Deferred Payment Letters of Credit, commonly referred to as Usance LCs, are financial instruments used in international trade to facilitate transactions between exporters and importers. They allow for a deferred payment, where an issuing bank guarantees payment to the exporter on behalf of the importer, but at a later date, which is specified in the terms of the LC. This period of usance provides the importer time to receive and sell the goods before the payment is due, effectively extending credit.

The issuance of a Usance LC involves multiple parties including the buyer, seller, issuing bank, and sometimes a confirming bank, ensuring a layer of security and trust in trade deals. As a key component of trade finance, Usance LCs not only guarantee payment to the exporter but also assure the importer that payment is contingent upon the exporter meeting the specific terms and conditions stipulated in the letter of credit. Due to the nature of international trade, Usance LCs can vary widely in their terms, including the length of the usance period and the required documentation to complete the transaction.

Key Takeaways

Understanding Deferred Payment Letters of Credit

A Deferred Payment Letter of Credit, also known as a Usance Letter of Credit, is a financial instrument used in international trade that allows a buyer to purchase goods and defer payment to a later date. It is a bank guarantee that the seller will receive payment, but with the specificity of a delay in payment as agreed upon by both parties.

When a buyer and seller enter into a contract with a deferred payment letter of credit, the issuing bank provides a promise to pay the seller on behalf of the buyer. The payment is made after a predefined period, known as the usance period, which typically extends from 30 to 180 days after the delivery of goods or presentation of shipping documents.

Here are the key components:

This payment structure provides several advantages:

In summary, a deferred letter of credit is an arrangement that grants flexibility to the buyer while offering a level of financial security to the seller. It’s a critical tool for managing cash flow and credit risk in international transactions.

The Role of Usance LC in International Trade

Usance Letters of Credit (LC) serve as a crucial financial instrument, ensuring sellers receive payment after delivering goods within a specified timeframe, while providing buyers the benefit of deferred payment.

Facilitating Trade Transactions

In international trade, a Usance LC acts as a bridge between buyers and sellers, allowing for transactions to proceed smoothly without immediate payment. It provides assurance to the seller that payment for the shipped goods is guaranteed by the buyer’s bank after a set period. This time frame, usually ranging from 30 to 180 days, affords the buyer time to sell the goods and manage cash flow effectively. By offering deferred payment, Usance LCs enable businesses to maintain steady operations without the pressure of immediate financial exchange.

Minimizing Payment Risk

A Usance LC significantly reduces payment risk for both parties involved in a trade transaction. For the seller, it mitigates the risk of non-payment as the issuing bank commits to pay, even if the buyer defaults. For the buyer, it ensures that the goods are shipped and documents are in order before payment is made. This role in trade finance is pivotal, as it instills confidence and security, encouraging businesses to engage in trade with new markets and partners, knowing that their financial interests are safeguarded.

Parties Involved in Issuing Usance LCs

In the process of issuing Usance Letters of Credit (LCs), several entities facilitate the arrangement of credit and assurance between the buyer and seller. Understanding the roles of these parties is crucial in the transaction.

The Issuing Bank

The issuing bank represents the buyer (applicant) and originates the Usance LC. It undertakes the obligation to pay the seller (beneficiary) the amount specified in the Usance LC, provided that the terms and conditions of the credit are fully met. This payment is made on a predetermined future date after submission of the required documents.

The Confirming Bank

A confirming bank, often involved in international transactions, adds an extra layer of guarantee on the Usance LC. It confirms the credit issued by the issuing bank, thereby undertaking a commitment to the beneficiary that payment will be made in accordance with the terms of the credit, subject to the presentation of compliant documents.

The Advising Bank

The advising bank acts primarily as an intermediary and is responsible for notifying the beneficiary that the Usance LC has been opened in their favor. Although they advise the credit, they are not responsible for the payment unless they also act as the confirming bank.

The Applicant

The applicant for the Usance LC is usually the buyer or importer. They request the issuing bank to open a Usance LC in favor of the seller. The applicant is ultimately responsible for reimbursing the bank for the credit extended once payment is made to the beneficiary.

The Beneficiary

The beneficiary is the seller or exporter who is entitled to payment under the Usance LC. They must comply with all the terms and conditions of the letter of credit to receive payment. Once they present the requisite documents evidencing shipment or delivery of goods as stipulated in the LC, they can expect payment on the date agreed upon in the Usance terms.

Process of Usance Letters of Credit

The process of Usance Letters of Credit involves a series of steps orchestrated between the importer, the issuing bank, and the exporter to facilitate the time-bound payment mechanism of the transaction.


The exporter makes a presentation of the required documents to the nominated bank. This documentary credit ensures that all the conditions outlined in the Usance Letter of Credit are met: commercial invoices, shipping documents, and any other specified papers proving the shipment of goods.

