A Typical Letter of Credit Transaction

Here are the typical steps in issuing an irrevocable letter of credit that has been confirmed by a U.S. bank:

1. After the exporter and the buyer have agreed on the terms of a sale, the buyer arranges for its bank to open a letter of credit that specifies the documents needed for payment. The buyer determines which documents will be required.

2. The buyer’s bank issues (opens) its irrevocable letter of credit and includes all instructions to the seller relating to the shipment.

3. The buyer’s bank sends its irrevocable letter of credit to a U.S. bank and requests confirmation. The exporter may request that a particular U.S. bank be the confirming bank, or the foreign bank may select a U.S. correspondent bank.

4. The U.S. bank prepares a letter of confirmation to forward to the exporter, along with the irrevocable letter of credit.

5. The exporter carefully reviews all conditions in the letter of credit. The exporter’s freight forwarder is contacted to make sure that the shipping date can be met. If the exporter cannot comply with one or more of the conditions, the customer is alerted at once because an amendment may be necessary.

6. The exporter arranges with the freight forwarder to deliver the goods to the appropriate port or airport.

7. When the goods are loaded aboard the exporting carrier, the freight forwarder completes the necessary documentation.

8. The exporter (or the freight forwarder) presents the documents, evidencing full compliance with the letter of credit terms, to the U.S. bank.

9. The bank reviews the documents. If they are in order, the documents are sent to the buyer’s bank for review and then transmitted to the buyer.

10. The buyer (or the buyer’s agent) uses the documents to claim the goods.

11. A sight or time draft accompanies the letter of credit. A sight draft is paid on presentation; a time draft is paid within a specified time period.

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