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It can take a while to build business credit. But as a small business owner, it can be vital to the success of your business.
Business credit allows you to access funding (like loans and credit cards) to help scale your business at the right time. Just like your own personal credit, though, having poor business credit can negatively impact your business.
But with excellent business credit, you’ll not only have access to funding but have access to things like lower business insurance rates (if that’s something you need).
Business credit may also be used if you’re getting a lease for your company’s office or workspace, as well as help to get improved terms and rates with some vendors.
What is Business Credit?
Many business owners have no idea there is a business credit score. As such, they will tend to rely on their own personal credit to show business loan providers or credit card issuers they are creditworthy.
But most people want to build their businesses. Maybe you want to take out the types of substantial loans which will power actual growth or obtain an elite business credit card. Or perhaps you want to be seen by vendors and suppliers as being a good business partner. Either way, you need to build up your business credit score to do these things.
How to Begin Building Business Credit
So let’s focus on a few steps you can take to get started. This way, the most critical business credit bureaus like Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax can truly begin gathering information about your small business.
Suppose you’re a sole proprietor or a new entrepreneur. In that case, you can’t just start selling your services or products and assume these business credit bureaus will suddenly discover your business exists.
You have to be intentional about building your business credit. You could do some or each one of the following steps I’ll discuss below. And that’s going to get you on your path to establishing your business credit history and then growing it from there.
1. Register Your Business
The first step is to register your business. Again, beginning to sell products or services (maybe from your home) or those who have a side hustle (or that sort of thing) is not the same as registering your business.
You need to assume a legal structure for your business, like an LLC, a partnership, an S corp, or maybe a C corp in your home state. This is the first step to showing business credit bureaus that you are a legal entity and they can start a credit file on you.
2. Get an EIN
Step two is to obtain an employer identification number or an EIN. You’re aware of your social security number. So an EIN is like a social security number, but for a business. It is a distinctive number that is to be assigned to no other company throughout the business’s lifetime.
Regardless of whether your business closes, no other company will be given that number. Technically sole proprietors, partnerships, and in some cases, single-member LLCs don’t need to have an EIN. However, it’s still beneficial to get one.
For one thing, if you end up expanding your company, and you would like to hire staff members, you’re going to have to have an EIN. It’s a big part of establishing your business credit score, which is what we’re talking about in this article.
Obtaining an EIN is entirely free of charge, and you may apply for one pretty easily online from the IRS website.
3. Open a Business Bank Account
Step three should be to open up a business bank account. Having a business bank account is smart for a few reasons.
Separating your business and your personal finances is a brilliant move. One, come income tax time, you’re not going to want to go through your private bank account for your business expenses individually.
You’re also going to get rid of personal liability because if you combine your personal and business finances, it’s known as “piercing the corporate veil.” So if your business is subject to a lawsuit or has some legal problem, you’re not going to be held personally accountable for that. Plus, it establishes business credit.
Once you obtain your EIN, you’re going to want to look around and select the business bank account that’s right for you. There are a few business bank accounts that I recommend right now:
Novo is an excellent option for an online business checking account. Their target audience is small businesses and freelancers — a $50 initial deposit is requested to unlock all of the features, but even that’s not required. There are no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum monthly balance, which is incredible for freelancers.
The downside is you don’t earn interest, but you do get unlimited ATM fee reimbursement. That opens up the network exponentially if you need to access cash. The mobile app allows you to do everything that you’d expect, too — like invoice and upload checks. To learn more, check out our Novo review.
NorthOne is another excellent option for small business banking. It only takes a few minutes to open an account, and you’ll get access to a suite of tools within the NorthOne app, which is where the account excels. You can do payroll, settle bills, invoice, upload checks, and more with just a few taps within the app.
The app also allows you to categorize purchases so you can manage your business budget with ease. Additionally, NorthOne seamlessly integrates with some of the best software out there for accounting (like Wave, for example). The kicker is that NorthOne charges $10 a month for their service, but it may well be worth it. To learn more, check out our NorthOne Review.
Bluevine has a free business checking account that has no fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.0% APY on the balance, too – Eligibility requirements apply. There’s no minimum deposit required and no minimum monthly balance requirements, either.
