Tradelines represent an alternative way for businesses to get lines of credit. Instead of using a traditional source such as a bank or credit union, businesses instead look to their vendors. Although tradelines often are used on a regular basis by established businesses, they can be a lifesaver for new businesses. Tradeline credit guidelines may be less restrictive than traditional financing, but the application and approval process is much the same.
Tradelines are only available to legitimate businesses, so you should be able to prove that your business is not just a hobby. Start by making sure your business plan presents a well-documented road map for operating and growing your business. Register your business name with the state and your state taxing agency. Also register the business with the Internal Revenue Service and obtain a tax identification number. Make sure any licenses or permits the business requires are up-to-date and in order. Be prepared to submit any documentation a vendor may require when processing your tradeline application.
Vendors will want to check the credit rating of the business and may also want to check the credit rating of an owner. If the business has an established credit history, order and review a credit report to make sure the information is current and correct. Large businesses may be able to get a report from a business credit reporting agency such as Dun & Bradstreet. If the business is small, order a credit report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Get a free copy of your personal credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies by contacting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Request a tradeline application from any vendors you are considering applying to and carefully review them before filling out and submitting. Look at the terms of the tradeline, such as the interest rate and whether payments are due in 30 or 60 days from the receipt of an invoice. Make sure your business is in the financial position to honor the credit terms of the tradeline. It is advantageous if the vendor reports payments to a credit bureau, especially if your business is new and trying to establish a credit rating.
Dun & Bradstreet recommends that businesses deal directly with vendors rather than tradeline resellers. These resellers offer new businesses and businesses with poor credit “seasoned tradelines.” These lines are promoted as an easy way to establish or improve credit. With a seasoned tradeline, the business pays a reseller a fee to “piggyback,” or add the business, as an authorized user on another business’s line of credit. Although seasoned tradelines aren’t illegal, Dun & Bradstreet warns that they are expensive and risky.