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Steps to Building Small Business Credit Without a Personal Guarantee

Personal Guarantees Add Substantial Personal Risk for Business Owners

Credit Without a Personal Guarantee

More and more, small business owners are encountering the sticky situation of being asked for a personal guarantee when applying for credit. This has long been a common requirement for small and new business owners, but with lending practices tightening as they are now, it is increasingly difficult to negotiate a waiver.

Some entrepreneurs may think that a little risk is par for the course when it comes to starting a new business, but that is perhaps a recklessly optimistic perspective considering that the vast majority of businesses fail within the first 5 years. Especially when facing a tough market, business-owners would do well to limit their personal liability in case the worst happens. The possibility of losing one’s home or other assets should deter anyone from providing a personal guarantee unless it is absolutely necessary and unless they can be relatively certain that the risk of default is negligible. So how can a small business-owner secure credit without a personal guarantee?

Read on to find out.

Credit Card Companies Require 2+ Years in Business and Solid Credit History

If your business has been operating for less than 2 years, you may be out of luck when it comes to the major credit card issuers. This can be a difficult obstacle to overcome for new businesses, and rightly so–the high failure rate makes young businesses especially risky for banks. For many large banks, the 2+ year requirement is a hard-and-fast rule. However, in some cases, other factors may prevail, particularly with smaller lenders like local banks.

Having a strong, established credit history with several trade references* and at least one bank reference, for example, can help demonstrate financial reliability. Nothing shows that you can be depended on to pay your debts on-time like a proven history of doing so. Having positive cash flow is also critical. If you aren’t making money, it isn’t likely that you will be able to pay a lender back.

These factors can mitigate the weight that lenders ascribe to age of business when determining creditworthiness. However, it is important to make sure that payment history gets recorded and reported to a credit reporting agency. Otherwise, your business’s good behavior may get overlooked. Fortunately, doing so is easy now that there are many online services to monitor and improve your business’s credit report.

*Trade References will be added subject to D&B® verification and acceptance. Please see http://www. for eligibility, process and other information regarding Trade References.


After graduating with a B.A. from Occidental College, Ben Wills worked for several political non-profits on economic policy, government transparency, and public accountability issues.