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Letter of Credit (L/C)

In simple terms, a letter of credit is an undertaking by a bank to make a payment to a named beneficiary within a specified time, against the presentation of documents which comply strictly with the terms of the letter of credit.

Its main advantage is providing security to both exporter and the importer, but the security offered, however, comes at a price and must be weighed against the additional costs resulting from bank charges. The exporter must understand the conditional nature of the letter of credit and the fact that payment will not be made unless the terms of the credit are met precisely.

A letter of credit is opened by an importer (applicant), to ensure that the documentation requested reflects and proves that the seller has performed under the requirements of the underlying sales contract, by the exporter by making them conditions of the letter of credit (N.B. The sales contract is not an inherent part of the Letter of Credit, although the Letter of Credit may contain a reference to such contract). For the exporter a letter of credit, apart from cash in advance, is the most secure method of payment in international trade as long as the terms of the credit are met.

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