How to Get a DUNS Number for Your Small Business

Building credibility, trustworthiness and reliability as a business involves having a positive record of paying vendor and business loans back on time. Not only that, but a positive payment history can help you more easily obtain loans and lines of credit to grow your business.
 

So how can you prove that your business has a great credit history? Make use of one of the most common tools for accessing a business’s credit report and consider registering for a DUNS number for your small business.
 

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What is a DUNS number?

A Data Universal Number System or D-U-N-S number is a nine-digit identification number that corresponds with a business’s credit record. Its standard format is:
 

xx-xxx-xxxx.
 

Released in 1963 by the credit-reporting firm Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), the DUNS system is standardized across the world to help businesses establish credit, and serve as a database for important company information (e.g., company name, physical location, phone number, financial health indicators, business structure). The DUNS number is associated with your business’s credit rating, legal proceedings, payment records with vendors and other public information. DUNS numbers create a common identity for different aspects of your credit, like the D&B Paydex credit score, delinquency prediction ratings, other credit assessments, public filings (e.g., liens, judgments) and legal information.
 

Overall, like social security numbers, DUNS numbers can reveal a lot about your business (e.g., credit score, demographic information) and proves to suppliers, customers, contractors, vendors and other potential business partners that your business actually exists.
 

Why you might need a DUNS number

Obtaining a DUNS number can open up new opportunities for your business. Here are just a few of the key benefits of having one:
 

Build a strong credit history

A DUNS number is essential for small businesses that want to gain credibility and attract interest from serious investors. Suppliers, vendors, investors, lenders and other business contacts monitor business credit reports to decide who they want to do business with. Just like personal credit, business credit builds over time, so the sooner you register a DUNS number with your business, the sooner you can start establishing creditworthiness. Building a strong credit history can help you secure long-term contracts with suppliers and vendors since you’ve proven that you’re a creditworthy business.
 

Do business with government entities

Many government contract opportunities also require businesses to submit their DUNS number in order to make a bid. Federal, state and local business grants frequently ask for a DUNS number before they consider funding a business. If you’re interested in doing business with any government agency (e.g., DoD, FEMA, other federal agencies), consider registering in the System for Award Management (SAM) in addition to getting a DUNS number.
 

Work with private foreign companies

A DUNS number can prove to foreign companies you want to work with that your business is legitimate. Additionally, you may be required to have a DUNS number to set up a branch in another country, depending on local regulations.
 

Keep personal and business finances separate

Having a DUNS number for your business can also reduce the amount of stress on your personal credit in order to fund your company. If you don’t have a credit profile for your business, you may need to rely on your personal credit history in order to secure business funds, which can increase your personal liability and make taxes more complex.
 

Related: Best Banking Options for Your Small Business

 

There are a number of other things you can do with a DUNS number, including:
 

  • Speeding up the application process for a SSL certificate to make your business website more secure
  • Developing iOS apps for the App Store. (Apple requires businesses to sign up with their DUNS number.)
  • Supplying goods to companies. Many companies require their suppliers to have a DUNS number.

Related: Financial Management: Basics for Business Managers
 

How to get a DUNS number

With D&B online, it’s completely free to register for a DUNS number and start creating a credit report for your company. Any legal entity is eligible for a DUNS number, including LLCs, C-corps and S-corps. Consider these steps to sign up for your DUNS number:
 

1. Check if you already have one

Anyone can request a DUNS entry for a business, including business owners, vendors, financial institutions and government entities. If a third-party has requested your business’s credit information, you may already have a DUNS number. To find out if you have a preexisting DUNS number, go to the D&B website and enter your business’s name, phone number and address. If your business has an existing DUNS number, you can confirm your identity to gain access to your credit report and update financial records.
 

2. Gather all of your info

If you don’t have a DUNS number, you can register by filling out a simple online application or by calling their toll-free number at 1-(866) 705-5711. To apply, you’ll need to know:
 

  • The legal status of your business (partnership, LLC, corporation, proprietorship)
  • Your business’s legal name
  • The year of establishment
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Primary products or services
  • Number of employees

Enter the data into the fields online or read it over the phone to complete your registration. The whole process typically only takes a few minutes.
 

Related: 10 Steps to Starting a Business
 

3. Optional: pay for fast-tracking

After submitting an application, it can take up to 30 days to receive a DUNS number. If you want to expedite the process, you can pay $229 to get your DUNS number in five business days or less. D&B may fast-track some DUNS applications for free if you’re registering as part of a bid for a government grant or contract.
 

4. Report transactions

Once you have an established DUNS number, your business credit report will automatically gather public information like legal judgments and bankruptcies. Most suppliers and vendors don’t report directly to D&B, so if you want your score to include past business transactions, you’ll typically need to submit them yourself for a fee.

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DUNS number FAQs

Is a DUNS number the same as a tax ID number?

A DUNS number is separate from your tax ID number. The IRS assigns tax ID numbers for businesses to use for taxes, while the DUNS is exclusively for tracking business credit reports.

What is the difference between DUNS numbers and Paydex?

DUNS numbers are the actual identification number D&B attaches to your business, while Paydex is one of their credit scoring systems for businesses — similar to a FICO score for individuals. The score ranges from 0 to 100. Low-risk businesses are usually in the 80-100 range, while high-risk businesses typically score between one and 49. To get your Paydex score, you must register for your DUNS number and have at least four trade references.

Who can access my business’s credit report?

Your D&B business credit reports are available to the general public, including landlords, customers, insurers and potential partners.

Does every company have a DUNS number?

Since businesses aren’t required to obtain a DUNS number (unless they contract with government agencies), not every company has one. However, according to Dun & Bradstreet, 330 million global businesses have a DUNS number.

What is the difference between SAM and DUNS numbers?

In order to do business with the federal government, you need to first have a DUNS number and then register with the System for Award Management (SAM). Having a SAM number allows you to receive payments. To register with SAM, go to SAM.gov and enter the same information you used to apply for your DUNS number.

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