When you’re trying to get a business loan, establish payment terms with a new vendor or get any type of business credit, your business credit report can be a major factor in your success. Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax are the “big three” business credit bureaus that generate business credit reports. However, each commercial credit bureau looks at the information they gather in a slightly different way, which can make understanding business credit reports a bit confusing. Here’s what you need to know about the business credit bureaus, the information they collect and how it affects your business.
Dun & Bradstreet (D&B)
Of the big three, D&B is the only credit bureau that focuses exclusively on business credit. They report primarily on how a business interacts with vendors and other suppliers, which is why potential suppliers often look at your D&B reports before they offer your business trade credit. In addition to business-to-business data submitted by suppliers, D&B also looks at public records, industry data and other historical data in your D&B profile to compile their credit scores, of which the PAYDEX Score is the best-known.
PAYDEX Score: The 100-point PAYDEX score reflects how reliably you’ve paid your bills and kept your financial obligations to vendors and suppliers that report to D&B. Unfortunately, if you are current with suppliers who don’t report to D&B, that information won’t be included when calculating your PAYDEX score. Because the PAYDEX score is so important, you should encourage current vendors that don’t report your credit history to D&B to do so. You may even want to switch to vendors who do.
Other D&B business credit scores include:
- Delinquency Predictor Score: This score measures whether or not a business is likely to pay their bills late or go bankrupt over the next 12 months.
- Failure Score: This score is designed to predict the possibility that a company will seek legal relief from creditors or go out of business and leave creditors unpaid in the next 12 months.
- Supplier Evaluation Risk Rating: This rating predicts the likelihood that a business might stop delivering its goods and services over the next 12 months.
- D&B Rating: This rating relies upon company financial statements and other public information to develop an overall rating for a business’s creditworthiness. Making sure that your D&B profile includes accurate, up-to-date financial statements can greatly improve your D&B rating.
- Credit Limit Recommendation: Banks and creditors may look at this recommendation, which is based on a business’s size, industry and payment history.
Equifax transforms data collected by the Small Business Finance Exchange (SBFE) into a report. The SBFE is an association of U.S. small business lenders who report payment data on their small business customers. Because this data directly reflects how small businesses interact with lenders, banks use it to evaluate your creditworthiness.
Like the other business credit bureaus, Equifax also uses trade credit information and data from the public record, such as liens, bankruptcies or judgements against a business, to compile a company’s credit report. Equifax credit reports include:
- Payment Trend and Payment Index: This shows the business’s payment trends over the past 12 months and how it compares to industry norms.
- Equifax Business Credit Risk Score: This predicts the likelihood of a business incurring a 90 days severe delinquency or charge-off over the next 12 months. The score ranges from 101 to 992; lower scores indicate higher risk.
- Equifax Business Failure Score: This predicts the likelihood of a business failing through either formal or informal bankruptcy over the next 12 months. It ranges from 1000 to 1610; lower scores indicate higher risk.
Experian collects credit information from suppliers and lenders. They also look at information available in the public record, including legal filings from local, county and state governments, as well as information from credit card companies, collection agencies, corporate financial information and other databases.
Experian gathers a lot of data from banks, too. They look at the number of credit transactions, outstanding balances; payment habits; how much of your available credit you use; and the details of any current liens, judgments or bankruptcies. Time in business, the size of your business, and your business’ Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes are also part of your Experian Business Credit Score. This score ranges from 0 to 100 and breaks down as follows:
- 0-15: High Risk
- 16-30: Medium Risk
- 31-80: Good Credit
- 80-100: Excellent Credit
Experian also generates a Financial Stability Risk Rating that measures the risk of a company’s going into bankruptcy or severe financial distress in the next 12 months. This rating ranges from 1 to 5, with lower ratings indicating lower risk.
Because Experian collects both trade data and bank data, their business credit report could be considered the most balanced of the big three. Whether you rely primarily on trade credit for capital, access capital from a bank, or do both, Experian will have data on your business.
How long does information stay on my business credit report?
Every commercial credit bureau is a little bit different, but the length of time Experian keeps information on your credit report is fairly standard, and is based on industry guidelines and government recommendations.
- Trade data: 36 months
- Bankruptcies: nine years and nine months
- Judgments: six years and nine months
- Tax liens: six years and nine months
- Uniform Commercial Code filings: five years
- Collections: six years and nine months
- Bank, government and leasing data: 36 months
How accurate is my business credit report?
Your business credit report is only as accurate as the data the credit bureaus have to work with. For example, incorrect information in your D&B profile, such as the wrong SIC code, could negatively affect your business credit score and make it harder to obtain vendor credit. That’s why it’s important to ensure your information is current.
You should check your business credit report with each of the three major business credit bureaus at least once a year. Although you can get your personal credit reports for free, the same isn’t true of business credit reports. However, it’s worth paying the fee to know what your business credit report contains. The business credit bureaus also offer business credit monitoring services that alert you to changes in your credit report and score.
What if you find a mistake on your business credit report? Because each credit reporting agency wants to maintain accurate data, D&B, Equifax and Experian all have dispute resolution processes you can use to request corrections or updates to your business information. Only the business owner or a registered corporate officer can make these requests.
The business bottom line
Your personal credit score will always be a factor when you’re a small business owner, but your business credit score is just as important. Understanding the kinds of information the major business credit bureaus collect and ensuring that information is accurate helps you maintain a strong business credit profile, which can make it easier to secure business loans or negotiate with suppliers and vendors.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.