Compliance Verification

Upon receipt, the nominated bank undertakes a compliance verification process. They scrutinize the documents to ensure a complying presentation. The documents must match exactly with the terms and conditions set forth in the Usance Letter of Credit for the payment to be honored at a later date.


Once the verifying bank confirms compliance, it issues an acceptance notice. This formally acknowledges that the documents are in order and payment is due at the predetermined future date, according to the usance terms (which is typically 30, 60, 90, or more days after document presentation).


Finally, reimbursement occurs at the maturity date. The importer’s bank settles the payment with the exporter’s bank. The nominated bank will follow the instructions as laid out in the Letter of Credit regarding negotiation of the specific terms of payment, thereby completing the transaction loop.

Terms and Conditions of Usance LC

Usance Letters of Credit are crucial in facilitating international trade by allowing deferred payment. They set clear terms and conditions to ensure certainty and trust between the buyer and seller.

Credit Period

The credit period in a Usance Letter of Credit is a crucial term that dictates the time interval post-shipment within which the buyer is obligated to make the payment. Generally, this period is agreed upon by both parties and is clearly stated in the credit documentation to avoid any ambiguity. Typically, it extends up to 90 days from the date on the bill of lading, ensuring the buyer has sufficient time to clear the goods and manage funds.

Maturity Date Specification

For the maturity date, a Usance LC must specify the exact due date for payment. This date directly correlates with the credit period; for instance, if the credit term is 60 days, the maturity date would be 60 days after the submission of necessary documents or the bill of lading. Adherence to the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP 600) is standard, ensuring a globally recognized framework governs the maturity terms.

Payment Terms

The payment terms outlined within a Usance LC delineate the conditions under which the payment will be released. This includes the agreed currency, amount, and any interest or fees applicable if payment is delayed beyond the specified maturity date. Payment is to be made at the end of the credit period, which is typically within the stipulated 90 days following the date indicated on the bill of lading, thus offering a well-defined schedule for financial planning.

Types of Letters of Credit and Usance LC Comparison

When dealing with international trade, understanding the nuances of different types of letters of credit (LC) is critical. This section contrasts types like Sight LC and Usance LC, along with examining both Revocable and Irrevocable LCs, finally making a comparison between Standby LCs and Commercial LCs.

Sight vs. Deferred LC

Sight Letters of Credit necessitate that payment is made immediately upon presentation and verification of shipping documents. In contrast, Deferred Payment Letters of Credit, also known as Usance LCs, allow for payment to be postponed for a specified period after the documents are presented.

Revocable vs. Irrevocable LC

Revocable Letters of Credit grant the issuer the right to make amendments or cancellation without the beneficiary’s consent. However, due to the lack of security, they are seldom used. The Irrevocable Letter of Credit is more common and cannot be modified or annulled without agreement from all involved parties, offering greater assurance to the beneficiary.

Standby LC vs. Commercial LC

A Standby Letter of Credit functions as a guarantee of payment, invoked only if the applicant fails to fulfill the contractual obligations. It’s mostly used in the US as a support for payment security. Conversely, a Commercial Letter of Credit, also referred to as a Documentary Credit, directly facilitates trade transactions by ensuring payment once the selling party meets the terms of the LC.

Each letter of credit mechanism serves distinct roles in trade finance, with the choice depending on the level of risk distribution and trust desired by the parties involved.

Financial Implications of Using Usance LCs

Deferred Payment Letters of Credit, commonly known as Usance LCs, offer significant financial implications for businesses engaged in trade finance. They directly impact a company’s financing and cash flow, the time value of money, and open up short-term financing opportunities.

Financing and Cash Flow

Usance LCs provide businesses with the ability to manage their cash flow more efficiently by allowing a delay in payment after the delivery of goods. This postponement offers buyers time to generate revenue from the sales before settling the cost of the products, thereby improving their working capital management. Sellers also benefit from a secure payment option, ensuring that they will receive the payment on a future date as specified in the conditions of the LC.

Time Value of Money

The time value of money is an integral consideration with Usance LCs, as the deferred payment period reflects a cost of financing. Money that is to be received in the future is discounted back to its present value, which should be factored into the cost of the transaction. By deferring payment, the buyer effectively receives a short-term financing benefit, but this comes at the cost of potential interest foregone on the amount due until the payment is finally made.

Short-Term Financing Opportunities

Usance LCs are often utilized as instruments for short-term financing in international trade. The seller extends credit to the buyer, which can be more favorable than traditional bank loans, depending on the agreement’s interest rate and terms. This extended period before payment also permits buyers to use the goods received to produce and sell products, potentially creating earnings that can be used to fulfill the obligation under the Usance LC, thus turning over the funds without an initial capital outlay.

Risks and Mitigation in Usance LC Transactions

When dealing with deferred payment letters of credit (Usance LC), participants face several risks associated with non-payment, non-delivery, and documentary compliance. These can be mitigated through meticulous management of counterparty risks, addressing compliance and discrepancy issues, and ensuring both delivery and payment.

