postage date : 16/06/06


Issuing Bank

The issuing bank’s liability to pay and to be reimbursed from its customer becomes absolute upon the completion of the terms and conditions of the letter of credit. Under the provisions of the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits, the bank is given a reasonable amount of time after receipt of the documents to honor the draft.

The issuing banks’ role is to provide a guarantee to the seller that if compliant documents are presented, the bank will pay the seller the amount due and to examine the documents, and only pay if these documents comply with the terms and conditions set out in the letter of credit.

Typically the documents requested will include a commercial invoice, a transport document such as a bill of lading or airway bill and an insurance document; but there are many others. Letters of credit deal in documents, not goods.

Advising Bank
An advising bank, usually a foreign correspondent bank of the issuing bank will advise the beneficiary. Generally, the beneficiary would want to use a local bank to insure that the letter of credit is valid. In addition, the advising bank would be responsible for sending the documents to the issuing bank. The advising bank has no other obligation under the letter of credit. If the issuing bank does not pay the beneficiary, the advising bank is not obligated to pay.

Confirming Bank
The correspondent bank may confirm the letter of credit for the beneficiary. At the request of the issuing bank, the correspondent obligates itself to insure payment under the letter of credit. The confirming bank would not confirm the credit until it evaluated the country and bank where the letter of credit originates. The confirming bank is usually the advising bank.

Letter of Credit Characteristics

Negotiability
Letters of credit are usually negotiable. The issuing bank is obligated to pay not only the beneficiary, but also any bank nominated by the beneficiary. Negotiable instruments are passed freely from one party to another almost in the same way as money. To be negotiable, the letter of credit must include an unconditional promise to pay, on demand or at a definite time. The nominated bank becomes a holder in due course. As a holder in due course, the holder takes the letter of credit for value, in good faith, without notice of any claims against it. A holder in due course is treated favorably under the UCC.

The transaction is considered a straight negotiation if the issuing bank’s payment obligation extends only to the beneficiary of the credit. If a letter of credit is a straight negotiation it is referenced on its face by “we engage with you” or “available with ourselves”. Under these conditions the promise does not pass to a purchaser of the draft as a holder in due course.

Revocability

Letters of credit may be either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable letter of credit may be revoked or modified for any reason, at any time by the issuing bank without notification. A revocable letter of credit cannot be confirmed. If a correspondent bank is engaged in a transaction that involves a revocable letter of credit, it serves as the advising bank.

Once the documents have been presented and meet the terms and conditions in the letter of credit, and the draft is honored, the letter of credit cannot be revoked. The revocable letter of credit is not a commonly used instrument. It is generally used to provide guidelines for shipment. If a letter of credit is revocable it would be referenced on its face.

The irrevocable letter of credit may not be revoked or amended without the agreement of the issuing bank, the confirming bank, and the beneficiary. An irrevocable letter of credit from the issuing bank insures the beneficiary that if the required documents are presented and the terms and conditions are complied with, payment will be made. If a letter of credit is irrevocable it is referenced on its face.

Transfer and Assignment

The beneficiary has the right to transfer or assign the right to draw, under a credit only when the credit states that it is transferable or assignable. Credits governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (Domestic) may be transferred an unlimited number of times. Under the Uniform Customs Practice for Documentary Credits (International) the credit may be transferred only once. However, even if the credit specifies that it is nontransferable or non-assignable, the beneficiary may transfer their rights prior to performance of conditions of the credit.

Sight and Time Drafts

All letters of credit require the beneficiary to present a draft and specified documents in order to receive payment. A draft is a written order by which the party creating it, orders another party to pay money to a third party. A draft is also called a bill of exchange.

There are two types of drafts: sight and time. A sight draft is payable as soon as it is presented for payment. The bank is allowed a reasonable time to review the documents before making payment.

A time draft is not payable until the lapse of a particular time period stated on the draft. The bank is required to accept the draft as soon as the documents comply with credit terms. The issuing bank has a reasonable time to examine those documents. The issuing bank is obligated to accept drafts and pay them at maturity.