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Getting a DUNS Number for Your Business: The Essential Guide

Small business owners need to understand their business credit in much the same way individuals need to monitor their personal credit scores. Good or excellent business credit gives you more options for business financing, government contracts, low insurance costs, and trade credit with vendors.

The major business credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet developed an identification number called a D-U-N-S number that helps vendors, lenders, and other businesses access your business credit profile. It helps verify that you are a legitimate and active business. Access to your credit profile also lets companies know if you’re reliable in paying debts on time.

Getting a D-U-N-S number helps you monitor your business credit and plan credit activity that could boost your scores and ratings. This guide provides what you must know about getting and using a D-U-N-S number to help you take control of your credit.

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    What is a D-U-N-S Number?

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    A D-U-N-S, or DUNS number, is a unique nine-digit identifier for business entities developed by the business credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet. It stands for “Data Universal Numbering System,” and it is used to access a company’s credit profile.

    The credit bureau copyrighted the numbering system in 1962. Since that time, it has become the standard numbering system to identify businesses globally.

    Companies you do business with can look up your business using your DUNS score. It’s linked to your credit profile at Dun & Bradstreet.

    What is Dun & Bradstreet?

    american express, cards, credit, Dun & Bradstreet

    Dun & Bradstreet is one of the three major business credit bureaus but the only one dedicated to business credit. Experian Business and Equifax Small Business are the other two.

    The company is one of the oldest in America, dating back to 1841. It began as the Mercantile Agency and helped merchants determine the creditworthiness of potential customers when extending credit.

    In 1994, the US federal government adopted the D-U-N-S number as the principal business identifier. Four years later, it was incorporated as the federal government’s contractor identification code.

    Companies without a DUNS number cannot do business with the government. While a DUNS number can help businesses in any industry, it’s especially valuable for companies that work with or intend to work with government contracts.

    Why is a D-U-N-S Number important for my business?

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    A DUNS number isn’t required, but it can help you grow your business in various ways. Here are some of the advantages getting a DUNS number offers.

    Getting a DUNS number is an important step in building your company’s business credit profile. It is directly tied to your credit profile at Dun & Bradstreet.

    When you establish a DUNS number, your business is added to the Dun & Bradstreet database, which includes over 100 million companies worldwide. Other businesses and government agencies can use your DUNS number to confirm your enterprise is active.

    Once you have a DUNS number, D&B automatically starts a Live Business Identify file, which includes your business credit scores and ratings. As other companies report to the bureau, it gets added to your profile and could improve your business credit score (or lower it if it’s a negative report, such as a missed payment).

    You need a DUNS number to get a D&B PAYDEX score. Most vendors will ask for your DUNS number to check your PAYDEX score when you apply for supply credit. You can also get better terms and higher credit limits once you establish good business credit.

    Some lenders also look at your D&B PAYDEX score when you apply for a small business loan or line of credit. In most cases, lenders consider your personal credit score and business credit scores when reviewing and approving loans.

    While lenders will still consider a loan if you don’t have a DUNS number, it puts more emphasis on your personal credit score. A DUNS number and established business credit can also speed up the loan process.

    Several government agencies require a DUNS number when awarding contracts. While the US General Services Administration (GSA) has stopped using DUNS scores in its System for Award Management (SAM), it is still important for government contracts.

    How to apply for a D-U-N-S Number:

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    Before you apply, check to see if your business already has a DUNS number. You can use the D&B lookup tool to search your company.

    Applying for a DUNS number is a simple process. It takes an average of 30 business days to get your number.

    You can get a number for free unless you want or need to pay for an expedited number. You can pay $229 for expedited service within eight days with DUNSFile™.

    Visit the Dun & Bradstreet website and follow these steps to apply:

    Step 1: Identify Your Company Needs

    Choose the option that best fits:

    • I have a US-based business.
    • I have a Canada-based business.
    • I’m an Apple developer.
    • I’m a US Government Contractor or Grantee.
    • I need a UFI to register with the FDA.

