You may have heard the term D-U-N-S number and wondered whether your business needs one, and if so, when you should get one.
In this article, we’ll explain what a DUNS number is, the importance of a DUNS number for your business, and how to use it to build business credit.
What Is a DUNS Number?
The Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number is a unique nine-digit identifier for a business created by credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet. The Data Universal Numbering System — or DUNS number — was created and copyrighted in 1962 by Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet is one of the three major business credit bureaus. DUNS numbers have become the standard numbering system to identify business entities across the globe.
Just as your Social Security number is often tied to your bank account, tax returns, personal credit score, residences, etc., your DUNS number and business credit scores are tied to your business within Dun & Bradstreet’s system.
Your DUNS number is linked to your PAYDEX credit score, which is one of Dun & Bradstreet’s credit scoring models for businesses. The PAYDEX score ranges between 0 and 100 and is based on suppliers’ reports of your payment history as a business. This information is used by lenders to help assess whether your business is likely to pay small business loans or other business debts on time.
The Paydex score is just one of a number of business credit scores that Dun & Bradstreet sells.
Why Would Your Business Need a DUNS Number?
Here are three ways a DUNS number can help you:
- Establish business creditworthiness. Your DUNS number is directly tied to the credit profile D&B builds on your business. In fact, before D&B can calculate a D&B PAYDEX score, you’ll need a DUNS number. When vendors or suppliers request your business credit profile to decide whether to offer your business net-30 terms or other types of trade credit, they’ll want to see a credit history. The same is true with financial institutions like banks that are evaluating applications for small business loans, business credit cards, or other other types of business financing.
- Separate personal credit. If a lender checks business credit and does not find a credit file on your business, it may require a personal credit check. (Of course, some lenders will check personal credit, regardless of your business credit rating.)
- Get better terms with your suppliers. If your business credit is strong, you may be eligible for trade credit. This allows you to buy supplies your business needs and pay for them later–hopefully out of cash flow. Some suppliers offer net-30 terms, and the better your credit, the better the terms you may be able to negotiate.
In the past, a DUNS number was required to register with the US government for federal contracts or grants. However, that is no longer the case. The DUNS number has been replaced with a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) in the SAM registration process.
Who Is Dun & Bradstreet?
Your DUNS number only reveals credit information gathered by one credit bureau: Dun & Bradstreet. Originally known as the Mercantile Agency, Dun & Bradstreet is one of America’s oldest companies. Its founder, Lewis Tappan, created it in 1841 for the purpose of helping merchants establish the creditworthiness of potential customers.
Fun fact: Five former US Presidents worked for Dun and Bradstreet, including Abraham Lincoln!
Is a DUNS Number the Same as a Federal Tax ID Number?
A DUNS number is different from your federal tax ID number or employer identification number (EIN). A DUNS number is used for business credit reporting purposes, whereas an EIN is issued by the IRS and used for tax identification purposes. An EIN is like a Social Security number for your business, and is included on any tax documents. You may also be required to provide your EIN number for business purposes, like opening a business bank account.
How Do I Look Up My DUNS Number?
Before you apply for a DUNS number, check to see if your business already has one. You can check D&B’s website using the D&B D-U-N-S number lookup page. Here, you’ll be connected to a lookup tool that searches for your company using business information, such as company name and address, or your company’s telephone number.
How to Get a DUNS Number
In most cases, DUNS numbers are automatically created for your business after you set up business tradelines, like a vendor accounts, business credit cards, or even some small business loans.
Nav Prime can help with that: You’ll get up to two business tradelines built into your Nav Prime membership — one with your monthly Nav Prime payment and another with regular use of your Nav Prime Card.* These tradelines can help you both establish and build your business credit history.
You can also apply for a free D-U-N-S number proactively. Applying for a DUNS number is a simple process. Simply visit DNB.com and follow the instructions.
