How a DUNS Number Can Help Your Business

3 min read • Jul 18, 2021 • Derek Miller

In 1962, Dun and Bradstreet—a credit company—established the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS). This unique numbering system links more than 280 million businesses worldwide. 

A DUNS number is a 9-digit identifier that can be assigned to all business types within all industries. Corporations, sole proprietors, nonprofits, and government offices can all use DUNS numbers. 

Learn more about a DUNS number—and how it can help your business. 

Why Do I Need a DUNS Number?

There are many uses for a DUNS number that prove its value. Because there is no cost to requesting a DUNS number, you may want to acquire one now so you have it when the need arises. A few examples of when you will need a DUNS number include:

  • If your business wants to pursue government contracts and federal work. 
  • If your business is applying for grants through the federal government (especially the US Office of Management and Budget, or OMB).
  • If you plan to expand your business globally—and especially if you plan to work with national governments. Some United Nations offices require DUNS numbers when submitting contracts. 

Many American business owners use an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS as an identifier. While an EIN is useful, it is limited to the United States. A DUNS number can be shared globally, providing greater value as your organization expands. Furthermore, an EIN only identifies the business owner, while a DUNS number identifies the business as a whole.  

How Do I Get My DUNS Number?

You can request a DUNS number from the Dun and Bradstreet Corporation. There is currently no cost to request a number, and the company prides itself on its ability to deliver numbers to companies quickly. You can receive your number in about 30 business days, but the company offers some options to expedite the process. 

If you work for an organization that might already have a moniker, you can use the DUNS number lookup to see if your business is already registered. You can also look up other companies to see if they have registered as well. 

Can I Use My DUNS Number Instead of My Social Security Number?

A DUNS number is not a replacement for an EIN or Social Security number (SSN) for lending and application purposes. When you apply for a business credit card or loan, you will need to provide your EIN and possibly your SSN because a business cannot apply for credit, but a business owner—or authorized treasurer—can. 

DUNS numbers serve as supplemental identifiers. To prove your identity, you will need to share additional information. 

Learn When to Use Your DUNS Number

If you are still unsure whether you need a DUNS number, talk with a business consultant who specializes in your field. They can provide advice as to whether you could benefit from acquiring a DUNS number. 

Because acquiring a DUNS number is free, you may benefit from requesting now—in case you ever need it in the future.

Derek Miller

Derek Miller is a writer specializing in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing. His work has featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp. He’s currently the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses.