Business Credit Reports

     by Gerri Detweiler • Oct 28, 2019

Small business owners who understand their business credit are 41% more likely to be approved for a business loan, according to Nav’s American Dream Gap Survey.

Important Business Credit Report Information

Ordering your business credit reports

What is a business credit report?

Experian business credit report sample

Dun & Bradstreet credit report sample

Equifax business credit report sample

How to establish business credit

Why it’s essential to monitor your business credit

Business credit report mistakes and disputes

Ordering your business credit reports

There are a number of companies that compile and sell credit reports on businesses. Unlike personal credit, however, there is no law that mandates a free annual business credit report or free disclosure of a business credit score. Individual bureaus generally charge for these reports and scores, though as you can see in the chart below, there are a few sources where you can get check your business credit report and scores for free.

What is a business credit report?

A business credit report is a credit report that contains information about how a business handles its financial obligations. These reports are compiled by business credit bureaus (a.k.a. a commercial credit reporting agencies). Business credit reports are not regulated under state or federal law, so there is no requirement they be shown to business owners.

Business credit reports typically contain three main sections: 

1. Business information

This section will list information about your business, such as the address, the year it was started, names of key executives, number of employees, annual revenue and other details. Some information, like revenue, is difficult for the credit reporting agencies to obtain
or maintain, so don’t worry if it’s not current. But other information, such as your current business address, should be accurate. If it’s not, dispute it.

Pro Tip: Check the SIC or NAICS code listed on your credit report to make sure it is accurate. If it’s not, your business may have trouble obtaining financing.

2. Account history

This is the key section of your credit report. Here, you’ll find accounts that are being reported by financial institutions and other companies. It can include payment history for a variety of accounts, such as business loans, credit cards, and supplier accounts. You’ll generally see information describing whether the account has been paid on time, and recent balances. (Remember, creditors may report your balances before your most recent payment has been received.)

3. Public record items

This section generally contains information obtained through “public record” sources such as courthouses. Here you may find:

Information in this section may have a significant impact on your business credit— and whether you can get business financing— so review it carefully for accuracy and dispute mistakes.

What’s not in a business credit report?

There are also some types of information that are not likely to appear on your business credit reports. These include:

Names of creditors

Business creditors generally don’t list the names of individual creditors. For example, you may have a small business credit card through American Express, Chase, or another issuer and it will usually be identified as “bankcard” on your report.

Credit limits

Revolving accounts listed on your business credit reports (such as lines of credit or credit cards) will rarely list a credit limit. Instead the report will list the recent high balance.

Payment history details

Most business credit reports list a summary of your payment history rather than month-by-month details. For example, it may list that your payments were made on time 90% of the time, and that 10% of the time they were paid 30-60 days late. Late payments can significantly impact your business credit scores so review this section carefully. (Note: Equifax business credit reports contain more payment history details.)

Experian business credit report sample

Experian gathers, analyzes, and processes your business credit data to provide a summary of your credit history. They’ve got 125 years of experience.

Your business credit report data allows potential lenders to assess the risk you pose and make decisions to approve or deny your request for credit. And it provides a way for you to ensure that companies you do business with accurately report your activity.

Dun & Bradstreet business credit report sample

For more than 150 years, Dun & Bradstreet has been the leading source of commercial information and insight on businesses just like yours. They gather data and analytics on your business to provide a credit report and information on your business. That way, lenders can determine how much of a risk your business poses. And you can check out other businesses as well.

Equifax business credit report sample

Equifax provides you with an in-depth business credit report on
your company. They also use data, technology, and analytics to transform information about companies into insights. And those insights can help you make better decisions about companies with whom you may want to do business.

How to establish business credit

It’s not unusual for a business owner who has been in business
for several years to discover her business doesn’t have a business credit report or scores. Many lenders and vendors that offer trade credit don’t report to business credit reporting agencies, while some report to one or two bureaus, but not all of them.

It is not difficult to build business credit, but you will need to invest a little time and effort.

The key to building strong business credit is to get loans or accounts with companies that report payment history to these bureaus on a regular basis. Then pay on time, over time and monitor your reports for accuracy. If that’s your only focus, you
will be well ahead of most business owners who are not actively building business credit.