It helps if you first establish your business as a legal entity (LLC, C corp, S corp, etc) with your state. When you do, you’ll provide company information, including your business legal name and those of any other business owners, your business name, the name of your business’s headquarters and address of your business, your telephone number, whether you’re a home-based business, and the number of employees at your physical location.
This information then can become part of your business credit file.
Your business doesn’t have to operate with a formal legal structure to get a D-U-N-S number. However, if you plan to form an LLC or corporation, you may want to do so before you start to begin the credit building process. That way, any accounts you get will be reported under your business name.
DUNS Number Is Critical for Credit Building
Since a DUNS number is no longer required to register for federal government contracts or grants, the main reason you’ll want to apply for a DUNS number is to help your business establish business credit.
While this is a step that you don’t want to overlook, keep in mind it’s just the first step toward establishing business credit.
You’ll also need to get tradelines.
In other words, you’ll need accounts that report to business credit reporting agencies like D&B. You can pay your bills on time, but if they don’t appear on your business credit reports, they won’t help you establish business credit.
Also keep in mind that Dun and Bradstreet is just one of several business credit bureaus. Many lenders and vendors report selectively to various bureaus, or to the SBFE. You’ll want to check and monitor your business credit with multiple bureaus.
Lenders have their choice of credit bureaus; you’ll want to make sure you see what they will see.
FAQs About DUNS Numbers
How much is a DUNS number?
A DUNS number is free from Dun & Bradstreet, but if you want an expedited DUNS number (within five business days), it will cost $229 using their DUNSFile system.
Do you need a tax ID to get a DUNS number?
No, you don’t need a tax ID to get a DUNS number. Dun & Bradstreet will use other means to verify your business, including:
– Business name (including fictitious name or “doing business as,” if applicable)- Business entity structure (LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc.)
– Year the business was started
– Business address and/or mailing address
– Phone number
– Name(s) of owner(s)
– Industry/line of business
– Number of employees (full- and part-time)
How do I build business credit with my DUNS number?
Once you’ve established your business and received your DUNS number, you can start to build business credit using tradelines. Nav Prime is the simplest way to build your business credit history. There are up to two tradelines built into your Nav Prime membership: one with your monthly payment and another with your regular use of the Nav Prime Card.
Can a sole proprietor get a DUNS number?
Yes, a sole proprietorship can get a DUNS number.Again, though, you may want to establish a business entity before you build credit to ensure continuity.
Are DUNS numbers going away?
No, DUNS numbers aren’t going away. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) — a.k.a. the federal government — has officially stopped using DUNS numbers in their System for Award Management (SAM) and is now using government issued Unique Entity IDs at their awards system SAM.gov. However, the DUNS number is still popular with lenders and banks who may use D&B credit scores and reports to determine how likely your business is to repay loans or other financing, which can inform whether or not they lend to your business.
Is there a fee to obtain a D-U-N-S Number?
You won’t pay to get a DUNS number. It is a number provided for free from Dun & Bradstreet to businesses.
Do I need a DUNS number to get a business credit card?
No, most business credit cards and business charge cards do not require a DUNS number to apply. However, if you have one and there is a place on the application to include it, do so. That will help ensure any account that is reported is associated with your business.
How do I find my DUNS number?
D&B provides a free lookup tool you can use to check whether your business already has a DUNS number. This is a simple way to check your DUNS number.
How fast can I build business credit?
You can often build credit in a matter of months if you are proactive about the process. Getting tradelines that report is the first step. Pay on time and monitor your credit regularly to stay on track.
*Nav Technologies, Inc. is a financial technology company and not a bank. Banking services provided by Blue Ridge Bank, N.A., and Thread Bank, Members FDIC. The Nav Visa® Business Debit Card is issued by Blue Ridge Bank, N.A., and the Nav Prime Charge Card is issued by Thread Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa cards are accepted. Your funds are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 through Blue Ridge Bank, N.A., Member FDIC.
This article was originally written on February 15, 2018 and updated on January 31, 2024.
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