You’re probably aware that you’ve got a personal credit score, but did you know that business owners also have their own unique credit score? Personal credit scores and business credit scores are two distinct numbers that are calculated using different factors. While a personal credit score is tied to your individual credibility as a borrower, a business credit score is a reflection of your business’s ability to pay back debt.
Business credit score vs. personal credit score
While your personal credit score is tied to your social security number, your business credit score is tied to your employer identification number (EIN). To get the ball rolling on your business credit, you’ll need to request an EIN from the IRS, and begin applying for credit with that number instead.
In addition to obtaining your EIN, you’ll have to establish a separate financial structure for your business. This includes incorporating your business if you haven’t already, and opening a business bank account.
How to increase your business credit score
Once you’ve set your business up for success, it’s time to start thinking about how you can increase your business’s credit score. When you increase your business credit score, you improve your business’s standing as a borrower in the eyes of banks and other lenders. Here are a few quick tips.
Pay your bills on time
Just like with your personal credit score, missed or late payments will negatively impact your business credit score. It’s best to at least pay the minimum due on all credit cards, lines of credit, loans, and other financial obligations. Most funding partners will have autopay and other reminders available, so be sure to take advantage of them, and set your own if needed.
Dispute any inquiries or errors
Derogatory marks such as missed payments, hard inquiries, collections, and other negative feedback can bring down your credit score. Be sure to keep track of your business credit score and any marks that hit your report. If there’s something there that shouldn’t be, then dispute the error with the credit bureau. Removing inaccurate derogatory marks can go a long way in bringing up your credit score.
Open a business credit line (even if you don’t need it)
To earn credit, you need to use credit. Part of how banks and other lenders assess a business’s creditworthiness is by how long they’ve responsibly used credit (meaning: taken out credit and paid it back). Taking out, for example, a credit card with a low limit and paying it back on time every pay cycle is a great way to help ensure that when you actually need funding, or when you need it in a larger amount, you’ll have a better shot at getting it.
Be strategic about new loans and credit card applications
Though it’s true you need to use credit to build credit, it’s best to try and keep your applications to a minimum. Normally when you apply for a loan, line of credit, credit card, or other type of financing, a lender will conduct a hard inquiry, which will lower your credit score.
A better way to explore your options is to talk to a lending partner to get a feel for what you could qualify for. Once you assess your options, apply for one product at a time or a select few to keep hard inquiries to a minimum. Even if you do end up with several hard pulls on your credit report, they usually begin to fall off after a few months.
Lower your credit utilization
Part of what determines your credit score is how much of your available credit you’re using. It’s generally good to keep your credit utilization around 15-30%. Credit utilization is calculated by dividing your outstanding balance by your credit limit. You can keep this number down by making more frequent payments, in addition to simply putting less expenses on your credit.
Check your credit score regularly
Checking your credit score regularly goes a long way in staying on top of it. By checking in regularly, you’ll be able to catch any errors as soon as they post, course correct if your utilization goes up, and better understand how your spending activity and other financial transactions affect your business credit score.
Many business owners are rightly concerned that checking their credit score brings it down. This is a myth. When you check your own credit report, you perform what’s referred to as a “soft pull,” which doesn’t affect your credit score. “Hard pulls” or hard inquiries, as discussed above, do negatively impact your credit score, but these only hit your report when lenders and credit card issuers pull your credit for the purposes of deciding whether to approve you for a loan or credit card.
Lastly, note that most business credit bureaus charge a fee to check your score. You can check for free with a service such as Tillful, but keep in mind that their proprietary credit scoring system is more of a gauge of overall business financial health.
What a good business credit score can do for your business
Your business credit score is an important component of your overall financial health. It can serve as an indicator of your business’s financial health and thus, creditworthiness. By taking the time to set up your business’s finances, such as by getting a separate bank account and building your business credit score, you set your business up for success in the eyes of lenders. Just like with personal credit, the stronger your business credit, the more funding you can qualify for. And that funding can go a long way in helping you build and grow your business.