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Learn About the Business Credit Reporting Agencies

Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at June 10th, 2021

Learn About the Business Credit Reporting Agencies

Did You Want to Learn About the Business Credit Reporting Agencies?

It’s time to learn about the business credit reporting agencies.

But let’s start with some definitions and background on business credit.

Business Credit

This is credit in a business’s name. It is not tied to the owner’s creditworthiness. Instead, business credit scores depend on how well a company can pay its bills. Hence consumer and business credit scores can vary dramatically.

Business Credit Benefits

There are no demands for a personal guarantee. You can quickly get business credit regardless of personal credit quality. And there is no personal credit reporting of business accounts. Business credit utilization won’t affect your consumer FICO score. Plus the business owner isn’t personally liable for the debt the business incurs.

Being accepted for business credit is not automatic. Building business credit requires some work. Some of the steps are intuitive, and some of them are not.

Fundability

Fundability is the current ability of our business to get funding. Some factors are within your control. Others (like your time in business) aren’t. All of the business credit reporting agencies care about the fundability of your business.

There are Three Major Business Credit Reporting Agencies (and a Few More) – But What are the Real Differences Among Them?

What distinguishes the biggest business credit reporting agencies? And can you use that information to your advantage?

Business Credit Reporting Agencies

business credit reporting agencies Credit Suite2 - Learn About the Business Credit Reporting AgenciesThere are three main business credit reporting agencies for business: Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax. FICO SBSS and CreditSafe are also players.

In the business world Equifax and Experian matter. But Dun & Bradstreet is the major player.

D&B has more than 10 times the records of the next closest reporting agency. In the business credit world there really is one major player, with two other much smaller ones. See dnb.com/about-us/company.html. It makes sense to start with D&B when comparing business CRAs, since you’ll have to start the business credit building process with them anyway.

Dun & Bradstreet

D&B is the oldest and also the largest credit reporting agency. Go to D&B’s website and look for your business, at dnb.com/duns-number. Can’t find it? Then get a free D-U-N-S number. You always need a D-U-N-S number to start building business credit. Get a D-U-N-S number here: dnb.com/duns-number/get-a-duns.html.

A D-U-N-S number is how D&B gets your company into their system. Also, a D-U-N-S number plus 3 payment experiences leads to a PAYDEX score. A payment experience is a record of a purchase from a business which reports to a credit reporting agency. In this case, D&B. Once you are in D&B’s system, search Equifax and Experian’s sites for your business. You can do so at creditsuite.com/reports.

D&B Reports

In general when D&B does not have all of the data they need, they will indicate as much in their database-generated reports. But missing data does not necessarily mean a company is a bad credit risk. Instead, the risk is unknown. To ensure as accurate a report as possible, give D&B your company’s current financial statements.

Dun & Bradstreet Scores

PAYDEX is probably the best-known D&B score. Some others are:

  • D&B Rating
  • Delinquency Predictor
  • Financial Stress Score
  • Supplier Evaluation Risk Rating

To view a sample Business Information Report, go to products.dandb.com/download/2019_BIR-Snapshot-Report.pdf

PAYDEX Score

PAYDEX is Dun & Bradstreet’s dollar-weighted numerical rating of how a company has paid its bills over the past year. D&B bases this score on trade experiences which various vendors report. The score ranges from 1 to 100. Higher scores mean a better payment performance. PAYDEX scores reflect how well a company pays its bills.

What Influences Your PAYDEX Score?

Larger bills get more weight in the calculation. D&B gathers payment experiences from suppliers and vendors a firm does business with. Each experience reflects a different supplier and reflects how bills are met relative to the terms granted. D&B uses up to 875 payment experiences to generate the PAYDEX Score. Also, up to 80 representative payment experiences are reported in your credit report.

