Renton's Top 10 Credit Sites on the Internet
Here is the latest edition of our popular Internet Resource Guide, there have been a number of changes since we last published this a couple of years back. As you know, two years can be like a lifetime on the Internet. There are so many resources out there now that are available online, for very little cost, that can really make your job a lot easier. There is such a huge volume of information, it is hard to know where to begin, this guide is our attempt to bring you the best and most useful sites for today's credit professional.
1. Collectionindustry.com - www.collectionindustry.com
When I first put together this guide back in 1999, this site did not even exist. Today, it is the most comprehensive resource available for anyone in the credit and collections industry. It has pretty much everything you can imagine, and it would take several pages to describe all the services and information available, but here is just a small sampling.
Firstly, it has the most extensive resource directory available anywhere. Looking for Skip Tracing Services, as of this writing there were 373 companies listed that can help you. Looking for Credit Consultants, there are 502 companies listed. It goes on; every industry category is covered and there are more than 10,000 businesses listed . This alone would make it one of the most worthwhile sites online.
There is a very extensive news section that is updated several times a day. There are typically 10-15 news stories every day pertaining to the collections industry that are pulled from a large variety of sources. The best way to stay up to date with this is to register for their daily email newsletter. I have been subscribing for several months and it is great way to stay in touch with what is going on in our industry. In the news email there is a brief description of the main news story of the day and you can skim all the main headlines. This is a free email so there is some advertising but it is quite unobtrusive.
To get the most from this site you do need to register. You will then get the daily emails; you will be able to participate in the community forums, and take advantage of all the other great offerings. These include a job exchange, an events calendar, credit reports, access to credit publications and more. If I had one complaint it would be that the credit reporting is a little weak - it relies on credit reports from Info USA which are useful summaries but not very detailed. Having said that, I believe everyone involved in credit and collections should visit this site on a daily basis.
2. Dun & Bradstreet - www.dnb.com
As the leading provider of business information for over 160 years, you would expect Dun & Bradstreet to have an extensive and useful web site, and they certainly don't disappoint. Detailed information that would have taken days or even weeks to obtain just a few short years ago can now be obtained online in a few seconds. For a fee, of course.
D&B offers a huge array of services on their site, but we will just focus here on the credit reporting services. Here is a brief list of some of the options (with prices) offered starting from least expensive to most expensive:
1. Company Profile ($9.99) - a short one page report with complete address details, current annual sales, square footage, and names of officers. There is no credit information as such, but enough to determine if a business is legitimate.
2. Business Background Report ($38.99) - while also not providing any definite credit information, it does provide a summary of the business history including the background of its officers. There is also a summary of such key information as sales volume, employee size, line of business and ownership.
3. Credit Scoring Report ($56.99) - this report is designed to evaluate the probability that a company will become delinquent in its payments during the next 12 months. Information that is factored into the score is provided, along with selected payment and company background information.
4. Payment Analysis Report ($72.99) - provides a detailed summary of payment history over the past 12 months. Payment history is broken down by dollar amount of credit extended and also by industry. This report will only be useful for medium to large companies who have a large number of vendors who report their credit information to D&B. But for those companies you can get a very accurate history of payment habits.
5. Business Information Report ($114.99) - this is one of D&B's oldest and most popular products. It provides a detailed analysis of a firm's operations including payment history, information on the principals, credit score, public filings, and any special events such as acquisitions or bankruptcies. Now, there is also a credit limit recommendation and a payment trends profile when payment trends are compared against industry benchmarks.
6. Supplier Evaluation Report ($114.99) - provides most of the information that is included on the Business Information Report but with an emphasis on risk. It provides a Supplier Risk score between 1 and 9 and an explanation of how it came up with that score.
7. Comprehensive Report ($121.99) - is the most detailed of all the reports. It combines D&B's proprietary statistical scoring with business, payment and financial information all in one report. It basically consolidates all the information available in the other reports into one meticulously detailed report.
There is a great deal more available at Dun & Bradstreet's site, so I would encourage you to look around. One useful tool I have found (and it is free!) is subscribing to their DBrief newsletter, which contains many informative articles and even columns from nationally syndicated columnists. There are also all kinds of marketing information, online educational courses, and many other business management tools.
3. Experian - www.experian.com
While Dun & Bradstreet focuses on business information, Experian is the leader in consumer credit information. It is one of the three major credit reporting agencies with Equifax (www.equifax.com) and TransUnion (www.transunion.com) being the others. The information on Experian's web site is also very extensive, although there is a big difference between how they have implemented their site. At Experian, you need to be a subscriber to access the most useful information.
MetroNet is billed as one of the nation's most accurate skip tracing tools. It has information on 150 million households and 25 million businesses, it is updated twice a month and is a cost effective alternative to directory assistance.
