Duns Numbers: Why You Need Them

A DUNS Number gives you an opportunity to be proactive with your credit and see how other companies perceive you.

Lori Chillingworth Jun 5, 2012

As a savvy small business owner trying to stay competitive in the marketplace, you may have been asked if you business has a DUNS Number or been told you need one. A DUNS Number can benefit your business in several ways, so here is some information on what it is and how it can help your business.

What Is a DUNS Number?

Duns stands for Data Universal Number System. It is a unique nine-digit number used to identity companies and provides easy reference for people gathering information about them. The system was created by the primary credit reporting group for businesses, Dun & Bradstreet®.

Why Do I Need a DUNS Number?

If you own a small business, there are several reasons you need a DUNS number. It allows your suppliers to verify that you pay your bills on time, enabling you to obtain new sources for your products and services. The number is also used by banks and financial institutions to assess your credit payment history in order to make a decision on whether or not to give you a loan.

Also, if you are interested in doing business with the federal government, you are required to have a DUNS account. For example, perhaps you want to bid on a federally funded project. Without a DUNS Number, you will not be able to register to see what contracts may be available.

How Do I Obtain a DUNS Number?

Obtaining a DUNS Number is easy. Just contact Dun & Bradstreet by phone 888-347-0475 or visit® to apply for a number. When you apply, you will need to provide information about your company’s structure, product and services, location, annual revenues, etc.

It will take at least 30 days to obtain your DUNS Number, although you can expedite your application if you need it immediately.

Can I Check My DUNS Number?

Once you have obtained your DUNS Number, you can update your financial information as needed and also do business credit checks to make sure that information on file about your business is correct.

“We recommend you check your business credit regularly,” says Cece Mitchell, senior vice president and small business banking manager at Zions Bank. “We recently had a company with a slow payment history being reported by two vendors. The company knew they had never been late, so they asked D&B to do research. The error was discovered and the company’s credit report was revised to reflect the good payment history they had, If they hadn’t checked, they may not have qualified for financing.”

You can also use Dun & Bradstreet to check the credit history on your clients.

In short, the DUNS Number gives you an opportunity to be proactive with your credit and see how other companies perceive you, which can help you make the best business decisions possible.

Lori Chillingworth is executive vice president and director of Zions Bank’s Small Business Banking Division.

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