What is At Sight

"At sight" is a payment due on demand. An at-sight payment will require the party receiving the good or service to pay a certain sum immediately upon being presented with the bill of exchange.

This type of payment is also known as a "sight draft" or a "sight bill."


This term is used most often in legal contracts to describe when payment is to be made. A seller might place an at-sight clause in a contract to demand full payment at sight. A seller might enforce this if the buyer has missed payments in the past, and is deemed to have a higher risk of default.

How At-Sight Payments Are Applied to the Exports of Goods

At-sight transactions are frequently part of the sale of exports. The seller or exporter of a good might be paid through what is called a sight letter of credit or a letter of credit at sight. This means the seller will be paid at sight upon satisfying the requirements of the letter. For example, this can include proof that the goods have been shipped to the buyer. Payment has already been made by the buyer in this type of transaction. Those funds will be released to the seller once the criteria are satisfied.

The seller typically must take the bill of lading after they have resolved all the shipping matters necessary with customs for export transactions under a letter of credit at sight. The exporter would then take the bill of lading and present it along with the letter of credit and other required documentation to the bank for payment to be released.

This type of at-sight transaction offers protections for both the buyer and seller because payment is guaranteed to the seller but is only released once the goods are accounted for on behalf of the buyer.

The timing of the release of payment can create liquidity issues for businesses that have not planned for the submission of documentation to receive payment.

At-sight transactions are different from upfront payments, which are common in retail. Both transactions may require payment on demand. Upfront payments are made immediately upon ordering goods either in a store or online. The funds are given to the seller at the time the original sale is made. This differs from at-sight exchanges that are dependent on documentation being filed to complete the transaction. While there is immediacy for the completion of the funds' transfer, it can be delayed while documentation is gathered for submission.