How to Establish & Build Business Credit

How to Establish & Build Business Credit

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Figuring out how to access business financing and credit is a common quest for both new and existing small business owners. From start-up costs to new expansion strategies, establishing a strong business credit profile with diverse accounts can help make or break your immediate and future business plans.

Why Should I Learn How to Establish Business Credit?

If you’re reading this, you already know that good credit (both consumer and business) is important, but let’s explore the benefits a bit more. One of the most obvious reasons you’ll want to learn how to get business credit is so that you can reap its benefits.

Strong business credit scores can help business owners secure better interest rates on loans, decrease instances where you need to prepay for a specific product or service, and secure better trade terms with important suppliers in your industry. In the long run, this will help you save money and access the funds or assets you need to help your business grow.

Additionally, for the one out of five of you that had to use your personal assets to fund your entrepreneurial dreams, establishing business credit can help you draw a clear and important line between your personal finances and your business profile.

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7 Steps to Establishing Business Credit

At this point you’re probably thinking “Yes, I get it. It’s important. Can you please tell me how I can get this party started?” The truth is, much like a great party takes some planning and coordination, establishing and building credit takes time and effort; it won’t happen overnight. However, these tips on how to establish business credit can help you bring your plans and aspirations to fruition.

  1. Put Your Business on the Map

    Just because you’re open (or about to open) for business, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve put yourself on the map. You can’t effectively establish credit until you’ve established your business! Be sure to check the following item off your To-Do list.

    • Obtain an EIN (federal tax identification number). This is pretty non-negotiable, as you’ll need it come tax time.
    • Get a business phone number and have it listed in the directory. Every credible business should have one.
    • Open a bank account in your official (legal) business name, and regularly use it to pay your bills.
  2. Pay On Time All the Time

    This is probably the number one rule in any credit situation. Paying your bills on time shows that you are reliable and can effectively manage (and pay off) your debt. Late payments, especially severely delinquent ones, will bring down your credit score and negatively impact your business credit profile.

  3. Establish and Maintain Good Credit Relationships with Suppliers and Vendors

    In the world of business, a solid line of credit with industry relevant vendors or suppliers is like gold. The better your relationship with these groups or individual, the more likely you are to avoid prepaying for items or services. If you can work with a handful (3 – 5) vendors or suppliers, you’ll efficiently establish a positive line of credit.
    Once you have a healthy working relationship with them, be sure that they are reporting your positive payment history to the all-powerful credit reporting agencies. Unlike personal credit, they aren’t required to send this in.

  4. Open a Business Credit Card

    Opening a business credit card with a company that reports to the major credit reporting agencies is a great way to establish business credit. You definitely should have at least one open credit card, but more than one can also help. However, be sure to use caution and avoid over extending your business finances. Just because the credit is there, doesn’t mean you need to (or should) utilize all of it.

  5. Get Incorporated

    If you haven’t already, seriously consider getting incorporated. By adding Inc. or LLC. to your business, you’ll be legally separating your business and personal profile. If you choose not to do this, your business and personal credit history (among other things) will be legally attached.

  6. Transition Commercial Expenses Away from Personal Finances

    Given the steps above, this is fairly redundant, but none the less important. By opening credit cards, lines of credits, and bank accounts in your business’s legal name, you’ll be separating yourself. Add on your new Inc or LLC, and you’ll be creating plenty of distance. Clearly separating your expenses also makes it a lot easier to manage taxes!

  7. Monitor Your Credit

    25% of small business owners have reported significant errors on their credit reports. Diligently monitoring your business credit history can help you spot any issues or blemishes that aren’t accurate. If you do find an error, be sure to file a dispute with the reporting agency.

How to Build Business Credit

Once you have established business credit, your next step is to build strong business credit. Many of the steps above will help you do just that, but it’s important to focus on two specific steps to help you boost your commercial credit history.

The first step is to pay early. In the advice above, we mentioned how it’s important to pay on time. But with some business credit scores, you can in essence get “extra credit” for paying your bills before they are due. Payment information on business credit reports is often more detailed than on personal credit reports. Pay faster if you can, and you may build your business credit scores more quickly.

The second piece of advice for building good business credit is to make sure you have accounts reporting to the various business credit agencies. Again, not all vendors and lenders report to all commercial credit agencies. For example, your business credit card issuer may report to SBFE but not to D&B; you won’t know until you check your reports.

So be sure to check your credit reports and scores with more than one major credit reporting agency to find out whether your accounts are helping your scores, and if not, consider adding additional credit references. With Nav’s Premium Plus subscription you’ll see your business Experian Intelliscore, D&B Paydex Score and your FICO SBSS score.

Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit Scores For Free (No Credit Card Required).

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About the Author — Jennifer is a alum of the University of Denver. While in the graduate program there, she enjoyed spending time identifying ways in which non-profits and small businesses could develop into strong and profitable organizations that while promoting strong community growth. She also enjoys finding unique ways for freelancers and start-up businesses to reach and expand their goals.

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  • I’m not 18 yet but I do have a business and a personal credit score. Can I establish business credit if I am a minor?

    • Lydia Roth

      If you have a business and a personal credit score you’ll probably be able to establish credit with some vendor accounts that will be more interested in the age of your business than your (personal) age. But take a look at the application. If they ask for your age, you may want to ask them directly whether that’s an issue before you apply.

  • Nadeen Marie Pettit-Dennis

    I have an entity established and have for more then 3 years but have never been able to obtain financing. I just filed bankruptcy due to bad personal credit which in turn have provided me a better credit score now then I had before I filed. It is now discharged but I don’t even know where to begin with establishing business credit any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Jared Proctor

      Nadeen, you’re in the same boat as a lot of our small business customers. I suggest you start by getting a business credit card(s) and paying them off each month. Places like Home Depot or Staples will extend a small amount of credit to most businesses. Nav also offers a free business credit builder tool (BusinessLauncher) that can walk you through the steps. It’s completely free (no cc required ever) to sign up with Nav.

  • Rodney

    I own an LLC that in turn owns majority share in two other LLC partnerships. I have EIN, bank accounts, and credit cards for all 3 entities. Is there a way to use the combination of the 3 entities financial activity to establish business credit?