If you own a business, you’ve likely heard of a DUNS number. This nine-digit number is a unique identifier for businesses — like a Social Security number of the corporate world. Unlike Social Security numbers, DUNS numbers are managed by a private company, Dun & Bradstreet. You can get a DUNS number for free for your business, and you probably should get one as it can open up business and lending opportunities for your company.
What Is a DUNS Number?
A DUNS number (also D-U-N-S number) is a unique identifier for businesses, similar to what a Social Security Number is for an individual. The Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) was developed by Dun & Bradstreet in 1963, and is used to identify more than 200 million businesses across the world. All types of businesses, including corporations, sole proprietorships, nonprofits and government agencies, can have a DUNS number. A DUNS number is nine digits long and establishes a credit profile for the business through Dun & Bradstreet. Lenders and suppliers may use this credit profile to determine the creditworthiness and financial stability of your business.
DUNS numbers are permanent and tied to the business. So if a business changes ownership or moves to a new location, the DUNS number of the business will not change. Similarly, if a business ceases to exist, its DUNS number will never be reused for another business.
Unique DUNS numbers can also be issued to subsidiaries and physical branch locations of larger businesses. For instance, if there are four McDonald’s in a town, each location could have a different DUNS number. However, instead of registering each subsidiary, some businesses may use a DUNS+4 number. The parent-level company will register for a DUNS number, and then append four unique digits to this number for each branch or subsidiary. These suffixes are not tracked or used by Dun & Bradstreet; instead, each company manages these numbers themselves.
Why Do You Need a DUNS Number?
There are a few reasons why businesses should register for a DUNS number:
- Required to bid on U.S. government contracts
- May be required to do business in foreign countries
- Add legitimacy and credibility to your business
- Build your business’s credit profile
- Speed up your SSL certificate application
Work Abroad or With the Government
It is the most widely used identification system for businesses in the United States. It is also used globally, and in some cases, businesses may be required to register for a DUNS number if they want to do business in a foreign country. Most U.S. federal and state government agencies will also require your business to have a DUNS number to even bid on proposals and contracts. So if you want to do business abroad or with the government, you will need to get a DUNS number.
Add Credibility to Your Business
Another benefit of getting a DUNS number is that it provides legitimacy to your business. Potential lenders and business partners can look up demographic and credit information about your business through the DUNS database (you can also look up information about your vendors, business clients, partners and competitors if they are registered with Dun & Bradstreet). Dun & Bradstreet actively maintains and updates all information associated with each DUNS number, so you can trust that the information your creditors and vendors are seeing is accurate.
Build Business Credit
A DUNS number also lets your business start building credit. This is especially important if you want to get financing in the future. Suppliers, vendors and other businesses partners can add in trade information about your business. Dun & Bradstreet will compile this information and issue a Paydex credit score for your business. A Paydex score ranges from 0 to 100, with a score of 80 or above considered a good score. The Paydex score is based on the timeliness of your payments to vendors and suppliers. A score of 80, for instance, means that you typically pay on time, whereas a score of 90 means that you usually pay 20 days before terms.
Expedite Your Website’s SSL Certificate
Finally, a DUNS number can help speed up the application process for your website’s SSL certificate. SSL certificates are used to secure credit card transactions, login information and data transfers on websites. These certificates are very important for any business with an ecommerce presence. If you have a DUNS number for your business, you can provide this in lieu of faxing documents to the organization issuing your certificate.
How to Apply for a DUNS Number
You can apply for a DUNS number for free through the Dun & Bradstreet website. It can take up to 30 days to receive your number. If this is too long, you can pay for expedited service to receive your DUNS number in five days or less. The fee for this service is $229. Registration for a DUNS number is also included in some credit monitoring packages offered by Dun & Bradstreet.
If you purchased your company from a different owner or opened a franchise, you may want to check if your company already has a DUNS number. If you don’t, you’ll need to provide the following information to apply:
- Legal name of your business
- Headquarters name and address of your business
- Doing Business As (DBA) or any other name your business uses
- Physical address of your business
- Mailing address (if separate from headquarters or physical address)
- Telephone number
- Contact name and title
- Number of employees at the business’s physical address
- Whether your business is home-based
Once your DUNS number is set up and you receive your credit profile, it will not have any trade history on it. You will need to add previous trade references yourself. Any new credit accounts or trades you make with suppliers or creditors may be added to your DUNS profile, provided they report to Dun & Bradstreet.
How to Lookup a DUNS Number
Like registering for a DUNS number, you can also look up a DUNS number for free. To start your search, you can either enter the company’s name or phone number. If you enter the company’s name, you will need to provide its street address, city, state and zip code. Based on this information, you will be shown a list of companies that may be the one you are looking for. Once you select the correct company, you will need to enter your name and email address to have the DUNS number of the company sent to you.
After completing the search, Dun & Bradstreet will send you an email with the DUNS number of the company. If you want to look up the business’s credit information, you will need to pay. A standard Business Information Report from D&B will cost you $121.99 for one company. This includes a detailed report on the company’s operations, financial performance and other public records. It will also include Dun & Bradstreet’s own Paydex score and credit ratings for the company. Dun & Bradstreet offers other business credit report products ranging from $62 to $800. For your own business, you can monitor changes to your credit scores for free or see more detailed information for a monthly fee.