Back-to-Back Letters of Credit

MoneyBestPal Team
A type of financing in which two separate LoCs are utilized in tandem to guarantee a transaction.

What are back-to-back Letters of Credit?

Back-to-back letters of credit (LoCs) are a type of financing in which two separate LoCs are utilized in tandem to guarantee a transaction. They are frequently utilized in international trade, particularly in situations where a distributor or broker acts as a middleman between the buyer and the supplier.

Back-to-back LoCs consist of two distinct LoCs, the first of which inspires the development of the second. The intermediary, who is typically a broker or distributor, receives the first LoC from the buyer's bank.

The second LoC, which is given to the seller, is obtained by the intermediary from their own bank using this first LoC as collateral. After meeting all contractual obligations and providing the necessary paperwork to the intermediary's bank, the seller is guaranteed payment.

Because the intermediary serves as a middleman, there are situations in which the buyer and seller may not even be aware of one another's identities.

How do back-to-back LoCs work?

The process of using back-to-back LoCs can be summarized in the following steps:
  1. Agreements on the terms of the transaction, including price, quantity, quality, delivery date, and mode of payment, are reached between the buyer and the intermediary.
  2. Applying for a Letter of Credit from their bank, the buyer designates the middleman as the beneficiary. The LoC is issued by and sent to the intermediary's bank by the buyer's bank.
  3. With the seller listed as the beneficiary, the middleman requests a second Letter of Credit from their bank. The second LoC is issued and sent to the seller's bank by the intermediary's bank.
  4. Depending on the terms of the arrangement, the seller ships the products to the middleman or straight to the customer. The vendor thereafter provides their bank with the necessary paperwork, including the invoice, bill of lading, certificate of origin, and so forth.
  5. After confirming the documentation, the seller's bank pays the seller following the second LoC's terms.
  6. The documents are sent by the seller's bank to the intermediary's bank, which then pays them per the second LoC's conditions.
  7. The buyer's bank receives the documents from the intermediary's bank, which then seeks payment by the initial LoC's provisions.
  8. Following the conditions of the initial LoC, the buyer's bank confirms the documentation and pays the intermediary's bank.
  9. The buyer receives the documentation from their bank, which also debits their account to cover the cost.

What are some characteristics of back-to-back LoCs?

The two LoCs used in a back-to-back transaction typically have:
  • Different amounts or values: Because it just covers the seller's cost of products sold, the second LoC is typically smaller than the first LoC. The first LoC also covers other costs spent by the intermediary, such as commission, freight, insurance, etc.
  • Different expiration, shipping, and presentation dates: Since the second LoC follows a shorter cycle from issuance to payment, its dates are typically earlier than those of the first LoC.
  • Invoices allowed as substitutes: If the bills from the middleman and the seller match the first LoC's description and quantity of items, the second LoC might permit them to be presented instead of the seller's invoices.
  • Other terms in common: To prevent disagreements and disputes, the two LoCs should contain comparable provisions about the quality, quantity, inspection, and arbitration of goods.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of back-to-back LoCs?

Back-to-back LoCs offer some benefits for both buyers and sellers in international trade transactions:

Provide security and trust

Back-to-back LoCs essentially substitute the creditworthiness of the two issuing banks for the creditworthiness of the buyer and the intermediary. This reduces the risk of non-payment or fraud for the seller, and the risk of non-delivery or poor quality for the buyer.

Offer privacy and confidentiality

Back-to-back LoCs can shield the seller's and buyer's identities and interests since they might not interact directly. In circumstances where there is market sensitivity or competition, this may be useful.

Facilitate trade and financing

Transactions that would otherwise be challenging or impossible owing to a lack of information or confidence between parties may be made possible by back-to-back LoCs. They can also assist middlemen who lack the resources or stock needed to complete buyer orders.

However, back-to-back LoCs also have some drawbacks that need to be considered:

Complex and costly

Multiple parties, paperwork, and procedures are involved in back-to-back LoCs, which can make the transaction more complicated and expensive.

To prevent delays or inconsistencies that can put the agreement in jeopardy, they also need meticulous synchronization and coordination between the two LoCs.

Subject to risks and limitations

The intermediary, who serves as a conduit between the buyer and the seller, must perform and comply for back-to-back LoCs to occur. Transaction failure or losses for other parties may occur if the intermediary is unable to secure the second letter of credit, deliver the products, or submit the paperwork on schedule and in order.

Furthermore, due to legal or regulatory constraints, back-to-back LoCs could not be possible or permissible in some nations or banks.

What are some examples of back-to-back LoCs?

Back-to-back LoCs can be used in various scenarios and industries, such as:


A buyer in the United States places an order for 10,000 units of a product with a Chinese manufacturer. The manufacturer got in touch with an Indian source that could supply the materials since they lacked the necessary raw ingredients to complete the order.

The beneficiary of a Letter of Credit (LoC) that the manufacturer secures from their Chinese bank is the supplier. The manufacturer is named as the beneficiary on a second letter of credit that the supplier obtains from their Indian bank. The manufacturer receives the materials from the supplier, creates the order, and then ships it to the customer. The two LoCs are used to settle the payment.


A buyer in Germany places an order for 500 tons of coffee beans with a merchant in Singapore. The trader contacts a Brazilian producer who can supply the beans because they don't have enough inventory to complete the request. The trader gets a letter of credit (LoC) from their Singaporean bank designating the producer as the beneficiary.

The producer gets a second LoC with the dealer listed as the beneficiary from their Brazilian bank. The buyer receives the beans from the trader after they have been repackaged and shipped by the producer. The two LoCs are used to settle the payment.


A Japanese buyer placed an order for 100 medical equipment units with a French distributor. Since the distributor does not have enough stock to complete the request, they get in touch with a Swiss manufacturer that can make the item.

The distributor gets a letter of credit (LoC) from their French bank designating the manufacturer as the beneficiary. A second letter of credit (LoC) designating the distributor as the beneficiary is obtained by the manufacturer from their Swiss bank. The distributor receives the equipment from the manufacturer, labels it, and ships it to the customer. Through the two LoCs, the payment is settled.


To secure a transaction, two separate letters of credit are combined to create back-to-back letters of credit, a type of financing. These are commonly employed in international trade, particularly in situations where a distributor or broker acts as a middleman between the buyer and the supplier.

In addition to its benefits—security, secrecy, ease of trade and financing, for example—back-to-back letters of credit have drawbacks as well. These include complexity, expense, and danger. A variety of situations and sectors, including manufacturing, trade, and distribution, can benefit from the usage of back-to-back letters of credit.