Types of Letter of Credit (LC)

There are various types of letter of credit (LC) used in the trade transactions. Some of them may be defined by their purpose. They are Commercial, Export / Import, Transferable and Non-Transferable, Revocable and Irrevocable, Stand-by, Confirmed and Unconfirmed, Revolving, Back to Back, Red Clause, Green Clause, Sight, Deferred Payment, and Direct Pay LC.

A letter of credit is an important financial tool in trade transactions. Both, domestic as well as international market, trades use the letter of credit to facilitate the payments and the transactions. A bank or a financial institution acts as a third party between the buyer and the seller and assures the payment of funds on the completion of certain obligations.

Definition of Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is a financial document provided by a third party (with no direct interest in the transaction), mostly a bank or a financial institution, that guarantees the payment of funds for goods and services to the seller once the seller has submitted the required documents. Other financial institutions to issue these letters of credit in addition to a bank are mutual funds or insurance companies but in very few cases. A letter of credit has three important elements – the beneficiary/ seller who is paid the credit, the buyer/ applicant who buys the goods or services and the issuing bank that issues the letter of credit on the buyer’s request. There might be another bank involved as an advising bank that advises the beneficiary.

Types of Letter of Credit

There are various types of letters of credit used in the trade transactions. Some of the letters of credit may be defined by their purpose. The following are the different types of letters of credit:

Commercial LC

A standard LC, also called as documentary credit.

Export/Import LC

The same letter of credit can be called export or import depending on who uses it. The exporter will term it as an exporter letter of credit whereas an importer will term it as an importer letter of credit.

Transferable LC

A letter of credit that allows a beneficiary to further transfer all or a part of the payment to another supplier in the chain. This generally happens when the beneficiary is just an intermediary for the actual supplier. Such letter of credit allows the beneficiary to provide its own documents but transfer the money further.

Un-transferable LC

A letter of credit that doesn’t allow transfer of money to any third parties. The beneficiary is the only recipient of the money and cannot further use the letter of credit to pay anyone.

Revocable LC

A letter of credit that can be altered any time by the issuing bank or the buyer without any notification to the seller/ beneficiary. Such types of letters are not used frequently as the beneficiary is not provided any protection.

Irrevocable LC

A letter of credit that does not allow the issuing bank to make any changes without the approval of the beneficiary.

Standby LC

A letter of credit that is designed to assure the payment if something wrong happens. If the beneficiary proves that the promised payment was not made, a standby LC becomes payable. It does not facilitate a transaction but ensures the payment.

Confirmed LC

A letter of credit where an advising bank also guarantees the payment to the beneficiary. Only the irrevocable letters of credit are confirmed by the advising bank. The beneficiary has two promises to pay – one from the issuing bank and the other from the advising bank.

Unconfirmed LC

A letter of credit that is assured only by the issuing bank and does not need a guarantee by the second bank. Mostly the letters of credit are an unconfirmed letter of credit.

Revolving LC

A letter of credit used for several payments instead of issuing letters for each leg of the transaction.

Back to Back LC

A letter of credit which is commonly used in a transaction including an intermediary. There are two letters of credit, the first issued by the bank of the buyer to the intermediary and the second issued by the bank of an intermediary to the seller.

Red Clause LC

A letter of credit that partially pays the beneficiary before the goods are shipped or the services are performed. The advance is paid against the written confirmation from the seller and the receipt.

Green Clause LC

A letter of credit that pays advance to the seller just not against the written undertaking and a receipt, but also a proof of warehousing the goods.

Sight LC

A letter of credit that demands payment on the submission of the required documents. The bank reviews the documents and pays the beneficiary if the documents meet the conditions of the letter.

Deferred Payment LC

A letter of credit that ensures payment after a certain period of time. The bank may review the documents early but the payment to the beneficiary is made after the agreed-to time passes. It is also known as usance LC.

Direct Pay LC

A letter of credit where the issuing bank directly pays the beneficiary and then asks the buyer to repay the amount. The beneficiary may not interact with the buyer.


As mentioned above, a letter of credit can be of various types depending on its purpose. It is in the interest of both the buyer and the seller, to understand all the different types thoroughly and then pick one which serves the purpose completely.


Last updated on : July 12th, 2017
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