Letter of Credit (LC)

Letter of Credit (LC)

18 Jun 2018 04:32 PM

Letter of Credit (LC): Definition, Types, Benefits, Advantages & Process 

A letter of credit or LC in simple words refers to a written guarantee or commitment to pay, by a buyer’s (importer’s) bank, which is also known as the issuing bank to the exporter’s or seller’s bank, which is referred to as the negotiating or accepting bank. Letter of credit is also named as a documentary credit or a banker’s commercial credit. It guarantees payment on the terms that the exporter submits the required documents within a specific time frame. The documents include (clean bill of lading, commercial invoice, certificate of origin, etc.). The person to whom the letter of credit is issued (the exporter) is known as the beneficiary. The importer may make the payment to its bank (the amount that is to be paid to the exporter) or it may negotiate to get credit. There are various types of letter of credit that are used in international trade which are:

Irrevocable and Revocable LC:

An irrevocable LC is the one that can be cancelled or changed only with the consent of the beneficiary. Thus, the bank becomes dependent on the exporter and its bank. Revocable LC can be cancelled and changed by the applicant (importer) without the approval of the beneficiary. The bank will have no liabilities to the beneficiary after revocation.

Standby LC:

A standby LC is somewhere close to a bank guarantee since the bank makes payment only when the buyer (importer) fails to fulfil payment liabilities of the exporter or seller.

Confirmed and Unconfirmed LC:

In case of a confirmed LC, the exporter’s bank adds a condition that the payment will be made irrespective of the importer making payment to its bank. In case of an unconfirmed LC, the issuing bank will be liable only for payment of this letter of credit (only when the importer makes the payment)

Transferable LC:

When a particular LC can be transferred by the primary beneficiary to another secondary beneficiary, it  is said to be transferable. However, the second beneficiary cannot further transfer the LC. The Beneficiary is only an intermediary for actual supplier.

Back to Back LC:

In case of a back to back Letter of understanding, a new LC is issued by the main beneficiary to the second beneficiary taking the original LC as security or guarantee. It is usually used for exporters or suppliers of goods.

Payment at sight LC:

A payment at sight is also known as sight LC and is characterized by immediate payment (within 7 days) after the required documents have been submitted.

Red Clause:

The seller may request and get an agreed amount as advance before the submission of documents and shipment of goods. This portion is printed in red in the document and thus is termed as red clause.

Restricted and Unrestricted LC:

In case where only one nominated bank can be used for negotiation is known as Restricted LC. Hence, the issuing bank is authorized to make payment to the beneficiary is to a specific, nominated bank. Whereas in unrestricted LC the nominated bank is not specified, which means the LC can be negotiated with any bank of beneficiary’s

Usance LC:

Usance LC is a facility where credit is paid  by the importer after an indicated period accepted by both buyer and seller. Thus, payment isn’t made immediately after the presentation of documents.

Benefits of Letter of Credit:

The letter of credit is considered beneficial for both the buyer as well as the supplier in international trade. However, the various advantages  for a buyer i.e. importer are as follows:

  1. The buyer is assured of delivery of goods within the specified time period. The buyer has to make payments after receiving the documents and receiving the shipment of goods.
  2. Since the importer’s bank makes the payment on its behalf it gives credit worthiness and makes it easier for the importer to carry out trade. At the same time, it gives extra time to the importer to arrange money for making the payment since they know the payment schedule and hence they can plan accordingly.
  3. A letter of credit reduces the chance of non-performance by the exporter.

Advantagesfor an exporter i.e seller are as follows:

  1. A letter of credit works as a guarantee to the exporter that assures timely payment irrespective of the importer’s financial status.
  2. There is a possibility that the exporter might receive payment after submission of documents and before the delivery of goods. In such a case, payment takes place before goods are delivered to the importer.
  3. It is easier for the exporter to secure pre-order financing and it also mitigates the risk of dealing with an unknown importer in a foreign nation.
  4. Payment cannot be refused by the importer on account complaint about the goods.

How banks funds a Letter Of Credit?

A question hovers in the mind, that, how a bank funds the LC to the buyer?Basically, this is done in the below manner:-

  • The banks charge fees from the buyer depending upon the Letter Of Credit’s amount.
  • The bank asks for a security, such as cash or collateral, in lieu of issuing LC to the buyer.

Documents required

Various risks are involved in the international market. To being on a safer side, the bank from the seller’s side asks for various documents. Below lists is the document required:

  • Financial documents
  • Commercial documents
  • Shipping documents
  • Official documents
  • Insurance documents

Risks associated with Letter Of Credit

When you are dealing in an international market, it means, you are in an unknown sea, unknowingly of its risks associated to it; the tides and waves may hurt your boat (business) very badly, and may sink (derail) you.

Risks that can come into your way are as below:-

  • Fraud Risks
  • Legal Risks
  • Credit Risk
  • Country Risk
  • Political Risk

Payment Protection

Any of the party may fail to fulfill the contract, for example, the buyer may not have enough finance available to him, to make a purchase after he has given an order to the seller.

Letter of Credits are used for:-
Protection to buyer:

If a seller is unable to fulfill the contract, then, the buyer can go ahead and claim for the refund of the money. The bank on the seller’s side will pay the money, if the seller is unable to pay the amount, at the time of non-delivery of the said service. This will reduce  the buyer’s confidence in the international market.

Protection to seller:

If the buyer is unable to pay, the seller can exercise the right of Letter Of Credit. The seller can ask for the payment from the issuing bank, who has issued the Letter Of Credit to the buyer.


the LC transactions are widely accepted in the international financial market. Despite being an negotiable instrument, it has widely gained popularity. Every large bank is now dealing with Letter Of Credits, as it opens a new market: for banks, buyers and sellers.

The buyers and sellers can now openly go for international trade, as they have surety of “Letter Of Credit” in their mind, that their money will not go elsewhere.

Read more about remarkable steps of Letter Of Credit


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