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What is a Sight Draft?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sight drafts are financial instruments that are payable on demand, once presented by the payee. This is in contrast to the time draft, where the instrument cannot be honored until a specified date in the future. It is not unusual for an exporter to utilize a sight draft as the most expedient form of payment when arranging the shipment of goods to a customer based at an international location.

In some cases, a sight draft is included along with all other documents that are relevant to the shipment. For example, the draft may be included along with copies of the negotiation documents that outline the terms of the sale. Any contracts, shipping instructions, or documents necessary for customs purposes will also accompany the draft. This provides the exporter with everything that is needed to finalize the preparation and shipment of the customer’s order.

One of the main benefits of the sight draft is that the document allows the exporter to be assured of payment for the shipment. At the same time, the exporter has the opportunity to review the accompanying documents, and make sure that the expectations of the customer are in harmony with the outcome of the order negotiations. If there is any difference between the documents, the issue can be resolved before the shipment leaves the home port. For instance, if the negotiation documents show one price for the order and the draft shows a different figure, it is possible to reconcile the issue before anything is shipped. Ultimately, this saves both the exporter and the recipient a great deal of time and trouble.

While a sight draft is defined as a pay on demand document, that does not necessarily mean that the draft is honored immediately. In most cases, the bank receiving the draft will take some time to verify the document, along with another other documents that are presented with the sight draft. Any apparent issues with the documents are reported to the payee as they are discovered, making it possible to contact the client and take whatever measures are necessary to resolve the situation. If everything is in order, the payee will receive full credit for the funds within one to three business days. In some situations where the bank and the presenter of the draft have established an ongoing working relationship, the funds may be made available in a matter of hours instead of days.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Clairdelune — On May 26, 2011

If the bank has a long, good relationship with the business that is exporting, they will try to process the sight draft and other shipping documents the day of arrival, within a few hours. For others, it takes 1 - 3 business days to process the draft and other documents. Whether it takes 3 days or a few hours, their drafts for payments are protected. The exporter, when using the sight draft, has the advantage of checking all the order documents and correcting any errors before the order leaves the port.

By BabaB — On May 23, 2011

I have a friend in the import/export business. He's told me that some people in the business would like the bank to process the sight draft and other documents in a shorter time than one to three days. They want to get paid for their order that same day they present it to the bank. They want to get their hands on the money. Is there any way they can get paid sooner?

By anon140627 — On Jan 08, 2011

what is a draft shipment? is it the same as sight draft? I don't get it. Please define it. Thanks!

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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