Documentary Collection

Documentary Collection refers to a payment method in international trade where banks act as intermediaries to facilitate the exchange of goods and payment between the exporter and importer. In this process, the exporter forwards the shipping documents to their bank, which then sends them to the importer’s bank. The importer’s bank, upon receiving the documents, releases them to the importer against payment or acceptance of a bill of exchange. Documentary Collection provides a secure and controlled way to settle international trade transactions, mitigating the risks associated with cross-border trade.


Documentary Collection is a widely-used technique that offers an alternative to open account and letter of credit payment methods in international trade. It is governed by the Uniform Rules for Collections (URC) developed by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), ensuring a standardized and recognized framework for both parties involved.


The Documentary Collection process typically involves multiple parties, including the exporter, importer, exporter’s bank, and importer’s bank. The process can be broadly divided into two types: documents against payment (D/P) and documents against acceptance (D/A).

In a documents against payment (D/P) collection, the exporter instructs their bank to release the shipping documents to the importer only upon payment. Once the exporter’s bank receives the payment, the documents are remitted to the importer’s bank, who then releases them to the importer, enabling the latter to take possession of the goods.

In a documents against acceptance (D/A) collection, the exporter instructs their bank to release the shipping documents to the importer on the condition that the latter accepts a bill of exchange, promising to pay at a later date. The importer’s bank delivers the documents to the importer against the acceptance of the bill of exchange. The payment is typically due on a predetermined maturity date stated in the bill of exchange.

Advantages and Considerations:

Documentary Collection offers various advantages for both exporters and importers in international trade. For exporters, it provides a less burdensome, more cost-effective payment mechanism compared to letters of credit. Documentary Collection also allows exporters to maintain control over the shipping documents until payment or acceptance occurs, reducing the risk of non-payment.

Importers benefit from the flexibility of Documentary Collection as it enables them to receive goods before making the payment or accepting the bill of exchange. It can also be a useful tool to negotiate credit terms with the exporter, providing a window for arranging payment or extending credit.

However, it is important to note that Documentary Collection has certain limitations and considerations. Unlike letters of credit, Documentary Collection does not offer a guarantee of payment and relies heavily on trust between the exporter and importer. Non-payment or non-acceptance by the importer can result in disputes and delays, potentially leading to financial losses for the exporter. Additionally, the exporter still bears the risk of non-payment or non-acceptance even if the shipping documents have been surrendered to the importer.


Documentary Collection is a widely acknowledged payment mechanism in international trade, offering a secure and controlled process for both exporters and importers. By utilizing the services of banks, Documentary Collection ensures the smooth exchange of goods and payments, minimizing the risks associated with cross-border transactions. It is essential for businesses involved in international trade to understand the intricacies and considerations of Documentary Collection to effectively manage their financial transactions and mitigate potential risks.

This glossary is made for freelancers and owners of small businesses. If you are looking for exact definitions you can find them in accounting textbooks.

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