Provides greater financial security to the buyer when dealing with transactions, especially in international trade situations.
Allow a small business owner to purchase a large amount of goods or services even if business credit hasn’t been fully established.
Whether you are the buyer or the seller, a letter of credit can be customized to fit the needs of both parties.
Allows a small business owner to make a payment without having to make a personal guarantee or enter into a verbal agreement.


Obtaining the letters can be time consuming and require an enormous amount of documentation.
There are risks on both sides, including an additional fraud risk.
There are fees involved, ranging from a percentage paid to the bank, to courier and wire transfer fees.

Risks In Letters of Credit Transactions

There are risks to be aware of before entering into a letter of credit transaction:

  • One risk involves fraud, and it could occur on both sides of the transaction.
  • It is possible for a buyer to submit fake documentation to an issuing bank.
  • It’s also possible for a counterfeit letter of credit to be issued.

As such, you might want to look into the distinction between letter of credit vs line of credit.
To reduce the risk, be sure to read through all documentation thoroughly, review any typos or language substitutions, and reach out to your bank with any questions.

There may also be risk associated with the issuing bank. If a small business owner is unfamiliar with the issuing bank in the buyer’s home country, then the owner can request a confirmed letter of credit. This is essentially a second bank that agrees to pay the amount if the issuing bank can not cover the amount for whatever reason, and can reduce this risk.

How to Get a Letter of Credit as a Small Business Owner

As a small business owner, the letter of credit process will begin with a bank or third-party financial institution. If you are purchasing a letter of credit, you will need to provide specific documentation to the issuing bank. The bank will review your creditworthiness and business history before offering approval and may look to see if you have any existing loans such as a revolving line of credit.

How a Letter of Credit Differs From a Business Line of Credit

Here is how a letter of credit is different from a business line of credit:

  • Depending on your role in a transaction, a letter of credit means you guarantee to make the payment to a vendor or you are guaranteed to receive a payment from a buyer.
  • A business line of credit allows you, the small business owner, to borrow money to use for business expenses based on whatever amount you have been approved for.
  • It may not be necessary for a vendor to request a letter of credit from you if you are able to provide funding for the transaction up front.

If you are looking for the best small business line of credit, Fundbox offers flexible solutions for small businesses with 12- or 24-week repayment terms. With Fundbox, your business may qualify for up to $150,000 in revolving credit, which means you can make larger purchases for inventory, staffing, real estate, or whatever else your business needs.


Sample Letter Of Credit

Here is a sample letter of credit found with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

simple letter of credit

About the Authors

Sara Coleman

Written by: Sara Coleman

Freelance Financial Writer

Sara Coleman is a freelance writer with several years of experience covering personal finance topics such as insurance, loans, credit cards, budgeting and more.

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Chip Stapleton

Reviewed by: Chip Stapleton

Finance Manager

Chip Stapleton is a Series 7 and Series 66 license holder, CFA Level 1 exam holder, and currently holds a Life, Accident, and Health License in Indiana. He has 8 years of experience in finance, from financial planning and wealth management to corporate finance and FP&A.

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Somer G. Anderson, Ph.D.

Fact checked by: Somer G. Anderson Ph.D., CPA

Accounting and Finance Professor

Somer G. Anderson has been working in the Accounting and Finance industries for over 20 years as a financial statement auditor, a finance manager in a large healthcare organization, and a Finance and Accounting professor at Maryville University.

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