Credit Profile Report is the most complete consumer credit information database with information on 205 million consumers. It is quite a detailed report with complete demographic and credit
Collection Report is for use in collecting past due consumer accounts. By using this report you can prioritize your collection efforts. It provides information such as "available amount" indicating potential assets so you can spend your time on those people with the most likelihood of paying.
Business Snapshot Report is Experian's basic business credit report. For $19.95 you get a complete summary of legal filings, current payment behavior including trade relationships, payment trends, and company history.
You need to register on the Experian web site if you are to take advantage of any of their offerings. And for most of their products they deal with a nationwide network of resellers, so you have to dial there toll free number and you are given the number of the reseller in your region. Unlike D&B and other providers Experian don't want you using their information directly online they want you to go through a reseller.
4. Creditworthy - www.creditworthy.com
Creditworthy.com used to be the number one place to go to for information on credit and collections. While it is still a great site with very useful information, its look and content has not changed much since 2000.
You can still learn a great deal by spending time exploring this site. Click on Credit Topics and you can learn about credit management, bankruptcy law, financial statement analysis, e-commerce trends, and you can even read plain English summaries of all the laws pertaining to the credit and collection field. Another useful section is the Credit Providers section. Here you can find a company for literally any credit and collection function, although it is not as extensive as Collectionindustry.com.
There are two more features that are specifically worth mentioning. The first is the Internet Industry Credit Groups, which is part of the Creditworthy Credit Club. There are Credit Groups for dozens of different industries, and most are national or even international in their scope. Another great feature is the Creditworthy Newsletter. Anyone can sign up for the Newsclip, a summary of the complete newsletter, which is available only to Credit Club members. Even the summary Creditworthy Newsclip is a very useful informational tool for anyone in credit and collections.
5. Credit Research Foundation - www.crfonline.org
If you want to learn more about credit and collections this is the best place to be. The Credit Research Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to education and research for the credit and collections professional.
The CRF's Credit Assistant is probably the most extensive educational resource for credit management available online. Think of a topic in credit management and you will most likely be able to read about it somewhere within the Credit Assistant. It is really like a textbook, you can learn how to understand a financial statement, set up an accounts receivable system, techniques for improving collection, bankruptcy law. You name it, I really do love this site as an educational tool - you can learn it all here. There is even an extensive glossary of credit terms provided in alphabetical order.
One unique offering CRF has is the free Customer Financial Statement Analysis spreadsheet. It is available via email if you register or you can view the contents of the models directly on their web site. The elements of the model include five periods of income statements and relevant rates, DuPont Ratio Analysis, comparative Altman Z-Scores, and much more.
Judging from the comments of people on their site, one of the best things about the CRF is the ability to network with other credit professionals. This is done at the CRF forums, which happen three times a year in major cities around the country. Membership starts at just $95 annually for an associate membership.
6.BusinessCreditUSA.com - www.businesscreditusa.com
If you are giving credit for low dollar amounts but you would still like to do some kind of credit check then BusinessCreditUSA.com could be your best solution. They offer the most inexpensive business credit reports available online - they are only $5.00 for a single report and they are even cheaper if you buy in a block of 10 or more.
For $5.00 you are not going to get a detailed credit report. But you can look up any of the 14 million businesses in America and get full name and address details as well as a credit rating. The credit ratings are assigned based on sophisticated computer models that take into account such information as number of employees, years in business, industry stability, census data and other factors. The credit rating is really just an indicator of probable ability to pay, and does not take into account payment history or any other specific financial information about an individual company. There is some corporate background information, a company description and public record information. If all you want to do is just get verification that a business exists and some basic information you really can't beat BusinessCreditUSA for value.
While the $5 credit reports are the core of this site, you can also buy a CD-Rom of credit ratings for all American businesses for $995 or for a particular state for under $200. There is also information about Canadian companies available. And being a division of InfoUSA there are marketing lists available on this site as well.
7. Credit Risk Monitor - www.creditriskmonitor.com
CreditRiskMonitor.com is a real time service that provides up to the minute information on more than 14,000 U.S. and 2,000 Canadian public companies. You can set it up to monitor any number of public companies and then send you an email immediately any news is available on any of them. This is one of the main selling points here - the information is extremely current alerting you to a potential problem with a large client as soon as the information is made public.
For $3,950 annual subscription you get unlimited access to completely up to date information of any US or Canadian company. You can set up email alerts that will notify you whenever a company you are monitoring releases financials, SEC filings, as well as any credit-relevant press release. While nearly $4,000 might be a lot to justify, you can get a special 2-hour introductory subscription for just $50 to try their service.
CreditRiskMonitor.com provides all kinds of detailed reporting on public companies. This information includes detailed financial data including quarterly and year-to-date results, financial statements, peer analysis and company background information. You can also search bankruptcy filings and there is even a glossary of bankruptcy terms. There is also information on the 14,000 foreign public companies.
