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No matter what kinds of credit you need personally or for your business, good credit starts with good handling of your personal credit accounts. Lenders check your credit score to decide whether or not you’ve typically repaid the debts you owe… And whether they should lend money to you, too.
When you’re just starting out in your business and you have few employees, your first forays into building your business credit (the ultimate goal if you want to build your business) will be based on your personal credit score. For reference, your personal credit score is based on the information contained in your personal credit report at each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.
All credit scoring models use these 5 factors to measure your creditworthiness:
These different categories affect you differently based on the other information in your credit report. The payment history and amounts owed categories usually factor in the heaviest, at more than 60% of your score combined. Understand the different factors so you can impact them directly to raise your credit or fix your credit.
The first step is to check your credit score and pull a copy of your credit reports to get to know the information listed there, as well as to make sure there are no errors.
Here are 10 more ways new business owners can get that personal credit score up as fast as possible in order to make the transition to building business credit.
If you have a solid payment history with a credit card account, simply call up the customer service line and ask them to raise your credit limit. If you don’t use the extra credit, your credit utilization is immediately reduced. Lenders like to see this percentage kept low, below 25%.
When analyzing more than 2 million members’ credit scores, Credit Sesame found that those with the highest credit scores had the lowest credit utilization.
If you’re a responsible credit user (meaning your accounts aren’t maxed out or behind on payments) but don’t have many accounts, consider opening a new account. This will both lower your credit utilization and, when you make small purchases paid off before the due date, establish even more of a timely payment history.
To build new credit from having no accounts, consider asking a family member (with good credit!) to become an authorized user on their account. Just be sure to call the card issuer and ask whether the credit account reports authorized users separately—most do—so you get the benefit of this relationship.
If you have many accounts already but your credit utilization is high and you’re carrying large balances, focus your financial efforts on paying down these balances. The fastest way is to use the snowball method and to get into the habit of making timely payments and handling credit responsibly.
All three major credit reporting agencies now offer credit scoring models that factor in rent payment history. If you’re a renter and make timely rent payments, ask your landlord to report your positive rental payment history in order to raise your credit score.
Both personal credit and business credit get affected negatively by unpaid accounts in collections that are listed correctly on your credit report. By paying these, or settling with the collections agency in a lump sum payment which might be less than the amount owed in exchange for them reporting the account as “satisfied” or “paid as agreed,” you may be able to improve your credit.
The newest credit scoring models don’t penalize you for paid collections, so paying open collection accounts off could bump up your credit score. For any business accounts in collections, you’ll want to prove that collections have been paid before applying for any credit.
To create a business credit file, the reporting companies need at least two pieces of data: one that establishes the existence of the business and one trade line.
Experian, the credit bureau and a supplier of business credit reports, advises that you create your business as a corporation or an LLC to establish it as a separate entity from your personal life—you can establish business credit without incorporating, though. Next, get a phone and a bank account in the business name. This simple step is very effective because business credit applications will ask for this information and you’ll have it to fill in.
This is a simple, required, and free way to start establishing a credit identity for your business. Also, many business credit applications will require your DUNS number, so you’ll want to have it handy regardless.
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All you have to do to establish trade credit with vendors and suppliers is to ask them to invoice you instead of paying cash on receipt of the products or services.
This is an easy way to establish business trade lines and positive business payment history and strengthen relationships with your vendors and suppliers at the same time. Some vendors who are hesitant to extend credit to your business might be willing to do so after you pay a deposit.
Try to finance any equipment, no matter how small, in your business’s name to further establish positive business payment history. Register service accounts in your business’s name and use your DUNS number and FEIN, so that any payments made will contribute to your business credit history.
The final step to improving your credit is constantly monitoring your personal credit—at least monthly—using a free credit score and free credit monitoring site, like Credit Sesame or Fundera, to make sure all the information listed is correct and watch the score rise.
Plus, you should pull your personal credit reports and business credit reports at least once per year to verify all information listed there is reported correctly. Personal credit reports are available from AnnualCreditReport.com. (Business credit reports must be purchased, though.)
All of these steps combined, when handled responsibly, will quickly build your business credibility and eventually help you secure financing for large business projects. Good luck!