Business and personal credit both play essential roles for small business owners. Every budding entrepreneur should know how to distinguish between these two credit types, how they might influence each other, and how to cultivate business credit from scratch.
In this brief guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about these two distinct credit reporting models, including a breakdown of establishing your business credit profile for the first time, a general overview of the personal and business credit reporting process, and more.
Personal and business credit scores: how do they work?
The personal and business credit scoring models share many similarities, but they’re actually two separate rating systems. Your personal credit ties to your Social Security Number and represents a standardized evaluation of your personal financial habits.
Your personal score, also known as a Fair Isaac Corporation or FICO score, gives lenders a big-picture overview of your individual creditworthiness. To establish a favorable personal credit profile, you’ll need to evidence a timely payment history, a low balance-to-limit ratio (typically less than 25%), and avoid negative reporting details such as foreclosures, judgment liens, and charge-offs.
High balances on your open credit lines, limited sources of open credit, and too many hard inquiries when applying for new credit can trigger low personal credit scores. Personal FICOs can vary substantially, ranging from 350 to 800, with scores 800 and above representing the highest score attainable.
A “perfect” rating generally requires a significant history of flawless credit performance. The different credit bureaus report personal credit scores, however, and each may have slightly different criteria for calculating your score.
The DUNS business score ratings typically correspond to the following numeric range:
- 80-100: Excellent payment history
- 70-79: Good payment history
- 60-69: Fair payment history
- 60-69: Fair payment history
- Below 50: Unavailable or seriously delinquent payment history
This scoring system is considerably different than that of your FICO. While it is based on the same principles that apply to your personal credit, your business score looks solely at payment behavior pertaining to the enterprise itself, and not individual credit scores. Like your personal FICO, a strong business credit rating shows you’ve been making timely payments and satisfying your financial commitments over the past seven to 10 years.
The same general principles apply to establishing a business credit profile with a few key distinctions, which we’ll discuss further below, and your personal score may play a factor in influencing a business loan approval in some instances. The higher your business credit score, the more favorable terms you are likely to negotiate.
While both personal and business credit scores rely on the same core rating concepts, your personal FICO ties to your individual borrower habits only. It looks at credit behaviors as they relate to your personal loans and revolving trade lines. A business credit score, in comparison, focuses solely on accounts managed by the entity itself.
A good personal credit score can open the door to better lending terms and more credit opportunities on both business and personal fronts. To ensure you maintain a good credit score, you’ll need to make timely payments on your accounts and satisfy all your financial obligations as agreed.
What is business credit, and how is it different than personal credit?
While business credit and personal credit follow many of the same principles in evaluating creditworthiness, they are, as mentioned, still fundamentally different. Your business credit profile links to your business’s name and contact information -not your Social Security Number (SSN).
If you are seeking business credit, remember to use your company name and include business contact information instead of your SSN when you apply. This approach ensures you separate the two scores and keep your business credit activities from impacting your personal credit profile.
You’ll also want to verify your assigned business credit score, if you have one, before applying for credit under your business’s name. While many companies start with personal loans and borrowing against credit cards, you’ll want to transition to building a business credit profile as quickly as possible to avoid intermingling your finances. This way, a negative credit event impacting your personal score won’t affect your business credit rating and company finances.
Be aware, as well, that obtaining business credit often requires additional information about your company that you wouldn’t normally need when applying for a personal loan. You’ll have to present detailed business financials, proof of liabilities, and other supporting documents to apply for a business loan or line of credit. Expect to supply additional information beyond just a driver’s license, social security number, and documentation of two weeks’ earnings that you’d typically provide for an auto or home loan application.
Building your business credit profile
Cultivating your business credit begins with establishing a positive payment history over the span of years. This inevitably leads to a stellar profile. A well-documented record of making timely payments on your company-specific accounts and maintaining low overall debt levels in relation to your trade limits helps lay the groundwork for building exceptional business credit.
You can start this process of building your business credit by establishing a separate Dun & Bradstreet Paydex or DUNS number to differentiate between personal and business credit. This is the key to increasing your chances of landing an approval on your next business credit application.
You can also try creating accounts with partners and suppliers that specialize in reporting business credit information to the three main bureaus. Organizations like these will relay your payment history to the agencies and help you start developing a favorable business credit history. Additionally, banks often use reports from these bureaus to gauge a business’s creditworthiness.
If you don’t have a business credit score yet, consider the following tips to start building your profile right away:
- Obtain an EIN to separate your personal and business credit
- Ask your business to report to the rating bureaus
- Make timely payments to all your business accounts
- Establish inventory credit with your suppliers
- Open a secured business line of credit
- Avoid late payments in excess of 30 days
- Need more info on building business credit?
Seeking sound professional advice from an experienced business lending consultant is a great place to start developing and protecting your credit. The seasoned consultants at TMD Accounting can supply you with invaluable guidance on optimal payment habits, debt levels, and the best loan products for enhancing your business credit score.
Our team will guide you through every step of the lending process by supplying you with a comprehensive list of the personal and financial documents required to open your next business loan account. For more on our premium credit and lending services, connect with TMD Accounting by calling us now at (856) 228-2205.