While there’s no branch banking available (it’s online), you can do everything online and from the mobile app, including deposit checks, send invoices, and pay others. You’ll also have access to over 35,000 fee-free ATMs. To learn more, check out our Bluevine Review.
4. Establish a Dedicated Business Address and Phone Number
Step four will be to set up a devoted business street address and phone number. Business databases like the Better Business Bureau and even Yelp need businesses to have an address and contact number to join. From that point, credit bureaus pull data from those directories while they are establishing your credit file.
Also, having a business telephone number is an instance of a trade credit relationship with a vendor (more on this below), which is one method you could use to build business credit.
5. Apply for a Business DUNS Number
Step five is to apply for a business DUNS number. The largest business credit bureau of them all is Dun & Bradstreet. They’re essentially the most well-known, and obtaining a DUNS number is the way you open a file with them. Getting your distinctive number from D&B is free, even though it will take somewhat longer (about a month) to get your number directly.
This is in no way a necessity unless in the future you intend to obtain an SBA loan or a government contract. But this is a terrific instance of something that is still great to get done early if you have the time.
6. Work on Building Your Score
So now, with these initial steps, you have a pretty solid foundation for an established business credit history. From this point, it’s about accomplishing things that are going to improve your credit score. I have some suggestions on that:
Take Out a Small Business Loan
An alternate way to build your business credit history is by getting a small business loan. For this, I recommend a revolving line of credit from Bluevine. You’ll have to have been in business for six months or longer, have a FICO credit score at or above 600 and show regular revenues above $10,000 monthly. Approval for your credit line can take fewer than five minutes.
Your credit line can range from $5,000 to $5,000,000 and you may draw against it at any time by asking for capital using your online dashboard. Cash will typically get to your account in hours, and you may repay Bluevine over a fixed once a week or once a month timetable spanning six to twelve months.
There are no fees to open or have a line of credit with Bluevine. Your interest may be as low as 4.8% APY, and you’ll never have to pay prepayment fees or account closure service fees. When you repay each draw, your credit line automatically replenishes for potential future use when needed.
Establish Trade Lines With Your Suppliers
Say you have a partnership with a vendor or a distributor. Maybe you’re the sort of company that requires inventory coming in, things like that. See if they can extend trade credit to you. This means they’ll supply you with the merchandise, and you’ll pay them days or weeks after you receive it.
You also want to check if those vendors will record your payments to business credit bureaus. This is like a smaller loan, and business credit bureaus handle it. Suppose they don’t record your payments with the credit bureaus? In that case, it’s still worth pursuing to build credibility with the business (and you never know, maybe they will record payments in the future).
Get a Business Credit Card
Another critical step is getting a business credit card. I like Brex at the moment, which is a charge card (more on this below). Brex is a business charge card that comes with a lot of bells and whistles.
Billing itself as your new financial operating system, Brex brings together a few features. You’ll get a cash account to hold your funds, a card that earns rewards, and features that make it easy to record and manage your business’s finances.
If you’re searching for rewards, Brex features generous bonus offer categories. You’ll receive 8x points on rideshares, 5x points on plane tickets and accommodations through Brex Travel, 4x on dining, 3x on recurring software, and 1x on everything else. And registering for daily payments from your linked Brex Cash account gives you a 1x boost on all rewards.
One thing to note is that the Brex card isn’t a credit card. It’s a charge card, which means you cannot carry a balance. You’ll pay for every single purchase you are making within thirty days of making it. However, for those who go for daily payments from the linked Brex Cash account, you’ll receive extra rewards.
You can find the full list of our favorite business credit cards here.
Check Your Credit Report
The next tip is to check your credit reports. You may think that a D&B or another large bureau is accurate, and they’ll never make an error. However, mistakes do happen. You’re going to want to check in with the major credit bureaus to ensure that everything about your small business credit report is current and there aren’t any errors there. One prominent example is an incorrect credit pull, which can dock your business credit score by a few points.
Don’t hesitate to review business credit reports regularly. We should continuously do with our individual credit files, and your business credit score is no different.
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All in all, if I had just one takeaway from this whole article, it’s that you’re going to want to do business responsibly. If you are taking out financing, pay it back per your terms and conditions. If you purchase something with a credit card, pay it off quickly. If you have trade credit with a vendor, don’t misuse it. Doing all that is how you will develop a track record and a business credit score that you can be proud of.