When a customer defaults on its bills or is in danger of doing so, the company extending credit to that customer faces a bad debt expense. It reflects the amount of  accounts receivable that a company is unable to collect now and may not be able to collect in the future. Because this bad debt expense must be charged against the company's accounts receivable and reduces the amount of accounts receivable on the company’s income statement.

There are many examples of companies dealing with bad debt expense. One company changed its approach after two major clients defaulted on their bills, leaving the company facing tens of thousands of dollars in losses. To make matters worse, the company had also dedicated considerable staff time and resources trying to collect on those bad debts with no success. By purchasing  credit insurance, the company not only protected itself against future losses from it, but it also was able to leverage that protection as it pursued growth with new customers.

Another company that was growing rapidly grew concerned about its exposure to potential bad debt expense as its customer base expanded. In the past, the company knew all of its customers either personally or by reputation. However, as it grew, the company recognized that it could not eliminate the risk of bad debt expense entirely. It had so many new customers coming on board that it had to evaluate their creditworthiness via third party data and information that did not always provide an accurate picture of a customer’s financial state.

While a company is unlikely to avoid bad debt expense entirely, it can protect itself in a number of ways. One way is for companies to set various limits when extending customer credit to minimize the expense. Such limits can be set to manage existing and potential bad debt expense overall and for specific customers. For example, a company could dictate tighter credit terms based on each customer’s unique circumstances. In some cases, a company might avoid extending credit at all by requiring a buyer to procure a  letter of credit to guarantee payment or require prepayment before shipment.

In some cases, companies may also want to change the requirements for extending credit to customers. For example, if customers in a certain industry or geographic area are struggling, companies can require these customers to meet stricter requirements before the company will extend credit. The same strategy could be used to manage credit for customers that have outstanding debts over a certain amount or that are a certain number of days late on their bills.

The protection can help limit some losses when customers are unable to pay their bills. However, it does not provide protection against every type of loss.

Companies can obtain bad debt protection that provides payment when a customer is insolvent and is unable to pay its bills.

However, because there are reasons other than  insolvency for customer nonpayment, this type of protection is of limited use for most companies.

If bad debt protection does not fit a company’s needs, there are alternatives. The best alternative to bad debt protection is trade credit insurance, which provides coverage for customer nonpayment in a wide range of circumstances.

The best trade credit insurance also provides credit data and intelligence designed to help companies improve their credit-related decision making and  credit management. The goal is to prevent losses from bad debt. Since no company can avoid it entirely, the trade credit insurance policy is in place to cover any losses that occur even after the company and the insurer have taken steps to minimize losses.

While bad debt protection only covers “losses from customer insolvency,” trade credit insurance covers “protracted default,” which is when a solvent company is late with its payment or simply fails to pay at all.  A large, specialty accounts receivable insurance carrier can also tailor a policy to cover many other eventualities, including:

  1.  Unpaid invoices as a result of natural disaster
  2. Unpaid invoices as a result of political risk; for example, when doing business in other countries
  3. Losses that occur as a result of problems before goods are shipped; for example, this could involve custom-produced goods that cannot be sold to another customer
  4. Losses occurring after shipment by a contracted third party
  5. Losses occurring when selling on consignment terms
Allianz Trade is the worldwide leader of credit insurer in trade credit insurance and offers expert solutions such as accounts receivable insurance, business debt collection, bad debt, trade credit, trade credit management, cash flow management, xol, debtor insurance, collect overdue payments, late payments and unpaid invoices. Our mission is to help customers globally to avoid trade risk, trade wisely and develop their business safely.
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What is Export Credit Insurance? Export credit insurance helps companies remain competitive by offering open terms when letters of credit or prepayment may have previously been the only safe way to do business. In fact, foreign companies buy an average of 40 percent more when they are offered open terms, according to the World Trade Organization. Export credit insurance providers protect your sales from trade risks, political risks, including import/export changes and foreign government intervention. Few companies can effectively compete without extending trade credit to their buyers. For exporters, getting accounts receivable insurance levels the global playing field. Working with new countries means dealing with new cultures and new opportunities to access new markets and customers. Businesses must know to manage the associated credit risks that come with exporting products or services.