Letters of credit are used for the following reasons:

To protect against buyer risk.

If the buyer is of unknown creditworthiness, then the seller has the security of the bank's payment undertaking.

To protect against country risk.

The buyer may be willing and able to pay; but economic or political conditions in the buyer's country may prevent or delay payment. This is a real concern when dealing with less developed countries and/or countries with foreign exchange shortages. To protect against these risks, a confirmed letter of credit will be necessary - a bank in the seller's country will (for a fee) add its own payment undertaking to that of the Issuing bank.
Letters of credit are also used as part of exchange control or import control regimes operating in the buyer's country. In such cases the use of a letter of credit is mandatory, even if not required by the seller for security reasons.

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