Much like the credit scores that you and I check before we apply for a new car loan or mortgage, business credit scores help companies and their creditors determine how likely it is that the business will repay their debts. The score is a numeric value and represents a business’ history of meeting their debt obligations in a timely fashion. The higher the score, the more likely it is that a business will gain credit approval to do things like get a loan for a new vehicle or construction, open a business credit card, or gain access to a business line of credit.
Now that we know business credit scores exist and that they’re different from personal scores, let’s take a look at how different they really are, why they’re important, and how they are calculated.
Business vs. Personal Credit Scores
While personal credit scores range from 300 to 850, business credit scores usually range from 0-100. Like personal scores, a business credit score isn’t the only factor used when making a credit determination, but they play a large role in a creditor’s decision to move forward or decline a credit application.
Consumer credit scores are based on an algorithm originally created by FICO. Even though scores may vary from each of the reporting bureaus, they are calculated using the same basic algorithms. This creates a somewhat standard process to determine personal credit. Business credit scores, on the other hand, don’t follow an industry standard at the moment, which may lead the numbers to be significantly different from report to report.
Personal credit reports are required to be made available for free once a year from the three major bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Businesses do not benefit from similar regulations in their favor and must often pay, sometimes at high prices, to gain access to this information. The three major business credit bureaus, Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian all price their business products differently.
Thankfully there are new services available to small business owners that will help them get an understanding of their business credit score for the same low price of free. The BizAnalyzer Virtual CFO is one of these, where you can see your overall business score and also dive deep into the key attributes that are contributing to it.
The last major difference between business and personal scores is privacy. Consumers and their approved creditors have the ability to view scores, but no one else can randomly view the credit information of another individual. With businesses, all credit information is publicly available, and anyone can view a credit report for a business as long as it has been paid for.
Why are Business Credit Scores Important?
This is one area where personal and business credit scores are very similar. Monitoring a business credit score is vital to the company’s financial success for a lot of reasons:
- Financing – Banks and lenders are far more likely to approve loans and other financial products to businesses whose credit scores reflect a solid history of debt repayment. Once the loans are approved, there may be fewer fees and lower interest rates, saving money over the life of the loan. Business credit scores that indicate a solid repayment history can also help unlock the door to higher-dollar loan amounts and credit opportunities
- Cost – Similar to loan pricing above, having a strong business credit score can lead to discounts or lower rates on other financial products like insurance.
- Personal Credit History – Less vital to the success of the business and more relevant to the person running it, some business finance agreements will tie the company’s repayment record in to the personal credit of the owner. This may or may not involve a personal guarantee from the business owner, through which they are individually responsible for repayment if the business is unable to meet its debts.
How a Business Credit Score is Calculated
Since there is no universal standard for calculating business credit scores, we will look at the most common methods used by the three major business reporting bureaus.
Equifax uses a three-pronged approach to scoring businesses:
- Payment Index – Scored 0-100 and represents information from creditors and business vendors that have interacted with the company in the report. This score considers payment history.
- Business Credit Risk Score – Scored 101-992 and measures the likelihood that a business will become delinquent on their payments. Some of the factors used include company size, available credit, ages of credit accounts, and charged off or delinquent accounts.
- Business Failure Score – Scored 1,000 to 1,610 and gauges the likelihood that a business will close in a 12-month period. Lower scores indicate higher probability of closure.
Experian uses a system it calls the CreditScore report, which is a comprehensive measure of a business’ financial health. The score includes payment trends, public records, and account histories. The Experian score is different than the other two, because it considers much more than just payment histories. Legal filings, company background information, and collections agency filings, among other things, all get factored in.
Just like with personal credit scores, Experian business credit scores consider outstanding loan balances, and whether or not the business has any liens, judgments, or bankruptcies on its record.
Dun & Bradstreet
Dun & Bradstreet uses a metric called a Paydex score, which ranges from 0-100. The number is calculated by using payment data that is either reported to data collection companies or directly to Dun & Bradstreet itself. The company also uses:
- Commercial Credit Score – Scored 101-670 and predicts how likely the business is to have delinquent payments.
- Financial Stress Score – Scored 1,001-1,610 and measures the probability of the business’ failure over the coming twelve months.
Businesses must opt-in to the Dun & Bradstreet scoring system by filing for a DUNS number through the company’s website.
If it sounds like these three reporting bureaus are using very similar tactics to calculate business credit scores, it’s because they are. Just like the three big consumer bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three major business credit bureaus gauge scores slightly differently but indicate much of the same information. This makes it important to not only understand how business scores are calculated, but why they’re different.
Using Business Credit Scores
Business credit scores may sound more complicated than personal credit reports, but the concept of monitoring the score and staying current on payments and accounts is the same across the board. Knowing the factors that play into a business score and how those scores affect everything from loan applications to insurance rates can help a business get the best pricing available and may even help set the company up for long-term financial success.
As a business owner, you should start monitoring your business’s financial performance as it’s seen by the outside world. Although there are lots of business credit rating services and products out there that cost a lot, you can get started by using the BizAnalyzer Virtual CFO in just a few minutes. Check it out and use those credit scores to grow your business!