores. Their PAYDEX score ranges from 1 to 100 —and reflects your business’ payment history as reported by vendors. At least three vendors need to report this to Dun & Bradstreet before an initial score is created. PAYDEX is used by vendors to determine the trade terms a business is provided, such as when an invoice is due.
Equifax Business offers business scores based on a Payment Index Score that ranges from 1 to 100. This is based on reports from creditors, vendors and some lenders. The score predicts the likelihood your business will be severely delinquent in its payments, have an account charged off or that the business goes bankrupt within a 12-month period.