Red Clause Letter Of Credit

Updated on May 9, 2024
Article byRutan Bhattacharyya
Edited byRutan Bhattacharyya
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Red Clause Letter Of Credit?

A Red Clause Letter Of Credit refers to a letter of credit buyers utilize to extend unsecured loans to sellers. Such a legal document permits a documentary credit beneficiary to obtain funds for any merchandise stated in it. Moreover, it improves cash flow, minimizing the risk for sellers and buyers.

Red Clause Letter Of Credit

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Usually, a beneficiary acting as a purchasing agent for buyers in a different nation uses such a letter of credit. This legal document largely benefits small and medium-sized enterprises by expediting their supply chain operations and boosting the working capital. Such a document may also make the relationship or association between the two parties stronger.

Key Takeaways

  • Red clause letter of credit meaning refers to a kind of legal document using which buyers or importers make advance payments to the sellers or importers.
  • A key difference between red clause and green clause credit is that the latter provides the exporter with a higher advance amount than the former
  • A key purpose of red clause letters of credit is to reduce the financial risk for sellers and importers by improving their cash flow.
  • The buyer’s bank issues this document. The red clause letter of credit format includes the amount of advance the exporter will obtain.

Red Clause Letter Of Credit Explained

Red clause letter of credit meaning refers to a particular type of letter of credit consisting of an extra clause, usually written in red ink. It enables beneficiaries (in most cases, exporters) to obtain an advance payment before they render their services or ship the goods. Such a clause states the advance amount and the conditions that are necessary to be fulfilled for the amount to be drawn. Note that the deduction of the advance from the credit’s face amount takes place at the time of making payment.

The main purpose of red clause letters of credit is to provide an exporter with financial assistance, specifically in situations where the exporter needs working capital to cover transaction-related expenses or fulfill its obligations. This document helps minimize risks and allows for the exporter to continue conducting its operations without any issues.

If individuals are unaware of the red clause letter of credit format, they can look for a sample available online to get a clear idea regarding the contents of the document.

Process Steps

Let us provide a breakdown of how this legal document functions:

  • Agreement And Issuance Of The Document:  The seller and buyer reach an agreement regarding the transaction terms, including the utilization of this legal document. The issuing bank, i.e., the buyer’s bank, issues the letter of credit, including the red clause that stipulates the advance payment.
  • Presentation Of The Required Documents: The exporter presents all the necessary documents, for example, packing list, transport documents, and commercial invoice to the bank.   
  • Payment And Verification: After the nominated bank completes reviewing the documents, upon satisfaction, it pays the advance to the company exporting the merchandise according to the instructions in the red clause. Then, the exporter can use the money to prepare its goods for shipment.
  • Payment Of The Balance: After the delivery of the merchandise is complete, the exporter submits the remaining necessary documents to the bank. Then, the bank completes the verification of the compliance before releasing the payment left to the exporter.


Let us look at a few red clause letter of credit examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Suppose Company ABC, a t-shirt retailer in the United States, contacted the UK-based manufacturer of its products, Company XYZ, to discuss a deal. Once both parties reached an agreement, ABC approached the DBN Bank to issue a letter of credit in favor of XYZ. Per the document, $1 million was the overall purchase price of ABC’s order of 50,000 t-shirts.

On account of the agreement between both parties, ABC asked the bank to include advance payments of $400,000 in the red clause letter of agreement for the production, packaging, and shipping of the products to ABC’s warehouse in Los Angeles, California.

DBN bank approved the letter of credit, and it paid a sum of $400,000 to Company XYZ. Then, once Company ABC received the goods from Company XYZ, the bank paid the remaining $600,000 to the UK-based manufacturer.

Example #2

Suppose US-based ZXC Inc. is a toy retailer. It agreed to purchase toys from a toy manufacturing organization in India named ERT Limited. The retailer asked ZAD Bank to issue a red clause letter of credit in favor of the exporter. After approval, ZAD provided an advanced payout of $200,000, as mentioned in the red provision of the legal document. Once the delivery of the goods sent by ERT was complete, the bank paid the overall value listed in the letter of credit after deducting the amount paid in advance.

The advance payment provided to the manufacturer ensured that the company had enough working capital to carry out the daily operations. Moreover, the improved cash flow reduced the financial risk associated with the deal.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Let us look at the benefits and limitations of using this legal document.


  • Companies can utilize this document to facilitate global exports and trade.  
  • The document allows importers to negotiate favorable terms.
  • In essence, this document provides producers and traders with new credit lines.
  • Since it allows exporters to reduce interest-related costs on working capital, sellers can pass on the advantage to the buyers.
  • It enables exports to get financing without needing external financing arrangements or extra collateral.


  • Using such documents can be expensive.
  • The seller may not utilize the money received from the bank for the intended purpose.
  • If such a letter of credit involves collateral, it puts excessive pressure on exporters to expedite their supply chain operations.
  • It always involves default risks. Moreover, if trades take place across multiple countries, there is a high chance of no-shows on the part of exporters.

Difference Between Red Clause And Green Clause Letter Of Credit

Individuals new to finance may find the concepts of red clause and green clause letters of credit confusing. To clear their confusion, they must know the key differences, as shown in the table below.

Red Clause Letter Of CreditGreen Clause Letter Of Credit
This type of letter of credit comes with fewer benefits than a green clause letter of credit.A type of letter of credit that extends credit to exporters with more benefits than a red clause letter of credit, for example, pre-shipment warehousing and insurance costs coverage.
This type of letter of credit provides only 20% to 25% of the original amount of credit.It provides exporters with 70% to 80% of the actual credit amount.
The clause is written in red ink.This clause is written in green ink.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why would a red clause letter of credit be considered high risk for a bank?

Banks issuing such a letter of credit have exposure to high financial risk because of the advance payment feature. In case a seller cannot deliver the merchandise, the bank has to bear the liability for disbursing the funds. Hence, banks usually charge significant fees or need collateral to offset the risk.

What are the different types of red clause letters of credit?

This letter of credit can be of two types. Let us look at them.

– Secured: In this case, sellers do not have to give any documents concerning proof of purchase.
– Unsecured: In the case of secured red clauses, sellers must present proof of goods ownership or shipment.

What are the expenses associated with a red clause letter of credit?

Using this tool can be expensive for a company. This is because it comes with a fixed fee that is higher than a traditional letter of credit. Moreover, the advance payment issued by the bank carries an interest. When making the final payment, importers need to pay this interest along with the letter of credit amount.

This article has been a guide to what is Red Clause Letter Of Credit. We explain its example, differences with green clause LC, process steps, and advantages. You may also find some useful articles here –

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