What Is Your DUNS Number?

It helps build the reputation your business needs to do business

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Your Data Universal Numbering System—or DUNS number—is a unique, nine-digit number used to identify businesses all around the world for credit check purposes.

Dun & Bradstreet, a firm providing business data and analytics, copyrighted the “D-U-N-S Number” system in 1962 to help merchants establish a creditworthiness record as a customer. Obtaining a DUNS number is the first step in establishing a “Live Business Identity.” Today, more than 330 million businesses around the globe have a unique DUNS number.

Why You Need a DUNS Number

A DUNS number is used to look up your business’s credit record, which will include credit ratings, legal judgments and proceedings, and payment history. Potential investors, money lenders, and other businesses considering dealing with your company can see your level of reliability, trustworthiness, financial stability, and likelihood to pay debts. 

Think of it as your company's social security number. It can be used to establish creditworthiness for your business while safeguarding your own personal credit history. 

Certain types of businesses or contractors also need a DUNS number, including those in the Apple Developer Program. There are even DUNS applications for businesses in Canada and international destinations. 

The U.S. federal government adopted the DUNS number system in 1994. Before you can apply for any government contract, no matter how small, you'll need a DUNS number. Many small businesses find this a valuable advantage in winning lucrative, stable government contracts.

How to Find Your DUNS Number 

Before you apply for your unique DUNS number, you should check to ensure your business doesn't already have one issued. 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.

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

If your business is not listed, you can register for a DUNS number

How to Register for Your DUNS Number

Business owners or registered principals can apply for a DUNS number for free, although there are a few steps required before you start. 

The online application asks for basic business information, including:

  • All names associated with your business, including legal name, DBA (doing business as), and owner name
  • Physical and mailing addresses
  • Telephone number
  • Number of employees at the physical location
  • Whether you are a home-based business

After the application is complete, your business should receive its DUNS number within 30 days. To speed up the process, you can pay $229 to fast-track your application and receive your DUNS number within five working days. Additionally, businesses required to register for a U.S. government contract or grant may be able to receive a DUNS number within one business day.

If you call Dun & Bradstreet, you may be able to receive your DUNS number within 15 minutes. 

Your DUNS Number and Your Credit Score

After your DUNS number is established, the Dun & Bradstreet system analyzes your credit accounts to generate your PAYDEX score. This score is based on information gathered from your suppliers and vendors. It measures your payment history and trends with a score from 1 to 100, with higher scores indicating more reliable payment performance. Scores from 80-100 indicate a low risk of late payment, 50-79 indicate medium risk, and anything below 49 is considered high.

Your PAYDEX score can influence supplier, bank, and landlord perceptions of your payment history, and can determine whether you’re a stable business that pays bills on time. It can affect the terms of the lending contract these businesses may offer you. The better your PAYDEX score, the better the contract terms you'll likely be able to negotiate for your business.

Dun & Bradstreet’s CreditBuilder tool may help you find even more valuable information about your business credit rating.

It's worth noting there are other business credit agencies, and your DUNS number only refers to your business within the Dun & Bradstreet database. Credit agencies do not share information with each other. Each agency has unique identifiers, databases, scoring systems, and credit reporting. 

The Bottom Line 

Dun & Bradstreet is a large business credit record keeper, with a comprehensive database containing more than 330 million records. Getting a DUNS number is a relatively straightforward process that may open up new opportunities in government contracts and help to establish your business as a creditworthy business partner. 

Article Sources

  1. Dun & Bradstreet. "D‑U‑N‑S Number." Accessed Feb. 11, 2020.

  2. Dun & Bradstreet. "About the DUNS Number" Accessed Feb. 11, 2020.

  3. Dun & Bradstreet. "Get a Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number and Establish Your Business Credit File." Accessed Feb. 11, 2020.

  4. Dun & Bradstreet. "FAQs: We’re Here to Help: What Information Will I Need to Provide to Get a D‑U‑N‑S Number for My Business?" Accessed Feb. 11, 2020. 

  5. Dun & Bradstreet. "D&B Paydex," Accessed Feb. 11, 2020. 

  6. Dun & Bradstreet. "DUNS Number Request Guide." Accessed Feb.11, 2020.