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Checking business credit regularly doesn't have to cost anything
Strong business credit can enable your company to qualify for credit and loan products that support its growth and cash flow. Your business credit history is reflected in your business credit report, a collection of information about how well your company handles financial obligations with vendors and other partners. Lenders make business credit decisions based on data in this report, as they would for a consumer by reviewing a personal credit report.
You should regularly monitor your business credit report. Some companies charge a fee to access business credit reports, but others provide them for free. Getting a free business credit report can help you understand how financially healthy your business is.
Although consumers are entitled by law to receive one free credit report annually from each of the major bureaus, the law doesn’t extend a similar benefit to businesses. Still, getting a business credit report for free isn't difficult; you just have to know where to look.
Why your business credit report matters
"Understanding how business credit reports work can help business owners secure better financing and ultimately access capital needed to succeed and grow," says Jenn Garbach, head of brand marketing for small business card at Capital One.
Your business credit report not only gives you a sense of your borrowing potential but also helps you position yourself to negotiate the best terms and rates, Garbach says.
"(It) gives a comprehensive look at the financial history of a company and is an important part of a business's financial reputation," she says. "Having a good business credit report can demonstrate growth potential and stability to credit lenders."
In other words, good credit matters when you need to borrow money for your business. Good business credit also matters for establishing trade lines with suppliers. A supplier may be more likely to extend credit at favorable terms to a business with a solid credit history.
Amber Colley, business credit expert and senior vice president at business credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet, says, "A documented positive payment history, like a business credit report, shows credibility and reliability."
Credibility refers to the authenticity of a business, Colley says, and verified financial information, such as the data in a business credit report, can guide vendors and lenders in making informed credit decisions.
Surprisingly, many business owners aren't clued in to the importance of business credit reports. A recent Capital One survey found 31% of business owners had either never heard of business credit reports or didn't know much about them. Before getting a business credit report for free, know what kind of information is included.
What's in a business credit report?
Business credit reports capture a broad snapshot of a business's credit use.
"Business credit reports are similar to personal credit reports, in they both contain financial account history," says Priyanka Prakash, senior staff writer at Fundera, a small-business lender. "However, business credit reports are limited to accounts and loans you've opened under your business's name."
Typically, details on a business credit report include:
- Company information, such as owner names and number of employees
- Annual business sales
- Industry classification
- Public filings, including liens and judgments
- Business financial accounts, including loans, credit cards and supplier trade lines
- Payment history for credit accounts
Business credit reports are tied to the business name, mailing address and Employer Identification number rather than an individual's Social Security number and birthdate. Compared with personal credit reports, business credit reports are accessible by virtually anyone.
"Unlike personal credit, business credit profiles are publicly available and can be pulled not just by banks and creditors but also by vendors, suppliers or potential partners," Garbach says.
The same goes for business credit scores. That's a motivator to work on presenting the best credit picture possible on a business credit report.
Where to get a free business credit report
If you're ready to gain some insights into your business credit profile, you can look to these four sources for free business credit reports.
|Dun & Bradstreet CreditSignal||
Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) is a leading source for commercial information on businesses, including credit history. The company offers several products for checking business credit reports, and CreditSignal is a no-cost option.
"With CreditSignal, you’ll be able to monitor changes to your Dun & Bradstreet business credit report for free," Colley says. "It's a solution that will alert you to changes in your scores and ratings, so that you don’t have to constantly monitor your business’s file for changes."
CreditSignal tracks changes to D&B credit scores and ratings only. Enrolling in CreditSignal allows you to receive email notifications of changes to your Dun & Bradstreet business credit report. You'll get alerts for changes to various Dun & Bradstreet scores, including the Paydex score, which rates businesses from 1 to 100 based on their payment history.
This product doesn't let you see your credit score, however. But, Colley says, you can use the free version of Dun & Bradstreet's CreditBuilder program for seven days to check your business credit profile. Continued access is available starting at $149 per month.
|Capital One Business Creditwise||
Capital One recently launched Business CreditWise, which provides unlimited free access to your business credit profile.
"With Business CreditWise, business owners can quickly and easily access their credit, correct mistakes and understand what is impacting their overall credit report," Garbach says. "It's available to any U.S. business, not just Capital One customers, and can be accessed at any time without impacting business credit."
Business CreditWise offers the ability to dispute errors at no charge. Errors can negatively affect your business credit score, but disputing and correcting them could raise your score.
Fixing mistakes might require submitting supporting documentation through the platform, but otherwise, accessing this function through the dashboard is easy. But, Garbach adds, "Not all information can be disputed directly via Business CreditWise, and some information is disputable only under certain circumstances.
Nav is a free credit-monitoring service that provides access to business and personal credit reports. On the business side, Nav uses letter grades and supplies reports for your business from Experian and Dun & Bradstreet.
Nav can be good for getting a basic overview of business credit health and for detecting and preventing identity theft and fraud with the monitoring services. Additionally, business owners can view their approval odds for specific business credit cards and loans before applying.
The bureau providing the report in a credit denial. Getting turned down for a business loan or credit card isn't great, but there's a silver lining. You can ask for a free copy of your credit report from the credit bureau that furnished information to the lender.
Read business credit reports carefully
Once you get your business credit report, scrutinize it to make sure all your information is correct, Colley says. That's especially important if you'll soon apply for a loan or another form of business credit.
"We encourage small-business owners to proactively check and manage their business credit reports so that there are no surprises when they apply for a small-business credit card or to secure financing," Garbach says. "Monitoring your business credit report regularly gives you the opportunity to correct any misinformation proactively rather than taking action only after a bank, creditor or insurance company has pulled your report."
Prakash says you can check your business credit report as often as you want, and checking won't hurt your score.
And if you see errors, "you can contact either the creditor or the credit bureau to have the mistake corrected," she adds. "Just keep in mind, there isn't a legally defined dispute process the way there is with consumer credit reports, which means correcting errors on a business credit report can take longer."
Source: US News