Updated: Feb 3, 2022
People always ask: "Is a business website and email required to build credit?" The short answer is "no", but there is a long answer, too, and it may surprise you.
It's a tale of Jack & John... Two clients, both of whom have businesses that are unusually similar. Both are home-based businesses, less than three years old, in the same industry, and both are sole owner/operators of an LLC. Both owners have similar personal credit scores, similar backgrounds, and their annual sales, believe it or not, are within just ten thousand dollars of each other. The biggest difference between the two clients is that Jack has invested in a domain name for his company, a simple website to show what he does, and a business email account. John hasn't. Instead, he uses a generic email address (like Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL).
While Jack achieves retail credit approvals and business-based credit cards with regularity, John struggles for every approval and they don't come with the frequency and success that Jack experiences. Why does this matter? Several years ago, I decided to test my "email address" theory using my graphic design business as a guinea pig. It's been operating since 1988. To test my theory, I created two new retail credit accounts with the same company just minutes apart. On one account I used a generic Yahoo email address I've had for 20 years. On the other I used a business email address that's about 5 years old. Since the business information is the same no matter what email address I use, there should be no difference between the two online accounts I created, right? But there was... The account I created using my domain-driven business email address received an on-the-spot approval. My $1000 credit line had immediate purchase capability with invoicing on Net 30 terms. I was able to place an order that day, saw an inquiry on my D&B report a few days later, and the payment showed up before the 15th of the next month. A few minutes later, I tried to place an order using an account I created using my generic Yahoo email address. Instead of an enthusiastic response, though, the order went nowhere. Instead, I received an email saying I would need to prepay the first few orders before a credit account with Net 30 terms could be established.
After some editing of my business information and arguing with a customer service rep for 20 minutes, a $250 line of credit was eventually established without any prepayment. Even worse, no inquiry ever posted to my company's D&B report, and no payment ever flowed into the file. Other than receiving the item I purchased, there was absolutely no benefit to creating the "generic" account in the first place. When applying for business credit, lenders are looking for validation about your business, which is why they review your D&B report in the first place. They want assurances that you're invested in your business... that you're real, active, functioning, and generating enough income to cover your debts. That's not to say that everyone who has a website and business email is legitimate, because they oftentimes aren't. But it does lend credibility to a company if there are multiple resources all reflecting the same information about your business. A generic email address can't do that. That said... I still don't require my clients to use a domain-driven email address when applying for corporate credit, but I certainly recommend it. I also recommend keeping contact information on their website up-to-date so the data matches what is in the D&B file since that's where new suppliers and creditors are going to verify business information. So, while the short answer is "no," you don't NEED a website and domain-driven email address to get credit, the long answer really is "no, but it MATTERS in the long run."