    Step 2: Provide Information About Your Business

    During this step, you’ll provide the following information about your business:

    • The legal name of the company.
    • Your business’s physical address.
    • Business phone number.
    • Name of the business owner(s), president, or CEO.
    • Your business’s legal structure (sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp).
    • The year the business was established.
    • The primary industry of your business.
    • The number of employees (full-time and part-time).

    Step 3: Choose the Free or Paid Version at Checkout

    When checking out, the application will ask if you want to pay for the expedited process. You don’t need to pay for the service.

    Step 4: Authenticate Your Business with a D&B Representative

    A representative from Dun & Bradstreet might contact you to verify the information you provided. The process is completed once you authenticate your business. Dun & Bradstreet will send you an email with your D-U-N-S number.

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    Here are the most common questions about D-U-N-S numbers.

    How do I use my D-U-N-S Number to build business credit?

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    A DUNS number doesn’t establish or build business credit on its own. However, it provides access to a credit profile that can help you grow your business credit. You should also create a business bank account to separate your business and personal finance.

    One of the main ways to do this is with supplier credit, also known as trade credit. Many vendors that sell business supplies offer credit to businesses.

    The most common form of trade credit is net-30 terms, which means you have 30 days from the invoice date to pay. Trade credit helps businesses get the supplies or services needed to meet customer orders and have the cash flow to pay off the invoice.

    When opening a net-30 account, look for vendors that report to business credit bureaus like Dun & Bradstreet. Many of these vendors require a DUNS number to open an account.

    Once you start buying on credit and paying your invoices, the vendor sends reports to the bureau. A positive payment history will help improve your business credit score and ratings.

    It’s vital to make on-time payments, as late payments create a negative report that could lower your score, even if it’s just a day or two past the due date. Conversely, paying the invoice off early will typically have a more positive impact than simply paying on time.

    A DUNS score can also help access business credit cards, loans, and lines of credit. Again though, ensure the financial institution reports to Dun & Bradstreet. Positive payment history and credit activity will also help improve your credit profile.

    You can also access your own credit profile using your DUNS number. While you have to pay for a business credit report, monitoring your scores and ratings can help you identify incorrect reports and create a plan of action to grow your credit history.

    How much does a D-U-N-S Number cost?

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    Getting a DUNS number is free unless you pay for the expedited service, which is $229.

    Is a D-U-N-S Number the same as an EIN?

    tax, forms, income

    No, an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is your business’s federal tax ID. You need that number to file your taxes.

    DUNS numbers are issued by the credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet. While the two numbers are different, they both serve as unique identifiers for your business. Either number can be considered your business’s equivalent to a social security number as they’re connected to your business credit and history.

    Do I need a federal tax ID to get a D-U-N-S number?

    laptop, office, hand

    No, you are not required to have an EIN to get a DUNS number. Dun & Bradstreet will use alternative identifiers to authenticate your business and get the company registered.

    It will instead use:

    Is my business required to have a D-U-N-S Number?

    office, startup, business

    There is no legal requirement to have a DUNS number to start or run your business. However, some companies and government agencies will require a DUNS number when doing business with them.

    Even if you don’t need a DUNS number now, getting one might be a good idea. It can help you understand your business credit and how to improve and grow your credit.

    Also, more opportunities might arise as your company grows, such as accessing trade credit or a government contract. In those cases, having a DUNS number and understanding your business credit profile would be helpful.

    Getting a D-U-N-S Number – Final Thoughts

    path, feet, shoes

    Dun & Bradstreet is a crucial business credit bureau, and their DUNS number identification system is a global standard in business. Having a DUNS number in and of itself won’t improve your credit, but it allows you to access your credit profile and do business with companies that report to the credit bureau.

    Getting a DUNS number is free, and the process is simple. You only need to supply information like the business name, physical location, number of employees, contact info, and industry and business owner information. The only drawback to getting a DUNS number as a new or young business is that it can hurt your credit rating until you start building a credit history.

    Contact us if you have questions about business credit or want to apply for a small business loan. Our loan executives can help you find the best financing options for your credit score and business needs.

    We will help you grow your small business.

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