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Improving Your Business Credit Score: Where to Start

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Many businesses will need to borrow money at some point to fuel their growth. As part of this process, your business credit score determines whether or not you qualify for financing and the terms that are set. The higher your credit score, the more you’ll be able to borrow and at better rates.

Much like a personal credit score, your business credit score reflects your company’s repayment history with loans, credit cards, and other debts. Improving this score (building your business credit) goes beyond the basics of making timely repayments.

Other factors for maximizing your credit score include partnering with the right vendors, establishing trade lines with vendors, and keeping your information current with the established credit bureaus. You can also get a good indication of your business’ financial standing with the customized risk score generated by ForwardAI using a combination of current financial data and a sophisticated proprietary algorithm.

What is a business credit score?

Consider that 45% of businesses don’t know they have a business credit score and 82% don’t know how to interpret their credit reports, the answer to this question is relatively important.

It’s true. Your business has its own credit score. The amount of debt you owe largely determines your credit score. The frequency with which you pay it debts and how often you seek new sources of credit also influence your business credit score.

Other metrics that determine your business credit score include your outstanding balances, payment history with vendors and lenders, and the record of purchases you’ve made with vendors (also known as trade experiences). Credit reporting agencies will also examine your company size, risk factors in your industry, and the amount of credit you’ve used compared to the amount your lenders are willing to give you (also known as your credit utilization ratio).

Reporting bureaus take this information and assign your company with a business credit score. Unlike a personal credit score, which goes to 850, business credit scores have a lower maximum range. Depending on the bureau, your maximum score will generally either be 300 or 100, with a few exceptions.

Where does the information for a business credit score come from?

Each credit agency may use a different algorithm to determine your score, and public information largely determines your business credit score (rather than private financial information from credit card issues and lenders for personal debts).

You’ll want to make sure that your business credit score is as high as possible, and that it contains accurate information about your use of credit and your payment history with vendors and creditors. These factors influence your score heavily, and any mistakes may prevent you from getting the credit score you deserve.

It’s also fairly common for businesses to find mistakes on businesses credit scores issued by established credit bureaus. In fact, nearly 25% of all businesses find a mistake that’s significant enough to lower their credit rating.

How to build or improve your business credit score

Your credit score is largely determined by public information, as we mentioned before. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t several steps you can take in order to make your business credit look as strong as possible.

1. Apply for (and use) a business credit card

Building a credit history means — you guessed it — using credit. Creditors love to see that a business uses its credit wisely over a long period of time. The longer you can demonstrate a track record of proper credit card usage, the better.

If you haven’t already applied for a business credit card, do so as soon as you can. You may not have the highest credit limit or the snazziest card, but it’ll put you on the right path toward building your credit history. From there, you can go on to apply for cards with greater perks or higher credit limits once you’ve established yourself.

2. Establish trade credit with recurring vendors

Setting up trade credit with repeat customers (or vendors) is another great way to demonstrate your creditworthiness. Trade credit is basically the notion of performing services or getting goods from a company without demanding payment after every transaction. Whenever your vendor provides you with their business and does not request cash upfront or upon delivery, they’re extending you trade credit.

Trade credit goes a long way in regard to creditworthiness because it demonstrates that you’re dependable, and pay your debts accordingly. If your suppliers can trust that you’ll pay on time at the end of a predetermined period, other creditors will be more likely to trust you as well.

3. Apply for a line of credit

Another excellent way to build credit history is through a line of credit. A business line of credit is a set amount of money that a lender agrees to provide to your business. You can draw money from the line of credit when you need to use it, and pay interest only on the amount of money you’ve borrowed.

Lines of credit are great for building your credit history, as they show that lenders trust you to be diligent about repaying your debts on a recurring basis. You’ll build trust with your existing lender, and show other potential lenders that you’ve got a good history of fulfilling your obligations.

How to check your business credit score

The first step toward improving your credit score is making sure that reporting bureaus have the right information in the first place. Equifax, Experian, and Dun & Bradstreet all provide business credit reports — each with a different score based on their internal algorithm.

Dun & Bradstreet charges around $60 and provides you with a credit report, credit summary, and risk score. They also provide you with a PAYDEX score — a measurement of how quickly you pay your creditors — as well as a financial stress score that assess the overall financial health of your company. Even if you don’t opt to get a Dun & Bradstreet report, it’s a smart idea to register for a DUNs number, which puts you in the company’s database and sets up your credit file.

Equifax and Experian both offer credit reports, but neither of them are as robust as Dun & Bradstreet’s. For $99.99, Equifax will send you a report that includes your public records and a business failure score that gives you insight into how sustainable your company is. Experian charges $36.95 for its report, but only provides you with basic details about your company’s credit projections.

Your ForwardAI risk score is a focal point of the insights and analysis you receive when you connect your business. It gives you perspective on how prospective lenders and business partners might evaluate your current financial standing.

4 ways to improve your business credit score

There are several ways you can improve your business credit score beyond opening credit accounts and being good about repaying debts on time. In fact, it’s important to go beyond these elementary tasks if you want to be proactive about guarding your business credit score against erroneous information, fraud, or unwarranted demerits in your credit history. If you’ve covered the basics of getting a solid business credit score already, here are some of the tactics to take in order to truly take charge of your company’s credit.

1. Monitor business credit score changes

Your business credit report isn’t always perfect. Just like with a personal credit report, it’s common to see errors that could unfairly damage your overall score. Monitor your business credit report often, and report any erroneous information as soon as you see it. This can help ensure that your company gets assessed fairly, and fix any potential mistakes quickly.

2. Pay your bills on time (or before they’re due)

This one might sound obvious, but paying your bills promptly is the best thing you can do to keep your business credit score as high as possible. Many companies report payment histories to credit monitoring agencies. The faster you submit payments, the better you’ll look when they give their information over to these organizations.

3. Have a mix of credit

Using a business credit card is great for your credit score. But having a line of credit, installment loan, and a business credit card can be even better. This demonstrates that your business can maintain several kinds of credit at once. The more diverse your credit lines are, the more you demonstrate your ability to pay off what you owe under different circumstances. You’ll have to use each of these credit options wisely, however, or you can end up doing more harm than good.

4. Sustain a good credit utilization ratio

Merely opening a business credit card account isn’t enough to show that you’re creditworthy. You need to actively use the card (or your line of credit, if that’s your preference) in order to give credit monitoring companies a glimpse into your trustworthiness. The more you use your credit card — and pay your bill on time — the more these agencies can trust that you’re a good candidate for loans. Aim to use only 25% of the total amount of credit provided to your company, however. Carrying a high balance can make you look like a riskier bet, as it signals that your business might not have the cash to pay for goods through other means.

Keep an eye on the big picture

When you connect your accounting software to ForwardAI, you get the tools you need to monitor the key facets of business financial health. Our dashboard gives you the charts and graphs you need to see how your income compares your expenses or how your overall inflows compare to your outflows.

You get a deep dive into accounts receivables, including the invoices that have been outstanding the longest and the customers that represent the greatest level of exposure. The cash flow forecast helps you project how your inflows and outflows will perform in future and the risk score is a capstone metric that you can use to evaluate your current financial position.

Your credit rating and risk profile aren’t formed in a vacuum. They’re the sum of many moving parts and the more you know the more you can plan and respond accordingly. Managing risk and cash flow shouldn’t be intimidating. With the right tools, financial management is empowering.

Get started today and give your business the tools to build success.

This article is informational only. It does not replace the expertise that comes from working with an accountant, bookkeeper or financial professional.


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