8. National Association of Credit Management (NACM) - www.nacm.org
The National Association of Credit Management is the largest professional organization for credit managers in the world. There are over 30,000 members worldwide and their web site provides information on all their extensive services available. There is all the information you would expect from NACM such as a list of all the affiliates, an events calendar, membership information, and a list of all the services they offer.
You have to look pretty carefully to find anything of value, other than information about NACM. However, we did look pretty hard are there are some useful items here. In the Resource Center you can read some interesting articles and download a number of useful forms. You can download an excellent bank credit information form, and there are links to all the official bankruptcy forms. Probably the most useful resource on the NACM site is their list of other useful sites. They have broken down everything in 22 different categories and they have a particularly strong focus on governmental and legal sites.
You can also buy books from the NACM Bookstore online, which is probably the largest selection of books for the credit industry you will find anywhere. And if you are a member you receive a good member discount on all books. If you are deciding whether to join, or would like to find out about upcoming events, this site will have all the information you need. And even if you are not a member, as you can see, it is still a useful site to explore.
9. Commercial Collection Agency Association - www.ccaacollect.com
The Commerical Collection Agency Association (CCAA) is the main trade association for commercial collection agencies. It was established in 1972 to improve the quality and reputation of the commercial collection industry. There are somewhere around 7,000 collection agencies in the United States, but the CCAA has only 110 members. This is because the association limits membership only to those companies that continue to meet their strict criteria. Their strict code of ethics ensures that only the most trustworthy and diligent collection agencies remain members.
So, if you are looking for a new collection agency and don't know where to start, this site will give you the names of some reputable companies in the industry. There is a member directory where you can search for member companies within your region.
The most useful part of this site, though, is the Collection Advice and Free Literature sections. In the Collection Advice section there are a number of articles where you can learn more about collections. With titles such as "Collect While the Collectin's Good", "When to Place Accounts for Collection" and "Using Credit and Collections to Increase Sales", there is useful information for both novices and experienced credit and collections executives. In the Free Literature section you can download PDFs to help you with lawsuits and foreign judgments.
Even if you choose a collection agency who is not a member you can test their ethical standards by quizzing them on their code of ethics, and then seeing how close that is to the Code of Ethics on the CCAA web site.
10. Collections World - www.collectionsworld.com
Collections World is the online arm of Collections & Credit Risk Magazine. So you can search back through all the articles that have appeared in the magazine since 1996, and they are neatly organized by topic. But one of the real strengths of this site is that it is very current. There is a "Today's News" section that is updated daily and an excellent Industry News section that gathers the most important news in the Credit industry in the past week or so.
You can read all the articles from the current issue of Collections & Credit Risk Magazine. Included also is a Special Reports section which is taken from the magazine, and contains an in depth look at a particular topic each month. But this site is more than just an advertisement for their magazine. They provide an Internet only industry White Paper, there is an extensive calendar of all Industry Conferences, there is a Bankruptcy Data Bank showing trends in consumer and business bankruptcies, and there is also a long list of useful links to other sites.
There you have it. In my opinion these are the ten most useful web sites for today's credit professional. Spend some time exploring each one and you will find so much information that can really make your job easier. If that leaves you thirsting for more, as an added bonus here are some more useful sites for you to explore:
A/R Management Group USA: www.armg-usa.com - A profit centered view of credit and collections.
Accountingweb.com: www.accountingweb.com - Online community for the accounting profession.
Attorneyreferral.com: www.attorneyreferral.com - The foremost source for out of town legal counsel.
Creditguru.com: www.creditguru.com - some good learning information on credit management.
Creditnews.com: www.creditnews.com - Reports on distressed or fast growing companies.
Federal Judiciary: www.uscourts.gov - U.S. Federal Courts Public Access.
Hoover's Online: www.hoovers.com - In-depth coverage of the 21,000 of the world's top businesses.
Industrypro.com: www.industrypro.com - Merger and Acquisition information across 23 industries.
LAWDOG Center: www.lawdog.com - thorough resource of legal information for credit and collections.
Merriam Webster Dictionary: www.m-w.com - The world's best selling dictionary online.
Moorhead Management Services: www.moorheadmgmt.com - helping businesses with financial statement analysis.
Credit & Collections: www.credit-and-collections.com - from Michelle Dunn a credit resource site with an excellent article list.
First Detroit: www.firstdetroit.com - from Debt Collection Industry Information. Receive extensive financial and operational data on nearly 1,000 debt collection firms - worldwide. Also available is in-depth market research, as well as extensive news & analysis covering financial performance, mergers & acquisitions and enforcement actions. First Detroit Corporation is the debt collection industry's publisher-of-record.
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