In international trade, a financial guarantee is often required to ensure that the buyer pays the seller for goods or services delivered. One of the most common instruments used for this purpose is a Letter of Credit (LC). However, Surety Bonds for trade have emerged as a viable alternative to LCs. They offer several advantages for both buyers and sellers. In this blog, we’ll explore the differences between LCs and Surety Bonds, their adoption rates in different countries, and the benefits of adopting Surety Bonds for trade in India.

The Need for Financial Guarantees in Trade

In international trade, a seller wants to be assured that they will receive payment for the goods or services they deliver to the buyer. However, a buyer may not be willing to pay upfront or may want to ensure that the goods or services meet the agreed-upon specifications before releasing payment. This is where financial guarantees come into play.

A Letter of Credit is a financial instrument issued by a bank on behalf of the buyer that guarantees payment to the seller as long as the seller meets certain conditions specified in the LC. These conditions may include presenting specific documents, such as invoices or bills of lading, or meeting certain quality standards.

Surety Bonds for Letter of Credit (LC) for trade

Surety Bonds for Trade: An Alternative to LC

Surety Bonds in trade are a type of insurance that provides a financial guarantee to a buyer or seller in case the other party fails to fulfill its obligations. In the context of international trade, Surety Bonds can be used as an alternative to LCs.

The key difference between LCs and Surety Bonds is that LCs are a form of bank guarantee, while Surety Bonds are issued by insurance companies. While LCs are typically issued by banks, Surety Bonds can be issued by specialized insurance companies or bonding agencies.

The table below summarizes the key differences between LCs and Surety Bonds:

CriteriaLetter of Credit (LC)Surety Bonds for Trade
IssuerBankInsurance company or bonding agency
CostTypically higherTypically lower
RiskBank bears the riskInsurance company or bonding agency bears the risk
CustomizationLess customizableMore customizable
Speed of processingSlowerFaster
FlexibilityLess flexibleMore flexible
LC vs Surety Bonds

Adoption Rates of Surety Bonds in Different Countries

Surety Bonds for trade have been widely adopted in countries such as the USA, the EU, and Japan. In these countries, Surety Bonds are seen as a cost-effective and flexible alternative to LCs. For example, in the USA, Surety Bonds are widely used in the construction industry as a way to guarantee performance and payment for contractors.

In contrast, the use of Surety Bonds in India is still limited. The Indian market is highly dependent on LCs issued by banks, which are seen as a burden by banks due to their complex documentation and lower profitability compared to loans. In India, the market is still highly dependent on LCs from banks. Important to note that according to a report by the Reserve Bank of India, “Letters of Credit (LCs) are the most commonly used method of payment in international trade, accounting for 72.3% of total outward remittances.” This shows the extent to which Indian businesses rely on LCs for trade financing.

According to a report by FICCI, less tha 1% of total financial guarantees in India are issued in the form of Surety Bonds, compared to over 70% in the USA and the EU. This indicates a significant opportunity for the adoption of Surety Bonds in India, especially in the context of trade financing.

Benefits of Adopting Surety Bonds for Trade in India

Adopting Surety Bonds for trade in India can have several benefits for businesses. First, Surety Bonds are typically less expensive than LCs, as insurance companies charge lower fees than banks. This can help businesses save on transaction costs and improve their profit margins.

Second, if Indian businesses were to adopt surety bonds for trade instead of depending only on LCs, it could bring significant benefits. For instance, trade could increase manifold as surety bonds help improve the liquidity and working capital of a business. Unlike LCs, surety bonds do not require collateral, which means businesses can use their assets for other purposes. Surety bonds in trade also help to reduce the transaction costs of trade finance. This makes it easier for smaller businesses to participate in international trade.

Another advantage of surety bonds is that they can help businesses build their reputation and credibility. This is because surety bond companies conduct thorough due diligence before issuing bonds, which helps to weed out businesses with poor track records. Therefore, businesses with surety bonds are often perceived as more trustworthy and reliable than those without.


In conclusion, while LCs have been the dominant mode of trade financing in India, there is a need to explore other options, such as surety bonds. Adopting surety bonds can help businesses improve their liquidity and working capital, reduce transaction costs, and build their reputation and credibility. This could go a long way in boosting India’s participation in international trade and making it a more competitive player in the global economy.

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