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Irrevocable Letter of Credit


An Irrevocable Letter of Credit is a financial instrument provided by a bank at the request of their customer, where the bank unconditionally guarantees payment to a seller upon certain terms and conditions. It cannot be modified or cancelled without the consent of all parties involved, namely the issuing bank, the seller, and the buyer. It’s often used in international trade transactions to ensure that payment will be received where the buyer and seller may not know each other and are operating in different countries.


ɪˌrɛvəˈkəb(ə)l ˈlɛtər əv ˈkrɛdɪt

Key Takeaways


  1. An Irrevocable Letter of Credit is a firm commitment by the issuing bank to pay the beneficiary (usually the seller) if the correct documents are presented and requirements met. This financial instrument provides greater assurance of payment to the beneficiary than a revocable letter of credit.
  2. Since it’s irrevocable, the details within cannot be altered or canceled unless all parties involved give their consent. This means the buyer, seller, and the issuing bank would all need to agree on any changes. It, therefore, provides a high level of security in international trade transactions.
  3. Despite the advantages, one of the significant drawbacks is its rigidity. If there are any changes or problems along the trading process, it is challenging to make adjustments. Hence, parties must be sure of terms and conditions before initiating such a letter.



An Irrevocable Letter of Credit is an important tool in business and finance because it provides a guarantee of payment from the issuing bank, adding security to a business transaction, especially in international business dealings. Once the bank issues an irrevocable letter of credit, it can’t be changed or cancelled without the consent of all parties involved, giving the beneficiary (usually the seller) the confidence that they will receive the agreed payment provided they meet the outlined terms and conditions. Hence, it lowers the credit risk, enhances trust, and can help to facilitate trade between parties who may not otherwise be able to transact.


The primary purpose of an irrevocable letter of credit is to mitigate risk and promote trust in business transactions, predominantly international trade. This is particularly useful when the buyer and seller are in different countries and may not know each other thoroughly enough to establish the necessary trust for business trade. It serves as a guarantee from a bank that a buyer’s payment to a seller will be received and is valid for a specific amount in a specified timeframe. The irrevocable nature of the letter means that once the conditions are committed to, they cannot be altered without the agreement of all parties involved. The irrevocable letter of credit is often used when there is a need to assure a seller or exporter of their payment, especially if the business deal involves significant amounts. Since the bank undertakes the buyer’s obligation, the uncertainty related to the buyer’s creditworthiness is minimized. This setup can also give a buyer comfort in knowing that their funds will only be released when the seller complies with the terms and conditions outlined in the letter, reducing the risk of non-conformance to the agreement. Thus, it serves a critical function in international business by providing a balance of protection to both parties involved in the transaction.


1. Import-Export Transactions: One common example involves international trade, particularly import-export businesses. For instance, a UK-based company purchasing goods from a manufacturer in China might use an irrevocable letter of credit to ensure payment. The Chinese manufacturer wants assurance they will be paid, so they request an irrevocable letter of credit from the UK importer’s bank. Once the bank issues it, the Chinese manufacturer knows they will receive payment as long as they fulfill the specified terms. 2. Real Estate Transactions: In the context of real estate, an irrevocable letter of credit might be issued by a buyer’s bank to the seller’s bank. This guarantees that the buyer’s payment for a property will be made on time and for the full amount, provided that all terms of the sale are met. For instance, a property developer in the United States might use an irrevocable letter of credit to secure a land purchase from a Canadian company. 3. Construction Projects: For large construction contracts, a project owner might require a construction company to provide an irrevocable letter of credit from its bank. This assures the project owner that funds are available to pay for the project as long as the construction company completes the project according to agreed terms. For example, a government body commissioning infrastructure projects like bridges or highways may require this type of financial guarantee.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Irrevocable Letter of Credit?

An Irrevocable Letter of Credit (ILOC) is a financial instrument issued by a bank that guarantees payments to a beneficiary as long as the terms and conditions set out in the Letter of Credit have been met. This cannot be altered or canceled without the agreement of all parties involved.

In which situations is an Irrevocable Letter of Credit commonly used?

ILOCs are commonly used in international transactions to reduce the risk of non-payment after goods or services have been delivered. They are also often utilized in real estate transactions and by contractors as a guarantee of their financial obligation.

Who are the parties involved in an Irrevocable Letter of Credit?

The parties involved include the issuing bank, the applicant or buyer who requests the bank to issue an ILOC, and the beneficiary or seller who is entitled to receive payment when the specified conditions are fulfilled.

How does the Irrevocable Letter of Credit work?

Once the buyer and seller agree to conduct a transaction using an ILOC, the buyer’s bank issues the ILOC. This guarantees that the bank will make the payment to the seller if the buyer fails to do so.

What is the difference between a Revocable Letter of Credit and an Irrevocable Letter of Credit?

The key difference is that a Revocable Letter of Credit can be changed or canceled by the issuing bank after issuance without the consent of the beneficiary. On the other hand, an Irrevocable Letter of Credit cannot be changed or canceled unless all parties involved agree.

Are Irrevocable Letters of Credit safe?

Yes, from a seller’s viewpoint, an ILOC is one of the safest means of payment in international trade, as the risk of non-payment is on the issuing bank.

What happens if the terms of the Irrevocable Letter of Credit are not met?

If the terms and conditions of the ILOC are not met, the issuing bank is not obligated to pay the beneficiary. It’s crucial for the beneficiary to fully understand and comply with the terms of the ILOC to ensure payment.

Can the beneficiary transfer his rights in an Irrevocable Letter of Credit to another party?

This largely depends on the terms of the ILOC. Some ILOCs may be transferable, allowing the beneficiary to transfer all or some of their rights to a third party. However, not all ILOCs contain this clause, so it would be beneficiary-specific.

Related Finance Terms

  • Beneficiary
  • Applicant/issuer
  • Issuing bank
  • Confirmed Letter of Credit
  • Documentary Credit

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