Counterparty Risks

In Usance LC transactions, counterparty risk is the danger that the other party may fail to fulfill their contractual obligations. This type of risk is particularly prevalent when the buyer and seller have not previously done business together. To mitigate these risks, companies may obtain credit insurance or perform enhanced due diligence on their counterparts, such as checking credit ratings and past transaction history.

Compliance and Discrepancy Issues

Compliance with Usance LC terms is vital. Discrepant documents can lead to non-payment, so entities must ensure all documents are accurate and strictly conform to the credit terms. They should also be aware that even minor discrepancies can cause rejection of documents by banks. Regular training on LC terms and compliance for staff, along with meticulous document checks, are essential practices to minimize these compliance risks.

Non-Delivery and Non-Payment

The risks of non-delivery and non-payment are intrinsic to Usance LCs. These risks manifest when a seller does not ship the goods as per the contract, or the buyer fails to make payment at maturity. Utilizing secure tracking methods for shipments, ensuring robust contract terms, and employing independent inspection agencies to verify the goods before shipment can reduce the risk of non-delivery. To mitigate payment risk, sellers may request an advance payment guarantee or seek financing solutions that provide payment assurance against the Usance LC.

Documentation Required for Usance LCs

When it comes to Usance Letters of Credit, specific documentation is critical for the fulfillment of the contractual agreement between buyers and sellers. These documents serve as proof of shipment, agreement terms, and insurance coverage to secure the deferred payment agreement.

Bill of Lading Requirements

The Bill of Lading (B/L) is a fundamental component for Usance LCs as it serves as evidence that the goods have been shipped. It must:

Sales and Purchase Agreements

The sales contract underscores the agreement details between the buyer and seller. It must:

Insurance and Other Supporting Documents

Insuring goods during transit is an essential step secured through insurance documents. They should:

Advantages of Deferred Payment LCs for Exporters and Importers

Deferred payment Letters of Credit, commonly known as Usance LCs, offer substantial benefits for both parties in a trade transaction.

For exporters, deferred payment provides a guaranteed payment. Once they fulfill their part of the trade agreement, they are assured to receive payment from the importing party at a later specified date. This allows exporters to manage cash flow more effectively and plan their financial operations with greater certainty. Moreover, the use of Usance LCs can enhance creditworthiness since banks only issue them when they are confident in the buyer’s ability to pay at the set future date, as explained in the Trade Finance Global article.

Importers benefit from Usance LCs by getting the flexibility to defer payment until they have sold the goods or turned them into profit, which is particularly helpful in managing their own liquidity and cash flow. This deferred payment term allows importers to avoid having to tie up capital right at the time of shipment. Instead, they can better align their payment outflows with their revenue inflows.

Both exporters and importers enjoy a reduced risk of non-payment as the banks become intermediaries, which gives the transaction a layer of security. It also allows for strengthening of business relationships as both parties can rely on the LC terms for consistent and transparent dealings.

In essence, Usance LCs are financial instruments that create a win-win situation for both buyers and sellers in international trade by aligning payment schedules with business capacity and cash flow requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common inquiries regarding Deferred Payment Letters of Credit, providing precise insights into their interest rates, differences from Sight LCs, associated risks, impact on trade costs, typical usage, and comparison with Bank Acceptance LCs.

How is the interest rate calculated for Usance LCs?

The interest rate for Usance Letters of Credit is determined by the issuing bank and is generally influenced by the tenor of deferment, market interest rates, and the risk profile of the transaction. The interest compensates the bank for the deferred payment period granted to the buyer.

What are the key differences between Usance and Sight LCs?

Usance LCs and Sight LCs mainly differ in terms of payment timing. Sight LCs require payment to be made immediately upon presentation of the required documents, whereas Usance LCs provide a deferred payment option, allowing the buyer to make payment at a later date.

What are the risks associated with using a Usance LC and how can they be mitigated?

The primary risk of a Usance LC is the credit risk of the buyer defaulting on the payment. This can be mitigated through thorough credit checks, secure trading terms, and hedging strategies like obtaining insurance or guarantees from reputable institutions.

How does the period of deferral in a Usance LC typically affect the cost of trade?

A longer period of deferral on a Usance LC typically increases the cost of trade for the buyer due to higher interest charges. For the seller, it might result in a better price for the goods sold, as the credit period is often a part of the sales negotiations.

In what circumstances is a Deferred Payment Letter of Credit typically used?

A Deferred Payment Letter of Credit is typically used in international trade when buyers and sellers seek to establish trust during a transaction. It is particularly valuable when buyers need time to generate funds from sales of the shipped goods before paying the sellers.

How does a Deferred Payment LC differ from a Bank Acceptance LC?

A Deferred Payment LC involves the bank paying the beneficiary after a set time without needing any further acceptance, while a Bank Acceptance LC requires the bank to accept drafts drawn by the beneficiary and then pay at maturity, either from buyer’s funds or from a bank loan granted to the buyer.