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5 Strategies For New Businesses To Build Credit

By: Michael Dolen-- 2011-08-11 11:00 pm --

Building credit for your small business can seem like the ultimate catch-22. You can't get credit without first having a credit history. So what are supposed to do? Well, here are 5 strategies you can use to establish and build credit for your new LLC or corporation.

Strategy #1: Open a business bank account

While this in and of itself won't build your credit, it is an important requirement for obtaining credit down the road. In order to apply for an unsecured business loan, typically you must have a bank account that has been open for 2+ years. However, if you demonstrate a strong history of deposits/cash flow into this account, then your bank may make an exception to the typical 2 year requirement.

Strategy #2: Obtain a secured loan

Even if your business has absolutely zero credit history, it still may be possible to get a loan. How so? By putting up your cash as collateral. For example, your bank may allow you to borrow $5k if you sign away a $5k CD for collateral. Since essentially you are borrowing your own money, obviously a loan secured by cash is useless for financing purposes. However what it does accomplish is kick-starting your credit history, now your business will have an installment loan on its record.

Strategy #3: Establish trade lines

Even with no credit history, it may be possible to obtain a trade line with some local suppliers, such as construction and lumber companies. These usually operate on a net-30 basis, which means your balance must be paid in full within 30 days. Because these are unsecured, the amount of credit you start out with will almost always be low. However if you use it responsibly over time, your credit limit should go up. The only drawback with trade lines is that in order to have these show up on your D&B credit profile, you may have to pay Dunn & Bradstreet for their "Credit Builder" program, unfortunately.

Strategy #4: Piggyback on your personal credit

In order to apply for a business credit card and get approved solely under your company's credit, your business typically must have 2+ years of solid cash flow (with solid bookkeeping to back it up) and often the requirements are quite high; $2M to $5M annually. Obviously that's an impossible feat for a new business! However you can apply for small business credit cards under your personal credit. If you do so, please note that AmEx business cards(as great as they are) will not be reported to your business credit file. However Chase and some other issuers will report, assuming you provide them with your business tax ID number.

Strategy #5: Keep Your Personal Credit In-Check

Even after you do all of the above, don't be surprised if down the road a lender asks to see your personal credit when you apply for a loan (typically this goes for anyone owning 20% or more of the business). Some people feel this is not appropriate, but it makes common sense when you think about it, a person good at managing their own credit will probably be a lower risk in managing business credit, right? Depending on the size and type of loan, the lender may also ask you to co-sign for it under your personal credit. Conclusion? As a small business owner, having good personal credit can be very useful, both now and in the future.

Michael Dolen is a small business owner himself, the founder of Category Media, LLC, which is the parent company of CreditCardForum.com (a website which he built to offer the best credit card deals, or at least that's what he strives for it to be). On the site he has a section featuring credit Q&Aís for small businesses.