What Is a DUNS Number and What Is it Used for?

Kevin Claypool, Client Portfolio Manager, First Republic Bank
December 14, 2021

  • A DUNS number is a nine-digit identifier for your business that can help lenders and government agencies better understand your company’s financial history. 
  • Business credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet created DUNS numbers so potential partners can receive information about your business’s financial history.
  • Your DUNS number helps potential partners, including lenders and other businesses, make informed decisions about whether to work with your company.

Whether you’re just starting your business or have been operational for several years, establishing and maintaining credibility is critical to developing trust lenders and partners. When you’re searching for funding or pursuing contracts, for instance, you will want a concise way to demonstrate your track record with finances to potential partners, who themselves will want to have an effective way to assess the risk of working with you. A DUNS number is a tool to do this by affording partners a clear idea of your business’s financial inner workings.

Having a DUNS number is important to establish the credibility of a business — and, ultimately, to be able to secure the funding and partnerships you need to grow. First, you'll want to understand what a DUNS number is used for.

What is a DUNS number?

A DUNS (data universal numbering system) number is a nine-digit business identification number. The business credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) created DUNS numbers.

Like a social security number that identifies a single individual, a DUNS number identifies a singular business. A business’s credit report from D&B includes a DUNS number, along with other financial scores and assessments.

Potential lenders and partners can use a business’s DUNS number as a way to receive information about a particular company's finances, which they will want to consider before making business decisions around contracts, partnerships, financing and more.

DUNS numbers come with a variety of benefits for businesses that obtain them.

DUNS number vs. EIN

When researching DUNS numbers and what a DUNS number is used for, you’ll likely run across information about an employer identification number (EIN). Although both numbers are nine-digit numbers that identify a business, and both can be obtained for free, they are different. 

Most importantly, an EIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), while a DUNS number is issued by D&B.

EINs are also known as business tax ID numbers and are often used for functions such as paying taxes, applying for business credit cards or opening business bank accounts. This is different from the purpose of a DUNS number, which is used to establish your company’s credibility and help potential partners make an informed decision about working with you.

What is a DUNS number used for?

The major benefit of having a DUNS number is giving your business credibility and a way for potential partners to get a clear idea of your company’s finances. Because a DUNS number operates as an identifier for your business, other entities who are looking into working with you will be able to use your DUNS number to get a sense of your payment history and corporate details.

Your DUNS number can help partners see different financial health indicators, such as your D&B business credit score and ratings, as well as information on suits, liens, judgments and other types of activity that may help potential partners decide whether to work with your business. 

Together, this information paints a picture of your business’s creditworthiness and can act as a predictor of your future financial reliability. This is why many government agencies and global companies request DUNS numbers when vetting partners for contracts. Additionally, many business lenders will require a DUNS number when assessing a business’s risk for a loan.

A DUNS number is one of many tools that businesses should have to set themselves up for success, especially when looking toward the future.

Benefits of a DUNS number

A DUNS number can offer a business many advantages, such as: 

  • Expediting the vetting process for partnerships with other business entities and financial institutions
  • Providing a unique business identifier for your company, which enables potential partners, including federal government agencies and lenders, to learn essential financial information about your company
  • Widening your opportunities as a DUNS number may be required to bid for government contracts. Companies with DUNS numbers can submit bids for certain projects that those without a DUNS number cannot
  • Potentially making your business more attractive for partnership, since a DUNS number makes it easier for companies to assess your credibility and financial risk

How do you apply for a DUNS number?

If you’re ready to apply for a DUNS number for your business, it's best to familiarize yourself with the application process beforehand.

First, business owners can apply for a DUNS number on Dun & Bradstreet’s website. The first step is to check that Dun & Bradstreet has not already created a DUNS number for you or that you are not part of a larger organization that already has a DUNS number. 

If that’s not the case, you’ll continue through to the application.

Business owners should have the following information handy when applying:

  • Full business name
  • Business mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Business owner’s name
  • Year founded
  • Primary type of business
  • Legal business structure
  • Number of employees (full- and part-time)

After applying, you can receive your number in up to 30 business days.

A DUNS number is important for businesses to showcase their credibility and creditworthiness, and is a key tool to build important corporate partnerships. Having a DUNS number can help give your business an advantage and enable it to grow.

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First Republic does not provide tax or legal advice. Clients should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors.