Every business has three types of credit: the Consumer Credit of the business owner, Bank Credit, and Business Credit.
Most business owners are familiar with their consumer credit. This is credit that reports to the consumer credit reporting agencies TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Scores range from 350-850, and credit is linked to the owner’s Social Security Number.
Most business owners don’t know that banks have their own internal scoring system for businesses. This scoring system is known as bank credit, or a bank rating.
This score is based on how you manage your business bank account. Having $10,000 or more in your bank account will give you a good bank credit score.
A business also has its own credit profile, known as business credit. Business credit reports to the business credit reporting agencies, Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian. Scores usually range from 0-100, and credit is linked to the business EIN number, not the owner’s SSN number.
Business credit provides a lot of benefits. For one, it has no link to consumer credit, so no personal credit check is required, and accounts don’t report to the consumer agencies.
No personal guarantee is needed in most cases, so you won’t be personally liable for your business debts. Also, credit limits are 10-100 times higher than with consumer credit.
With consumer credit, just because you have an SSN doesn’t mean you have an established credit profile.
To get a consumer credit score and profile, you first must: get approved for accounts that report to the consumer reporting agencies, use those accounts, and pay your bills for those accounts, then and only then will you have an established credit profile and score for your SSN.
Just like with consumer credit, just because you have an EIN doesn’t mean you have an established business credit profile and score.
To get a business credit score and profile, you first must: get approved for accounts that report to the business reporting agencies, use those accounts, and pay your bills for those accounts, then and only then will you have an established credit profile and score for your EIN.
Entrepreneur.com reports that 90% of business owners know nothing about business credit. Business credit is usually reserved for established businesses, or those that meet a certain criteria for approval, and often is used by companies big enough that they have a CFO.
You can build business credit and get a good score QUICKLY! Having business credit increases the value of your company, and you won’t need financials or collateral for approval.
Any business can actually establish business credit, but the key to success is knowing the formula for success, knowing what steps to take and in what order.
Business credit isn’t highly promoted in stores, or with cash credit sources, so usually only larger businesses take advantage of it.
Credit issuers and lenders like it this way, because usually those larger companies are more established and have less of a risk of default, although it’s not actually the size of your company they look at for approval.
To get approved your business must pass a test that shows the credit issuers and lenders that you are credible, no matter your size.
If you pass this test and are credible in their eyes, you’ll be approved for business credit. Many times you get approved automatically by their computers without someone manually reviewing your application.
Business size and how long you’ve been open aren’t really the driving factors for your approval, but passing this test is.
This means even if you just opened your doors yesterday and have little or no revenue, you can still be approved with most business credit sources… as long as you pass their test.
You must have a physical business address, or use a virtual address. You’ll need to have a business phone number, preferably a toll free number, and it’ll need to be listed in 411.
You’ll need a business fax number and you should have a professional email address, and website. You must have the proper licenses for your business, industry, city, county, and state and you need an EIN, entity setup, and bank account.
There are actually 20 items on this test that will be reviewed, but you now know some of the most important factors that credit issuers and lenders review.
When establishing business credit, there are actually three types of credit you can get: vendor credit (starter accounts that offer Net 30 terms), store credit (revolving credit cards available in retail stores), and cash credit (revolving credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard that card issuers or banks approve you for).
The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when building credit for their business is that they try to apply for store or cash credit first, and skip vendor credit.
But stores and banks will NOT approve a business owner for credit until their EIN credit profile and score are established. If you try to apply for store or cash credit without an established business credit profile and score, you’ll be denied… 100% of the time.
You must get approved with vendors first who offer Net 30 terms. After you use those accounts and pay your bills, the accounts will get reported to the business credit reporting agencies.
Then and only then will you have an established business credit profile and score. Once it has been established, you can begin to be approved for store revolving credit.
You should seek out vendors who will approve a business for credit, even if none is established yet. There are actually many vendor sources who are well known for this: Uline, Quill, Reliable, and Laughlin and Associates, just to name a few.
To start business credit, you first should get approved for accounts with these vendors.
Some will require you purchase their products first and some will have you make three orders and pay before they’ll issue you a line-of-credit. But all of the sources I listed will approve a brand new business, even if you have no credit now.
You’ll want to insure you have a total of five payment experiences reported before you even think of applying for store credit. A payment experience is the reporting of an account to a business reporting agency.
So Quill, for example, reports to both D&B and Experian. That means that one account will count as two payment experiences. Laughlin only reports to Experian, counting as one payment experience.
Once you have five payment experiences reporting, you can begin to secure revolving store credit cards for your EIN.
KEEP IN MIND, all applications will ask for your SSN but you do NOT need to provide your SSN on the application. If you do supply your SSN, they WILL pull your personal credit… and if it’s bad your application will be denied.
When you leave the SSN field blank, they’ll pull your business credit. Once they see that you have business credit established and at least five payment experiences reporting, then you’ll start to get approved for store credit.
Most major retailers do offer business credit as well as consumer credit. Staples, Office Depot, Home Depot, Lowes, Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Radio Shack, Best Buy, BP, Chevron, Amazon, Shell, and most other stores, offer business credit.
Some sources like Home Depot might have more stringent approval requirements and want to see big revenue and three years in business for approval of no personal-guarantee credit. However, sources don’t have these requirements, if you have credit established for the business.
WARNING!!! Do NOT put your SSN on the application. Do NOT apply for revolving store credit without having at least five payment experiences reporting to the business credit reporting agencies. If you do either of these, you’ll be denied or you’ll have to give them your personal guarantee.
Once you have a total of 10 payment experiences reported to the business bureaus, then you can start to get cash credit cards. Cash cards are those issued by Visa, MasterCard, even AMEX, and are cards you can use anywhere, not just cards you can only use in one store.
It’s recommended that at least one of your 10 payment experiences has a high limit of $10,000 or more before applying for cash credit. Dell is a revolving store source who regularly approves business owners with established business credit for an account with a limit of $10,000 or more.
Key Bank and Home Depot are two sources that offer revolving cash credit cards you can use most anywhere; many banks offer these also.
When you follow these steps, your business can have an established credit profile and score.
This profile and score can then be used to get you credit in your business name, regardless of your personal credit, and without a personal guarantee.
You’ll want to continue building business credit, applying and getting more credit, using that credit, and getting approved for higher and higher credit limits.
About the Author
Cheryl Risner is currently the CEO of SR Business Resources, LLC.
Cheryl is a business funding, finance and credit specialist. She has worked in the lending and credit fields since 1999, and she specializes in helping business owners establish excellent business credit scores and then leverage those scores to access cash and credit for their businesses.
Cheryl is also a published author and a renowned public speaker, and is passionate about consumer education in the areas of credit and