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What is an 'Irrevocable Letter Of Credit - ILOC'

An irrevocable letter of credit (ILOC) is official correspondence from a bank that guarantees payment for goods or services being purchased by the individual or entity, referred to as the applicant, that requests the letter of credit from an issuing bank. An irrevocable letter of credit cannot be canceled, nor in any way modified, except with the explicit agreement of all parties involved: the buyer, the seller and the issuing bank. For example, the issuing bank does not have the authority by itself to change any of the terms of an ILOC once it is issued.

BREAKING DOWN 'Irrevocable Letter Of Credit - ILOC'

While an ILOC is irrevocable while it is in force, generally the time period during which a proposed transaction is expected to be completed, an ILOC expires at a specified point in time noted in the letter of credit.

Irrevocable letters of credit are official bank correspondence transferred and authenticated through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) banking system, a global system for facilitating financial transactions between banks or other financial institutions. An ILOC is transmitted as MT700 - message type 700.

An ILOC provides greater security of payment to the beneficiary of the letter, who is commonly the seller in a transaction. ILOCs are frequently sought for large construction projects due to the fact they are not subject to claims of preference in the event of a bankruptcy.

The Purpose of an ILOC

ILOCs are most commonly used to facilitate international trade because of the additional credit risk involved when two parties unfamiliar with each other are transacting business across national borders. An ILOC assures the seller of receiving payment because it is a guarantee by the issuing bank, the buyer's bank, that the bank will make payment in the event the buyer fails to do so. By providing the seller with assurance of payment, an ILOC also assists the buyer in arranging a transaction that the seller might otherwise be reluctant to make.

How an ILOC Works

An ILOC is a means of facilitating a transaction between a buyer and seller with the assistance of their respective banks. The buyer requests an ILOC from his bank, which is then sent to the seller's bank. In addition to providing credit risk protection, a letter of credit typically also specifies important details of the transaction, such as price, payment terms, and time and place for delivery of goods. In the event the buyer fails to make payment as agreed, the buyer's bank makes payment to the seller's bank, which in turn renders payment to the seller, the beneficiary of the ILOC.

ILOCs may be either confirmed or unconfirmed. A confirmed ILOC offers additional risk protection for the seller by providing guarantee of payment from both the buyer's bank and the seller's bank. With an unconfirmed ILOC, the seller's bank has no liability for payment and essentially serves only as a go-between to transfer payment to the seller from the buyer's bank.

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