Five Things You Need to Know About Your Customer Before you Extend Business Credit

All business customers are not created equal. Even companies that look solid at first glance can hide festering problems that eventually can impact your bottom line. Successful credit management requires you to carefully evaluate the financial health of every business that asks for credit terms. According to Experian, here are 5 questions you should be able to answer before extending business credit:

1. Is the business what it claims to be?
Sometimes, companies needing credit will provide inaccurate information to win approval. Before opening an account, you need to confirm the applicant‘s bona fides, including its location, size, number of employees, annual revenue, years of operation and similar financial indicators.

2. What is its payment history?
Although past performance does not guarantee future results, a company’s payment history is often a strong indicator of how it is likely to behave in the future. Pulling a business’ credit report can easily provide you a snapshot of an company’s payment history as well as other risk measures.

3. Are there hidden factors that could affect its ability to pay?
Are there pending judgments, lawsuits, bankruptcies, regulatory citations or other “red flags” that could make it difficult for the applicant to meet its obligations in the future? This is another area where a business’ credit report will be a key factor in helping you uncover a potentially risky business.

4. How much credit should you extend?
All credit contains an element of risk, but you can mitigate that risk by limiting the amount of credit you extend based on factors such as the customer’s sales volume, debt to-asset ratio and similar aspects.

5. Under what terms should you extend credit to this customer?
You can mitigate risk further by carefully calibrating the combination of interest rates, minimum payments and other contract terms based on each customer’s individual financial metrics.

CMA offers solutions, such as Experian and other bureau credit reports, Industry Credit Groups and more to help companies determine how much business credit to extend. For more information on how we can help your company, contact Credit Management Association at 818-972-5300 or visit www.CreditManagementAssociation.org.

This article originally appeared here and has been reprinted with permission. 

The Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Accepting Credit Card Payments, by Scott Blakeley, Esq.

Customers in the B2B space are increasingly using credit cards to pay supplier invoices. The upside for the cardholder and paying customer is the 30 extra days to pay the cardholder statement that includes the supplier’s invoice. Cards also reduce paperwork and allow the customer to eliminate the time and cost of processing A/P checks. The upside for suppliers is that payment by credit card means near immediate remittance, reduced credit approval and collection activities, reduced credit and bankruptcy risk, and new sales channels (attracting customers who otherwise may not qualify for terms). Further, by accepting cards only when the order is placed, the supplier also enjoys increased cash flow, improved DSO and reduced A/R.

Still, there are complications involved with accepting credit cards in the B2B space. One area where suppliers may have particular legal questions surrounding their policy concerning credit cards is in collections, particularly in suppliers using credit cards as a collection strategy on past-due accounts.

As a speaker at the upcoming CreditScape Fall Summit in Las Vegas, I will address the use of credit cards as a supplier collection strategy in scenarios where the customer has failed to pay. I will cover the rules of the supplier accepting credit card payments on past due invoices from a customer who cannot pay. The discussion will also include the possibility of a surcharge rollout, and the legal issues associated with surcharging the credit card using customer, including how handle the 2-4% interchange fee that credit card companies charge their customers.

Join me as we cover this topic in much more detail at the upcoming CreditScape Fall Summit, September 17-18 at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. For more information about the conference, visit www.creditscapeconference.com. I hope to see you there.
Scott Blakeley, Esq., is founder of Blakeley LLP, where he advises companies around the United States and Canada regarding creditors’ rights, commercial law, e-commerce and bankruptcy law. He will be speaking at the upcoming CreditScape Fall Summit, and can be reached at seb@blakeleyllp.com.

Should a Credit Manager Request Personal Social Security Numbers?, by Michael C. Dennis

Michael C. Dennis

In a recent post on LinkedIn, a question was asked about If, When and Why B2B creditors such as CMA members request or require Social Security Numbers from credit applicants. (https://www.linkedin.com/grp/post/2412088-6014193760244690945?trk=groups-post-b-title) At the time, I posted two responses in which I posed questions for CMA members in connection with the laws governing the use and the protection of SS numbers.

As I read through the other comments, I saw that several credit managers did routinely ask for them, while others were vehemently opposed to doing so.

Now that some time has gone by, I would like to offer the following additional comments for members who obtain SS numbers from applicant companies:

• Create strong policies and procedures about If, When, Why and Which applicants will be asked to provide their Social Security Number.
• Make sure your attorney has reviewed these policies and procedures and has confirmed that your actions are lawful under applicable federal and state laws.
• Publish these policies and procedures, and then enforce them.
• Create a robust mechanism to ensure there is limited access to customer SS numbers and related information.
• Assign one or a limited number of employees the task of safekeeping and safeguarding SS numbers.
• Be sure there are consequences for employees if policies, procedures or safeguards are ignored for any reason.
• Understand the potential costs of a data breach involving personal information including but not limited to SS numbers.
• Understand the disclosure requirements and the remediation obligations and out-of-pocket costs in the event of a data breach.
• Make sure you have a compelling business reason to obtain SS numbers and consumer credit reports.

Where do you stand on this issue? As always, I welcome your feedback.

Michael C. Dennis is the author of the Encyclopedia of Credit (www.encyclopediaofcredit.com), a free, fast, internet resource for credit and collection professionals. He is a consultant, and the author of “Credit and Collection Forms and Procedures Manual” as well as a frequent instructor at CMA-sponsored educational events. His most recent book, “Happy Customers, Faster Cash,” is available at amazon.com.  He can be contacted at 949-584-9685.