If you have two or fewer credit references reporting on your business credit, you’ll want to build out your credit history with additional accounts. Here are three simple ways to get started:

1. Get a business credit card.

Most small business credit cards report to at least one of the major credit reporting agencies. (This chart lists how specific small business credit cards can help build business credit.)

2. Get vendor accounts.

Purchase supplies for your business from companies that report vendor accounts (“trade credit”). (Here’s a list of easy net-30 vendors that report.)

3. Add existing accounts to your reports.

You can ask companies with which you already have small business loans or accounts with with to report your payments, but that’s not always easy. Instead, you may want to work with a company that will verify and report those accounts on your behalf. (Here’s how to get credit for bills your business already pays.)

For step-by-step guidance on how to build business credit, use Nav’s BusinessLauncher tool, free with every Nav account.

Why it’s essential to monitor your business credit

Consumers have the right to protect their personal credit reports from improper access, either by placing a fraud alert or credit freeze. Business owners don’t have that same ability: you can’t freeze business credit reports.

And yet business credit fraud and business identity theft are very real problems. An NBCNews story shared the story of an attorney who had to shut down his practice after becoming the victim of personal and business identity theft.

It’s smart for business owners to review and monitor their business credit history on a regular basis. This can help you spot mistakes and unusual activity that could indicate bigger problems.

 

Business credit report mistakes and disputes

A study by the Wall Street Journal found that about one-quarter of business owners who checked their business credit reports found errors or missing information significant enough to lower their scores.

If you check your business credit reports and find mistakes, you’ll need to dispute the inaccurate information. Because there’s no federal law that governs business credit report disputes, procedures vary from bureau to bureau:

Dun & Bradstreet

You can use D&B’s iUpdate service to file disputes. Sign up here.

Equifax

The owner or principal of the business must contact Equifax to initiate a dispute:

EQUIFAX INC.

Equifax can re-investigate a disputed trade or public record item. Provide supporting documentation that will be verified. Equifax cannot accept additional trade references that do not appear on the report, or update or add any principal or firmographic information.

Experian

To make changes to your Experian business profile (i.e. address, sales, employees, etc), visit BusinessCreditFacts.com. To dispute account information, purchase your credit report here. Print out your full updated report, circle the incorrect information and write in the reason you are disputing that item. Then email that information to businessdisputes@experian.com along with any documentation.

FAQs

How can I check my business credit score?

While there are more than 150 places where you can check and monitor your personal credit scores for free, there are far fewer places to check your business credit scores for free. Nav is currently the only source showing free business credit data from all the three major commercial bureaus. Learn more about business credit scores here.

In addition to a free personal credit score, a free Nav account will provide you with letter grades to help you understand whether your business has a good credit score. Also, keep in mind that business owners who maintain strong personal credit scores and good business credit scores are in the best position to get financing. Both matter.

Can I get business credit reports through Credit Karma?

Credit Karma does not offer free business credit reports or business credit scores, only personal credit reports. Nav has been called the “Credit Karma for business credit.” It is the only place offering free business credit reports from the three main commercial credit reporting agencies.

How long can negative information remain on business credit reports?

Since no federal law governs business credit, there are no restrictions on how long information can appear in your business credit history. Each bureau has its own policies. Some information may be reported for more than ten years! You’ll find more details on reporting periods for business credit here. 

Can I build business credit as a sole proprietor?

Yes, you can build business credit as a sole proprietor. To do so, though, you should have a register your business name with your state as a fictitious name or “doing business as” or “DBA.” You can then obtain business credit cards and/or vendor accounts in the name of your business. Keep in mind, though, until you establish a legal entity for your business, such as an S or C Corp or LLC, your business and personal credit will be impossible to completely separate and you’ll likely have to sign a personal guarantee when you get financing.

Is my EIN used for business credit?

Since Social Security numbers are such an important identifier for your personal credit, it’s logical to assume your Employer Identification Number (EIN) will play the same role as an identifier for your business credit. Instead, the collection and use of EINs by business credit reporting agencies varies significantly from bureau to bureau. You’ll find some of your credit reports list that information, while others may not.

Each commercial credit agency creates its own identifier: Experian uses its own Business Identification Number (BIN), Equifax assigns an Equifax ID, and Dun & Bradstreet creates a D&B D-U-N-S number for each business.