Letters of Credit/Types of Letters of Credit
|Unit 4.5-Letters of Credit|
Types of Letters of Credit
A revocable letter of credit is one which can be amended or cancelled by the applicant or the issuing bank at any time, without prior notice, discussion or agreement with the beneficiary. A revocable letter of credit offers no protection to the beneficiary and is seldom if ever used.
An irrevocable letter of credit can not be amended or revoked without the agreement of ALL the parties to the letter of credit, so it provides the assurance that providing the beneficiary complies with the terms, he/she will be paid for the goods or services. Under UCP 500, a letter of credit is deemed irrevocable unless otherwise stated.
An unconfirmed irrevocable letter of credit provides a commitment by the issuing bank to pay, accept, or negotiate a letter of credit. An advising bank forwards the letter of credit to the beneficiary without responsibility or undertaking on its part except that it must use reasonable care to check the authenticity of the credit which it advised. It does not provide a commitment from the advising bank to pay, so the beneficiary is reliant upon the undertaking of the overseas bank. The beneficiary is not protected from the credit risk of the issuing bank nor the country risk.
A confirmed irrevocable letter of credit is one to which the advising bank adds its confirmation, makes its own independent undertaking to effect payment, negotiation or acceptance, providing documents are presented which comply with the terms of the letter of credit. The advising bank, which may also be the confirming bank, assumes the country (political and economic) risk of the applicant’s country as well as the credit risk, failure and default of the issuing bank and effects payment to the beneficiary without recourse.
In order for a letter of credit to be confirmed, a bank accepting this risk would have a correspondent relationship with the issuing bank. If the advising bank does not have such a relationship, the letter of credit can be confirmed by an independent bank. The negative aspect here is the cost of adding another bank to the scenario.
A seller should consider requesting a confirmed credit when
- the credit standing of the issuing bank is unknown to the seller or viewed by the seller as questionable.
- exchange controls in the buyer’s country may prevent local banks from honoring certain external payments.
- the importing country is suffering economic difficulties: large external debt and/or high debt service ratios, a persistent negative balance of payments, or a record of being late or having defaulted on its international payments.
Under a transferable letter of credit a beneficiary (the first beneficiary) can ask the issuing/advising/confirming bank to transfer the letter of credit in whole or in part to another party/ies such as supplier/s (second beneficiary/ies). A transferable letter of credit is usually used when the beneficiary is not the manufacturer/original supplier of some/all of the goods/services. This process enables the beneficiary to pay the manufacturer/original supplier by letter of credit. If the bank agrees, this bank, referred to as the transferring bank, advises the letter of credit to the second beneficiary/ies in the terms and conditions of the original letter of credit with certain constraints defined in Article 48 of UCP 500.
In general, unless the letter of credit states that it is transferable, it is considered non-transferable.
Assignment of Proceeds
The right to the proceeds of a letter of credit can sometimes be assigned where the beneficiary of a letter of credit is not the actual supplier of all or part of the letter of credit and wants the bank to pay the supplier out of funds received from the letter of credit. The beneficiary may choose this option if he or she
- does not want to request a transferable letter of credit from a buyer in order to keep the buyer from knowing who is the actual supplier of the goods.
- does not have the necessary credit with the bank to issue a new letter of credit to a supplier.
An assignment of proceeds takes the form of an irrevocable instruction from the beneficiary to the bank requesting that it pay the supplier out of the proceeds of the letter of credit which becomes due when documents are presented in compliance with the terms of the letter of credit.
Although infrequently used today, revolving letters of credit were a tool created to allow companies conducting regular business to issue a letter of credit that could “roll-over” without the company having to reapply, thus enabling business flow to continue without interruption as long as the terms and conditions, quantities, and other transaction details did not change. In addition, if a letter of credit were a revolving one, there were few ways to stop it from rolling over; so, should a conflict arise between the parties while the letter of credit was in place or should the products change, there was little recourse for either party. In the business world today, the fact is that, unless required by law or because of high risk, on-going business is usually conducted without of letters of credit
As is the case with the revolving letter of credit, standby letters of credit are infrequently used today. A standby letter of credit is one which is issued as a back-up or form of insurance for the seller should the buyer default on the agreed-upon payment terms. A standby letter of credit is issued in the same way a documentary credit is in that the collateral needed for issuance is required by the issuing bank and the beneficiary must comply with every detail as outlined in the letter of credit. The problem with this instrument is that the applicant has no guarantee, other than the seller’s word, that the standby will not be drawn against even if payment is made as agreed. This situation is challenging, especially if the letter of credit is confirmed and the advising bank sees only documents pertaining to the shipment as outlined in the letter of credit and has no knowledge of other payments being made.