The letter of credit has been described as ‘the lifeblood of international commerce’. It helps reconcile the opposite interests of distant parties that can hardly evaluate with accuracy the reliability of the party they deal with. While the buyer typically fears it will not receive the goods it bargained for and will want to inspect the goods before effecting payment, the seller fears the buyer’s default. The letter of credit provides a reliable means of payment by which an issuing bank will pay the seller on presentation of specified documents. Based on a review of recent ICC cases dealing with letters of credit, this article identifies issues that may arise throughout the life of a commercial relationship, from the conclusion of the underlying contract of sale to the delivery of the goods and payment by the issuing bank honouring a complying presentation of documents. They include issues relating to the strict compliance rule, which might have evolved with the adoption of UCP 600 towards greater practical functionality in the examination of documents. They also include issues relating to the underlying contract of sale, in particular the moment at which the buyer is obliged to open the letter of credit. In English.