PAYDEX Numbers

D&B uses risk categories to make it easier to translate a PAYDEX score into understandable risk groups:

  • PAYDEX 80-100: Low risk of late payment
  • PAYDEX 50-79: Moderate risk of late payment.
  • and PAYDEX 0-49: High risk of late payment

D&B takes a proactive approach and tells you when a change in your PAYDEX score is bringing you closer to a different risk category

Improving Your PAYDEX Score

Addressing any problems head-on is a useful strategy. Hence if your business is regularly late with payments, then you should address issues of organization and perhaps time management. Since the score is dollar-weighted, you quite literally get more bang for your buck by paying bigger bills first. Because it reflects trends, you can help your business. This is by starting a practice of paying on time and also sticking with it.

D&B Business Information Reports

For a snapshot of your business’s financial health, the best report is probably a Business Information Report. Currently, it costs $139.99. You can get a Business Information Report on your own business or on a company you’re considering doing business with.

Along with a PAYDEX score, a D&B Business Information Report contains:

  • Trade payments (summary and by industry)
  • Trade line specifics with dollar amounts and terms
  • Legal events
  • Company events (mainly concerning ownership and management)
  • A company family tree showing ownership specifics

Risk Assessment Summary

A Business Information Report also contains a Risk Assessment Summary. It shows:

  • Maximum credit recommendation
  • PAYDEX
  • Delinquency Predictor percentile
  • Financial Stress percentile
  • Supplier Evaluation risk

Correcting Your D&B Credit Scores and Reports

Get your report from D&B at www.dnb.com/about-us/our-data.html. Update relevant information if there are mistakes or the information is incomplete. At D&B, you can do this at: dnb.com/duns-number/view-update-company-credit-file.html.

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Equifax

This company gets its data from:

  • A data sharing agreement with the Small Business Exchange
  • Net 30 type industry trade credit information from a wide variety of suppliers
  • These suppliers provide products and services to businesses on an invoice basis

Equifax scores show if a company is likely to make late payments.

Scores

Equifax has a few main scores:

  • Small Business Credit Risk Score for Financial Services
  • Small Business Credit Risk Score for Suppliers
  • The Small Business Failure Risk Score
  • Payment Trend
  • Payment Index

Check out a sample Equifax business credit report at https://assets.equifax.com/assets/usis/small_business_sample_credit_report.pdf.

Equifax Business Risk Monitor for Small Business

You can get risk score alerts. Or you can learn about potential risk based on a significant negative change to any of four predictive risk scores. They are the Business Credit Risk Score, Payment Index, Business Failure Score, and Business Delinquency Score.

Currently, this online product is not available as Equifax upgrades its Member Center. See equifax.com/business/business-risk-monitor.

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Experian Business Credit

Experian is a whole other ballgame. Business credit is credit which in a business’s name. It also depends on how well a company can pay its bills. But Experian uses both consumer and business credit information to gauge risk.

“By combining personal and commercial credit information in one report, Experian provides a complete picture of the creditworthiness of small businesses”

You Must Get Set Up with Experian

Get a BIN (Business Identification Number) from Experian. Experian’s BizSource assigns a BIN.

Experian’s Blended Score

This is summary information on a business and its owner. For troubled businesses, blended scores dropped an average of 30% over the four quarters leading up to a bad event. 53% of the time, the first signs of credit problems were on the business credit reports. And 46% of the time, the first signs of credit problems were on the owner’s personal report. Blended scores have been found to outperform consumer or business alone by 10 – 20%.

Experian CreditScore SM Report

With this report, you get an Experian Business Credit Score (Intelliscore). It includes the Experian Financial Stability Risk Rating. It also has information on derogatories like judgments, tax liens, and bankruptcies. You can learn about any fictitious business name information in the file. As of the fourth quarter of 2020, this report costs $39.95.

Experian BizVerify Report

This is a more basic report but with less in it. As of the fourth quarter of 2020, this report costs under $20. It is Experian’s snapshot view of a business credit file. Use this report to verify if a new business is in their National Business Database.

This brief summary report provides any available information on a business’s registration. This is even for businesses that have not yet established an Experian business credit score. It isn’t much of a monitoring product; it’s more to make sure a business is in Experian’s records.

