Business

When it Comes to Business Finances, Your Personal Credit Matters — A Lot

Gina Bessire of the Zions Bank Business Resource Center helps entrepreneurs understand the link between their personal credit and their business finances.

Ali Hardy Aug 22, 2019

It’s true that good credit offers access to better opportunities, such as housing or employment, but credit can be an asset in and of itself — especially for new or aspiring business owners who don’t yet have a successful track record.

woman in front of a large computer display
Credit Matters: Know Your Score and More is one of several classes taught by Gina Bessire at the Zions Bank Idaho Business Resource Center in Boise.

Entrepreneurs may not understand how their personal credit impacts their business, which is why Gina Bessire, a counselor at the Zions Bank Business Resource Center in Boise teaches a free workshop called “Credit Matters: Know Your Score and More.” In her experience, it matters — a lot.

“If you’re a startup, you’re very likely not going to have any business credit, so banks will be heavily reliant on your personal score,” Bessire explains. “Your personal score will feed into your business score, but it doesn’t work the other way around.” 

Here, she shares some highlights from the class, including information about credit and how it can impact your personal and professional life.

Types of Credit

She starts with the basics. “It sometimes surprises people, but there are different types of credit,” explains Bessire. She says there are three different types of credit:

  • Credit type #1: Revolving: Revolving debt, such as credit cards and home equity lines of credit, allow you to borrow at any time up to a set limit. In addition, your balance becomes available again once it’s paid back. It requires a minimum monthly payment and interest accrues if paying it off takes more than one month.
  • Credit type #2: Installment: Installment debt, such as mortgages or business loans, allows you to borrow a specific amount for a particular purpose. You have a fixed payment due each month that is paid over a set period with a set amount of interest, and the loan amount is not available again once the debt is paid in full.
  • Credit type #3: Open: This describes balances that must be paid in full each month, such as cell phone, utilities, cable and internet accounts. There is no pushing debt to the next month, so there is no interest charged.

Credit Score

Each of us has one, but how much do you know about what goes into a credit score? Typically it’s a combination of a variety of criteria.

  • FICO Score: The FICO score has only been around since 1989, and yet 90 percent of top lenders rely on this scoring model. Scores range from 300 to 850. Your FICO score is made up of the following criteria:

35%: Payment History
30%: Amounts Owed
15%: Length of Credit History
10%: New Credit
10%: Types of Credit.

For a deeper dive into what each of these mean, read more about how your credit score is determined.

  • VantageScore: The VantageScore is an alternative scoring model that was created by Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax in 2006. Scores range from 300 to 850. Your VantageScore is made up of the following criteria:

40%: Payment History
21%: Credit Age and Mix
20%: Utilization or Amounts Owed
11%: Balances
5%: Recent Credit Applications
3%: Available Credit

  • FICO SBSS Score: SBSS stands for Small Business Scoring Service, and this score is used for business term loans and lines of credit up to $1 million. Scores range from 0 to 300 and are based on personal and business credit histories, the age of the business, number of employees and finances. 

The Cost of Credit

Having poor credit can cost you — literally — since interest rates on loans are influenced by your credit score. Depending on the amount of the loan, the difference in interest paid over the life of the loan can amount to thousands of additional dollars for someone with a low credit score, Bessire says.

The 5 C’s of Credit

As part of her role at Zions Bank, Bessire is often asked how banks and other financial institutions make lending decisions. She explains that this is based on “The Five C’s of Credit.”

The Five C’s stand for character, capacity, collateral, capital and conditions — and each are critical when it comes to loan decisions.

Common Credit Mistakes

Bessire says that a common credit mistake is closing a long-standing credit card. She recommends cardholders keep established accounts open since the length of credit history is vital to your score.

“A credit card may also be closed by the creditor due to inactivity, so pull that ancient department store card out of the sock drawer and use it for something small every six months and promptly pay it off,” Bessire suggests.

Another mistake involves using too much credit. Bessire says a good rule of thumb is to keep credit utilization no higher than 30 percent of your limit.

“You want to aim for a balance between no activity and too much utilization,” she explains. “Maxing out your credit cards isn’t wise, but a common misconception is that zero utilization across the board helps your credit, which is untrue.”

Want to learn more? Attend the Zions Bank Credit Matters: Know Your Score and More Workshop in Boise on Sept. 24.

Are you an entrepreneur in need of resources and support? The Zions Bank Business Resource Center can help you find answers and resources, develop strategies, solve problems and get guidance with business, marketing, sales, financing, management, growth opportunities and more.  

Ali Hardy is a freelance writer for Zions Bank.

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