D-U-N-S Number — What You Need to Know

D-U-N-S Number — What You Need to Know

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What is a DUNS number?

The Data Universal Numbering System—or D-U-N-S number—was created and copyrighted in 1962 by Dun & Bradstreet. It is a unique a nine-digit identifier that has become the standard numbering system to identify businesses across the globe.

Just as your social security number reveals a lot about you—your bank accounts, tax returns, credit scores, residences, etc., your DUNS number reveals similar information about your business.

This is helpful, and in some cases required, for commercial and government entities who may be considering your business for a loan, grant or a contract.

Your DUNS number is directly tied to the credit profile D&B builds on your business. When you apply for credit with a lender, trade terms with vendors and suppliers, or contracts with the U.S. government, they can look up your business’s DUNS number to inquire about scores that D&B has on your business, such as your D&B PAYDEX score, which gives creditors an assessment of the creditworthiness of your business.

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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.

Today, Dun & Bradstreet keeps track of over 265 million businesses worldwide. Over 100 million of those businesses have been assigned a DUNS number. The federal government adopted the DUNS number as its principal business identifier in 1994.

In 1998, the DUNS number was incorporated as the federal government’s contractor identification code. This means that companies without a DUNS number cannot do business with the federal government. This makes a DUNS number invaluable for many small businesses, since government contracts are often stable, lucrative sources of income.

How do I look up my DUNS number?

Before you apply for a DUNS number, check to see if your business already has one. If you are a Nav customer, you can do this via the BusinessLauncher tool in your profile. Here, you’ll be connected to a lookup tool that search for your business using either your company name and address, or your company’s telephone number.

How do I apply for a DUNS number and what do I get?

The same business launcher tool will help you get a DUNS number should you find that you aren’t in Dun & Bradstreet’s records. Applying for a DUNS number is a simple process, but it does require you to first establish your business as a legal entity (LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc) with your state. Once you’ve completed that, you’ll need to provide information like your legal name, the name of your business’ 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. Once you’ve applied, you’ll likely get a call from a D&B representative who will help you through the process, and you’ll receive your DUNS number within 30 days.

If you want your number fast, you can use the DUNSFile service to get it in less than five business days, but it will cost you $229.

A DUNS number will help put your business on the map, but keep in mind that won’t be useful to you until you begin establishing a strong business credit history.

The more you learn about business financing—including the importance of business credit cards and business tradelines to the growth of your company—the more your DUNS number will work in your favor.

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About the Author — Jamison is a content writer for Nav, the free site giving business owners access to their business and personal credit scores, and tools that match them to the best financing and services. Along with the intricacies of entrepreneurship and small business, his interests include philosophy, literature and history.

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