Improving Your Company’s Experian Report

Make sure vendors are reporting, and not just to Experian. Pay bills early or on time, in full. For Experian, historical behavior (payment history) = 5-10% of total score. Try to maintain personal credit utilization at about 20 – 30% of your limits or less. Don’t close positive accounts even if you no longer use them. And try to avoid derogatories like liens.

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FICO SBSS (in brief)

A FICO SBSS score is different from other business credit agency scores. With other credit reports, you can get a copy of your credit report and know where you stand. Not so with the FICO SBSS.  It can differ from lender to lender. The SBA requires a FICO SBSS score of at least 150 to lend to a business.

CreditSafe (in brief)

CreditSafe has the biggest wholly owned database in the industry. They gather data from local, trusted partners and combine it with a scoring algorithm. CreditSafe also administers a global network of leading commercial credit reference agencies. They have live data streams for over 70 countries but are less well known than the others. See: creditsafe.com/us/en/more/about/our-data.html.

How Long Data Stays on Your Reports at the Chief Business Credit Reporting Agencies

Per Experian Business, bankruptcies stay for 7 to 10 years. Chapter 13 bankruptcy rolls off a credit report 7 years from the filing date. While Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays for 10 years from the filing date. Trade data stays on for 36 months. Judgments, collections, and also tax liens stay on for 6 years and 9 months. UCC filings stay on for 5 years. See experian.com/small-business/how-long-credit-report. There are similar time frames for all the business credit reporting agencies.

Disputing Issues at all the Business Credit Reporting Agencies

None of the business bureaus will change scores without proof. Also, they are starting to accept more and more online disputes. Include proofs of payment, documents like receipts and cancelled checks.

Fixing credit report errors also means you specifically spell out any charges you challenge. Make your dispute as crystal clear as possible. But if you need to snail mail anything in, use certified mail to have proof that you sent in your dispute.

Also, with all the business credit reporting agencies, be specific about concerns with your report.

Correct Experian issues at: experian.com/small-business/business-credit-information. And you can correct Equifax issues at: equifax.com/small-business-faqs/#Dispute-FAQs.

D&B wants you to go through their Customer Service, where you can also add payment experiences. D&B’s Customer Service contact number can be found at dandb.com/glossary/paydex.

For CreditSafe, check their website.

Monitoring Business Credit Scores and Reports

Business credit reports are not always perfectly correct. Also, all of the major CRAs are committed to accuracy. But you won’t know there are errors unless you monitor your business credit reports.

For D&B only, you can monitor your reports via CreditMonitor. It currently costs $39/month. See dnb.com/products/small-business/credit-monitor.html.

The costs of monitoring can add up fast. At Experian, your best (least expensive) bet would be a Business Credit Advantage Subscription Plan. It currently costs $189 per year. See sbcr.experian.com/pdp.aspx?pg=Sample&link.

At Equifax, you would use Equifax Complete. It currently costs $19.95 per month, after an offer of 30 days for $4.95. See equifax.com/equifax-complete/Equifax.

Add these all together for a year and it’s $468 for D&B, $189 for Experian, and $224.40 for Equifax (with a special). For a grand total of $881.40!

Monitoring Your D&B, Experian, and Equifax Credit Scores and Reports for 90% Less

You can monitor your business credit at D&B, Equifax, and also Experian through Credit Suite. It’s for considerable savings over what it would cost you at those major business credit reporting agencies. And all in one place! Credit Suite offers monitoring through the Business Finance Suite (through Nav). See what credit issuers and lenders see. That way, you can directly improve your scores and get the business credit and funding you need. See suitelogin.com and creditsuite.com/monitoring.

The Main Business Credit Reporting Agencies: Takeaways

The different business credit reporting agencies are similar but not identical. D&B is the largest. A D-U-N-S number is an absolute necessity for business credit building. Experian gets some of its scoring from your personal credit habits. Equifax gets much of its data from the Small Business Financial Exchange. CreditSafe and the FICO SBSS are also players in this space.

Monitoring all this is expensive. But you can save 90% by monitoring your D&B, Experian, and Equifax scores through Credit Suite.

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