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Transferable Letters of Credit Work


A Transferable Letter of Credit is a type of letter of credit that allows the first beneficiary, often a non-performing intermediary or middleman, to transfer their credit to one or more ‘second’ beneficiaries. It is used primarily in the trading sector, particularly for high-value transactions. The transferable letter of credit permits the intermediary to promise payment to its suppliers yet not make use of its own funds.


The phonetic pronunciation for “Transferable Letters of Credit Work” is as follows:Transferable – trans-fur-uh-buhlLetters – let-erzof – uhvCredit – kred-itWork – wurk

Key Takeaways

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  1. A Transferable Letter of Credit is a type of financial tool that provides a guarantee from a bank that a seller will receive a payment from a buyer. This becomes transferrable when the rights under the original letter of credit are legally transferred by the first beneficiary to one or more additional beneficiaries.

  2. Transferable Letters of Credit are most commonly used in international trade, where long distances and differing laws can make it difficult for sellers to be sure if they will receive payment. By using a Transferable Letter of Credit, sellers can give and receive payments more securely.

  3. The main benefit of using a Transferable Letter of Credit is its ability to decrease risk. It provides a layer of security to the seller, ensuring that they will receive the payment agreed upon, even if the buyer fails to fulfill their end of the deal.



Transferable Letters of Credit are crucial in the business and finance world because they offer a secure and credible means of handling transactions, particularly in international trade. They provide a guarantee from a bank that a buyer’s payment to a seller will be received on time and for the correct amount. This transferability characteristic allows the rights to draw funds to be transferred to another party, thereby facilitating transactions involving intermediaries. This becomes essential in scenarios such as drop shipments where the first beneficiary is not the actual supplier of goods. Consequently, Transferable Letters of Credit enhance credibility and viability in operations, mitigating risks associated with default in payment, which could have significant financial implications.


Transferable Letters of Credit are primarily used in international trade transactions where the middlemen involved do not have the financial resources needed to work as an intermediary between the supplier and the final buyer. This tool essentially helps to bridge that financial gap. The key purpose of a Transferable Letter of Credit is to shift the credit risk associated with the buyer onto the intermediary or middleman, making it easier for these smaller companies to facilitate large transactions without requiring substantial capital upfront.The process begins when the bank issues a Transferable Letter of Credit upon the buyer’s request. This credit, essentially an evidence of the buyer’s creditworthiness, can be ‘transferred’ by the initial beneficiary (the middleman) to one or more secondary beneficiaries (suppliers). The suppliers will then be assured that they will receive payment upon presenting the necessary complying documents. In essence, the transferable letter of credit helps to streamline the transaction process, making it smooth and secure for all parties involved. This makes it a valuable tool in more complex international trade transactions by providing the smaller intermediaries a reliable means to facilitate sizable deals.


1. International Trade: One of the most common uses of Transferable Letters of Credit (TLC) is in international trade where there’s a need to minimize the risk of non-payment. A real-term example: A company in the USA wants to purchase goods from a supplier in China. To make payment secure and guaranteed, the US company asks its local bank to issue a TLC in favor of the Chinese supplier. This ensures that the Chinese supplier will receive payment once they fulfill the necessary contractual and documentary requirements.2. Sub-Contracting/Sourcing Raw Materials: In a scenario where a primary beneficiary sub-contracts a part of the main contract to second beneficiary, TLC is used. For instance, a construction company that wins a big project might not have all the necessary resources to execute the project and would need to sub-contract some aspects of the project to other companies. In such cases, they might choose to offer TLC to the sub-contractors, which gives the sub-contractors’ confidence that they will be paid upon delivery of service.3. Wholesale Trading: Transferable Letters of Credit are also largely used in wholesale trading. For instance, a wholesale trader who receives a large order for consumer electronics may not have sufficient stock. They would then approach a manufacturer to fulfill the order. Instead of paying upfront, the trader can issue a transferable letter of credit that allows the manufacturer to receive the payment directly from the bank after fulfilling the order.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are Transferable Letters of Credit?

Transferable Letters of Credit are a type of letter of credit that permits the lead beneficiary, also known as the first beneficiary, to transfer their credit status to one or more additional beneficiaries. Essentially, this means that the rights and obligations of the lead beneficiary can ‘transfer’ to somebody else.

How do Transferable Letters of Credit work in business?

In business, Transferable Letters of Credit are commonly used in trading. The first beneficiary may be a middleman, who uses the transferable letter of credit to buy goods from a supplier and sell them on to a customer, even if the middleman does not have the capital to purchase the goods upfront.

What is the difference between a transferable and a non-transferable Letter of Credit?

The difference lies in the ability to transfer rights to secondary beneficiaries. In Transferable Letters of Credit, the rights can be passed on, but Non-Transferable Letters of Credit don’t allow the beneficiary to transfer any part of the credit to another party.

Can all banks issue Transferable Letters of Credit?

Majority of the banks can issue Transferable Letters of Credit. However, it would be prudent to check this with your bank first, as some banks may not offer this due to the added complexity and risk involved.

In what situation could Transferable Letters of Credit be appropriate?

These types of letters of credit are often used in international trade, particularly when intermediate dealers or brokers are involved who must purchase goods from a manufacturer in order to sell them to a customer.

What are the main risks involved with Transferable Letters of Credit?

The risks are typically skewed towards the issuing bank and the first beneficiary. The bank faces risk because it must rely on the first beneficiary to accurately relay the terms of the letter of credit. If the first beneficiary does something fraudulent, the bank could be held liable. The first beneficiary also has risk in ensuring the second beneficiary performs as expected.

What information must be included in a Transferable Letter of Credit?

The transferable Letter of Credit should include names of first and second beneficiaries, the terms and conditions for payment, the description of the goods or services involved, and any documents that should be presented for payment. It must also be explicitly stated that the letter of credit is transferable.

Related Finance Terms

  • Beneficiary: This is who the transferable letter of credit is made out to, or the party who will receive the payment.
  • Issuing Bank: This is the bank that issues the transferable letter of credit, guaranteeing payment on behalf of the buyer.
  • Negotiability: This refers to the ability to transfer the Letter of Credit from one beneficiary to another. In a Transferable Letter of Credit, the original beneficiary has the right to make the credit available to one or more subsequent beneficiaries.
  • Documentary Evidence: These are documents that a beneficiary must provide to prove that they have met the terms of the letter of credit.
  • Maturity Date: This is the date by which the beneficiary must present the necessary documents to the issuing bank in order to receive payment under the letter of credit.

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