FICO® SBSS℠ Score — The Key SBA Loan Credit Score Explained

by Gerri Detweiler

This story was updated September 10, 2020 to reflect the new required minimum SBSS score for SBA loans.


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Did you know your business may have a FICO small business credit score that banks use to help make their lending decisions? Like your personal FICO credit score, the SBSS score can impact your ability to get business financing!

Not only that, but the SBA (Small Business Administration) also uses the score to pre-screen some of the SBA loans it insures.

What is the FICO® SBSS℠ Score?

FICO® LiquidCredit® Small Business Scoring Service℠, (or FICO® SBSS℠ score) is one of the main business credit scores. The FICO® SBSS℠ score ranges between 0 to 300, with 300 being the highest score, and represents your creditworthiness and likelihood to pay back a loan. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) requires lenders to use this score to pre-screen  SBA 7(a) loans for $350,000 or less, as well as Community Advantage loans. If your score falls below their required threshold of 155 (as of October 1, 2020), your loan application must go through a manual approval.

It’s the one credit score business owners should know, but many have never heard of it because, until now, it’s been hard to get your hands on it. Banks aren’t required to disclose that they use the FICO® SBSS℠ score and very little information exists about it online. More lenders are using it because it helps them make faster, more accurate lending decisions. This means they can make decisions in hours, not days.

Here’s how SBSS works:

  • SBSS scores can be used for term loans and lines of credit for amounts up to $1 million.
  • Like personal credit scores, FICO SBSS rank-orders small businesses by their likelihood of making payments on time. The FICO score ranges from 0 to 300. The higher the score, the better.
  • The minimum score to pass the SBA’s pre-screen process is currently 155 (as of October 1, 2020). But most SBA lenders set their minimum score at 160-165.
  • The score can be calculated based upon personal and business credit history and other financial information. A strong history of business credit with timely payments to vendors and suppliers may help boost your SBSS score.
  • If you have derogatory or no credit history, it can take months or even years of positive credit activity to move your SBSS score significantly higher. It’s vital to build your credit and ensure it’s healthy before you need it.
  • Because businesses are not covered by Fair Credit Reporting Act protections, you can be denied business financing due to your SBSS score, and lenders are not required to notify you the score was used or provide access to your score.

How is the credit score calculated?

The short answer is the score is calculated by scoring the personal credit of the owner(s) including up to five owners (any with 20% or greater ownership), business credit history of the business, as well as other business financial information, like: age of the business, number of employees, financial data, such as revenue and assets. It truly is a global view of a business’s overall financial health!

If you have no business credit history and limited time in business, you may be able to get a passing FICO SBSS score based on steller personal credit alone. But it helps to have strong business credit as well.

Banks and lenders can set up the SBSS model they use in different ways, putting more weight on certain information, and less on others.

For example, it can put more weight on your business credit profile or more on your personal. It’s also a very “smart” business credit scoring model because it will automatically go from one business credit bureau to another, in whatever order of priority the lender prefers, until it’s able to generate a score.

So, if the lender prefers checking the Experian (business credit) as the default, the SBSS can pull in the Experian data set. If that report doesn’t offer enough information, it will automatically check another business credit report, such as Dun & Bradstreet. It could also then move on to Equifax business credit data. If there’s not enough business credit data available, it will just use the personal credit data to calculate the SBSS score, potentially along with business financials. (You can learn more about Experian business credit reports and download a sample report here.)

Who uses the FICO SBSS score?

FICO SBSS scores can be used for term loans and lines of credit for amounts up to $1 million. The FICO SBSS score is used by over 7,500 lenders nationwide to help them make lending decisions. Large banks include: KeyBank, Huntington National Bank, PNC, RBC, USBank, Zions Bank, HSBC, Santander Bank.

As mentioned earlier, certain SBA loans require this score be used to pre-screen applications. Banks will use it to pre-screen their loan applicants but they usually set their cutoff higher, typically around 160-165. If your score falls below that, they may see your business as too much of a risk. Plus, banks don’t want to waste their time filling out lengthy SBA loan applications if they are confident you’ll get denied because of poor credit.

How can I improve my FICO SBSS score?

You can take steps now to start improving your FICO SBSS score, you need to take care of your personal credit and start building business credit. Nav will help you check and monitor both personal and business credit with a free Nav account.

Lastly, you may just need time: Time to show solid business financial history that makes your business look more like a solid bet.

See How Much SBA Loan Money You Qualify For

See How Much SBA Loan Money You Qualify For

Use our CARES Act SBA loan calculator to see how much money your business may qualify to get.

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This article was originally written on September 28, 2015 and updated on September 10, 2020.

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About Author

Gerri Detweiler

Credit expert Gerri Detweiler is Education Director for Nav. She has more than three decades of experience in consumer credit education, has been interviewed in more than 3500 news stories, and answered over 10,000 credit questions online. Her articles have been widely syndicated on sites such as MSN, Forbes, and MarketWatch. She is the author or coauthor of five books, including Finance Your Own Business: Get on the Financing Fast Track. She has testified before Congress on consumer credit legislation.