What Is a DUNS Number?

Definition and Examples of a DUNS Number

Person working on a laptop
•••

Carlina Teteris / Getty Images

A Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number is a unique, nine-digit number used to identify businesses all around the world for credit check purposes. A business's credit ratings, legal judgments, and payment histories are tied to its DUNS number. Potential investors, money lenders, and other entities can check the information tied to a DUNS number before doing business with a company.

Learn how you can obtain one for your business and how scores tied to DUNS numbers can affect businesses.

What Is a DUNS Number?

A DUNS number is used to look up the details of a business’s credit record. A check on a business's DUNS number will reveal that entity's reliability, trustworthiness, financial stability, and likelihood to pay debts. You can think of it as a company's social security number. It can be used to establish creditworthiness for your business while safeguarding your personal credit history.

DUNS numbers were introduced by Dun & Bradstreet, a business data and analytics firm dating back to 1841. DUNS numbers were first introduced in 1963. Today, more than 330 million businesses around the globe have a unique DUNS number.

Certain types of businesses or contractors are required to obtain a DUNS number. For example, those in the Apple Developer Program need a DUNS number. Many government contracts in the U.S. also require businesses to obtain a DUNS number.

Your DUNS number only refers to your business within the Dun & Bradstreet database. There are other business credit agencies, and they do not share information with each other. Each agency has unique identifiers, databases, scoring systems, and credit reporting.

How a DUNS Number Works

All businesses should check to see if they've already been issued a DUNS number. Registration with the Dun & Bradstreet website is free, and after registration, you can check if your company already has a DUNS number in the Dun & Bradstreet database.

If your company has an entry, you must confirm your identity with your home address, and your role at the business. After you’ve confirmed your connection, you can update valid financial information, and view your existing credit file. If your business is not listed, you can register for a DUNS number.

A DUNS number is typically formatted like this: xx-xxx-xxxx.

How to Register for Your DUNS Number

Business owners or registered principals can apply for a DUNS number for free. The online application asks for basic business information, including:

  • Names associated with your business, including legal name, DBA ("doing business as"), and owner name
  • Physical and mailing addresses
  • Whether you are a home-based business or not
  • Telephone number
  • Number of employees at the physical location

After the application is complete, your business should receive its DUNS number within 30 days, though the process can be expedited when you need a DUNS number for a government contract. You can also fast-track your application by paying $229 to receive your DUNS number within five working days.

PAYDEX Score

Once your DUNS number has been established, the Dun & Bradstreet system analyzes your credit accounts to generate your PAYDEX score. This score is one example of the information that entities will see when they perform a credit check on your DUNS number, and it's based on information gathered from your suppliers and vendors.

The PAYDEX score quantifies your payment history with a score from 1 to 100—the higher the score, the more reliable your payment performance. Scores from 80–100 indicate that a business usually honors all the terms of payment. Scores from 50–79 indicate a medium risk, and anything below 49 is considered a high-risk business.

Dun & Bradstreet’s CreditBuilder tool may help you learn more about your business credit rating. Features include alerts whenever someone requests your credit report and information about how your score stacks up against others in your industry.

Your PAYDEX score can influence supplier, bank, and landlord perceptions of your payment history. It signals whether you’re a stable business that pays bills on time. It can affect the terms of the lending contract offered to you. The better your PAYDEX score, the more likely you are to get better contract terms.

Key Takeaways

  • A DUNS number refers to a business's identification in Dun & Bradstreet's Data Universal Numbering System.
  • A DUNS number allows lenders, potential business partners, and other entities to check the credit history of a business.
  • Some organizations, such as the federal government and Apple, may require businesses to acquire a DUNS number.

Article Sources

  1. Dun & Bradstreet. "Our History." Accessed July 8, 2020.

  2. Dun & Bradstreet. "Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number." Accessed July 8, 2020.

  3. Apple. "D-U-N-S Number." Accessed July 8, 2020.

  4. Dun & Bradstreet. "Small Business Guide to Government Contracts." Accessed July 8, 2020.

  5. Dun & Bradstreet. "Get a Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number and Establish Your Business Credit File." Accessed July 8, 2020.

  6. Dun & Bradstreet. "D&B Paydex." Accessed July 8, 2020.