Credit scores are a fact of business. If you’re applying for a small business loan, a credit card, a payment processing merchant account, insurance, or even a lease on office space, you can be sure that your credit will be checked as part of the process. Small business owners often go through a double check, with both their personal and their business credit being scrutinized.
Because so many important decisions are based on these credit reports, and because they often do contain mistakes — A recent FTC study found that 25% of credit reports contain errors– you are entitled by law to get a free copy of your personal credit reports annually, and free copies of your personal reports and scores upon any credit rejection based on them. (Many creditors who pull your credit scores are willing to share them with you even if you are approved, and some credit card issuers are now offering to provide consumers with their scores as a free value-add service.)
To get your free report from each of the three main credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, go to annualcreditreport.com. If you do find errors, follow the instructions provided to correct them.
Getting your small business credit reports is just as easy, but unfortunately not free. The three major issuers of small business credit reports are Dun & Bradstreet (PAYDEX), Experian company CreditScore, and FICO’s Liquid Credit SSBS score.
You can currently get a copy of your Experian report and CreditScore directly from the company for $34.95 (but watch for 15% off holiday sales). You can pay $129 per year to get their monitoring service for your business which includes alerts to changes in your score.
Dun & Bradstreet charges $49 per month to get unlimited access to your PAYDEX report and other portions of your DUNS file, along with monitoring services. However, if you already have a DUNS number, you can sign up for their free CreditSignal monitoring service. This service provides alerts whenever any of your D&B scores, including PAYDEX, change. You get a monthly email alert as well as access to a website with all of your alerts in one place. Go to the D&B website to sign-up for either service.
FICO does not make its small business scores available directly. However, starting in January, 2014 you can purchase the report as part of a service package from Nav. Their $49/month Business & Professional Plus package includes unlimited access to your Experian small business report and CreditScore, your D&B small business report and PAYDEX score, Your FICO Liquid Credit SSBS score, and your personal Experian report, TransUnion score, and VantageScore. It also includes other credit monitoring tools and $1 million in Identity Theft coverage as well as Identity restoration services. Check out the Nav service here.
While you might not want to invest in monthly credit monitoring forever, it is a good idea to at least review a copy of your reports and scores annually. And, signing up for the free D&B alerts is simply a smart move. After all, you don’t want an unwelcome surprise when you apply for credit; and you also want to make sure that there are not mistakes in your reports or worse, fraudulent activity.
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Image Credit: Credit Score-Roseville-CA by am0903cass, on Flickr