You can’t apply for a business credit card with a DUNS number. DUNS stands for “Data Universal Numbering System.” It’s a system developed by Dun & Bradstreet, one of the major business credit bureaus. D&B keeps track of businesses around the world by giving each a nine-digit DUNS number. This number is mainly used when businesses seek credit from other businesses. It allows the creditor to easily look up the potential borrower’s D&B credit file.
Just having a DUNS number isn’t enough to get you a business credit card. In fact, you might not need it at all during the application process. Business credit cards require an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in most cases. And with a small number of exceptions, like the Shell Business Credit Card, you’ll always have to list your SSN on business credit card applications.
An Employer Identification Number is a nine-digit business identifier assigned by the IRS. Your SSN is used to pull your personal credit history when you apply. It’s required because small business owners are almost always held personally liable for unpaid balances. If you have a sole proprietorship, you can just use your SSN (and not an EIN) on a business credit card application.
Here’s why you can’t apply for a business credit card with a DUNS number:
- Any business around the world can have a DUNS number. But it’s not an official, government-issued identification number, which you must have to get a credit card. That means you need an EIN, SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- A DUNS number identifies a whole business. An Employer Identification Number is assigned to a business owner. Only proprietors (or employees authorized to act on their behalf, like executives or treasurers) can apply for business credit cards. So you need to prove your ownership with an EIN. The exception is if you have a sole proprietorship, in which case you do not need an EIN but instead can use your SSN or ITIN.
- Most banks hold business credit card owners personally responsible for paying all debts. So card issuers need to be able to check your personal credit history when you apply and report information to consumer credit bureaus. That’s why you’re required to provide your SSN or ITIN when you apply for a business credit card.
If you don’t yet have an EIN and need one to get a card, you can apply for one online. But it’s worth noting that you’re only legally required to have an EIN if you have employees, are a joint proprietorship, or meet the other IRS criteria like operating your business as a corporation or partnership.