Personal credit reports reflect your level of financial responsibility, including your ability to make payments on time, your credit utilization and the amount of credit card accounts you have open. Business credit reports, on the other hand, reflect on the financial responsibility of the business and indicate how likely you would be to pay back a business loan. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 27% of businesses surveyed were not able to get the funding they need. Here’s how to check your business credit reports so you can make sure your business is in good standing.

Understand your business credit score

As a business owner, you may have many types of diverse expenses, including lease payments, utility bills and equipment costs. Business credit scores show lenders how your business meets its financial obligations. These scores can indicate whether or not you’d be a trustworthy business.

Compared to personal credit scores, which range from 300 to 850, business credit scores typically are scored from 0 to 100. Personal credit scores are tied to a social security number, while business credits scores are tied to an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Each of the business credit score providers (Equifax, Experian and Dun & Bradstreet) calculates its scores using its own method. So while your personal credit score may look similar with each free site you access, a business credit score can vary more widely between the different sources.

Typically, business credit reports include your business credit history, including the credit accounts your business has had in the past and the payment history you’ve had with creditors and lenders. Business credit reports will also reflect legal filings made against you, such as delinquent taxes, lawsuits, judgments and recorded liens. Other information about your business that is public record, like how long you’ve been in business and business background information like ownership and parent companies, may be included in business credit reports.

How are business credit scores monitored?

Using your EIN, the business credit monitoring bureaus will look at financial activities like cash flow management, business bank account maintenance, invoice payments and credit product management, including for credit cards, loans and business lines of credits. Dun & Bradstreet examines your payment history for vendors like raw materials suppliers, utility and insurance companies, business loan lenders, leasing companies and others. If you pay your debts, or vendors report a good history of payment, your credit score may increase. Early payments are factored the most positively in Dun & Bradstreet business credit scores.

Experian looks at factors like outstanding balances, payment habits, credit utilization, number of trade experiences, trends over time, public record recency and business demographics. Equifax examines the company profile, credit summary and public records to determine a payment trend and payment index, business risk scores and a business failure score.

FICO also offers a Small Business Scoring Service for small business lending. It factors in data from business credit reporting bureaus like Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax, as well as personal credit history and business financials.

Get a free business credit report

The credit bureaus listed above will charge you for business credit reports, but there are services available that will provide you with free summaries of business credit reports. These include:

  • CreditSafe: CreditSafe offers free business credit reports, but you’ll have to have a phone conversation with one of its representatives first. Business credit reports from CreditSafe including information like a CreditSafe Credit Score, a trade payment analysis, a CreditSafe International Score and a recommended credit limit.
  • CreditSignal: CreditSignal is a free service provided by Dun & Bradstreet that alerts businesses to changes in a Dun & Bradstreet credit file. You’ll have to input the company name and your first and last name to complete the registration. From there, you’ll be able to see weekly changes in scores and ratings from Dun & Bradstreet, as well as the number of new inquiries into your business.
  • Nav: Nav provides summaries of business credit reports from Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax. You’ll need to type in the business name and ZIP code to create the summaries, then create an account with an email address and password to access them.

How to keep your business credit score healthy

1. Separate business from personal credit scores. Even when you’re a sole proprietorship, you may want to establish business credit by opening up a business credit card account. Otherwise, your personal credit score is all you’ll have to go off of, which may hurt you in the future if you grow and seek lending.

2. Avoid late payments. Pay credit card and loan payments on time or early, if possible.

3. Reduce credit utilization. Your credit utilization compares the amount of debt you owe to the amount of your credit limit. For example, if you have one card with a $1,000 credit limit and a balance of $200, your utilization is 20% because you’re using that percentage of your limit. It’s recommended to use less than 30% of your total credit limit. You can lower your utilization, which makes up to 30% of your credit score, by paying down debt.

4. Work with suppliers and lenders that report to credit bureaus. Make sure any agreements you enter are with lenders/suppliers that report to credit bureaus, so you can build up your credit score as you make on-time or early payments.

5. Check your business credit reports often. Stay on top of changes to your business credit scores by signing up for alerts for business credit reports. If you see your business credit scores are decreasing, look into the reason why and work to remedy the problem.

Your business credit scores matter because it can affect your reputation with other businesses, and most importantly, with lenders. It helps to separate your business finances from personal finances, so you can build up a business credit history. Your business should work to maintain high business credit scores by making on-time payments, using business credit responsibly and making sure your good business credit practices are being reported to business credit bureaus. Stay on top of business credit reports so you know when changes to your business credit scores are occurring.