Exchange Rate

Exchange Rate

Investopedia / Xiaojie Liu

What Is an Exchange Rate?

An exchange rate is a rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another currency and affects trade and the movement of money between countries.

Exchange rates are impacted by both the domestic currency value and the foreign currency value. In July 2022, the exchange rate from U.S. Dollars to the Euro was 1.02, meaning it takes $1.02 to buy €1.

Key Takeaways

  • An exchange rate is a rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another currency.
  • Most exchange rates are defined as floating and will rise or fall based on the supply and demand in the market.
  • Some exchange rates are pegged or fixed to the value of a specific country's currency.
  • Exchange rate changes affect businesses by changing the cost of supplies that are purchased from a different country, and by changing the demand for their products from overseas customers.
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Exchange Rate: My Favorite Term

Understanding Exchange Rates

The exchange rate between two currencies is commonly determined by the economic activity, market interest rates, gross domestic product, and unemployment rate in each of the countries. Commonly called market exchange rates, they are set in the global financial marketplace, where banks and other financial institutions trade currencies around the clock based on these factors. Changes in rates can occur hourly or daily with small changes or in large incremental shifts.

An exchange rate is commonly quoted using an acronym for the national currency it represents. For example, the acronym USD represents the U.S. dollar, while EUR represents the euro. To quote the currency pair for the dollar and the euro, it would be EUR/USD. In the case of the Japanese yen, it's USD/JPY, or dollar to yen. An exchange rate of 100 means that 1 dollar equals 100 yen.

How Exchange Rates Fluctuate

Exchange rates can be free-floating or fixed. A free-floating exchange rate rises and falls due to changes in the foreign exchange market. A fixed exchange rate is pegged to the value of another currency. The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar in a range of 7.75 to 7.85. This means the value of the Hong Kong dollar to the U.S. dollar will remain within this range.

Exchange rates have what is called a spot rate, or cash value, which is the current market value. Alternatively, an exchange rate may have a forward value, which is based on expectations for the currency to rise or fall versus its spot price. 

Forward rate values may fluctuate due to changes in expectations for future interest rates in one country versus another. If traders speculate that the eurozone will ease monetary policy versus the U.S., they may buy the dollar versus the euro, resulting in a downward trend in the value of the euro. 

Exchange Rate Example

A traveler to Germany from the U.S. wants 200 USD worth of EUR when arriving in Germany. The sell rate is the rate at which a traveler sells foreign currency in exchange for local currency. The buy rate is the rate at which one buys foreign currency back from travelers to exchange it for local currency.

If the current exchange rate is 1.05, $200 will net €190.48 in return.

In this case, the equation is: dollars ÷ exchange rate = euro

$200 ÷ 1.05 = €190.48


After the trip, suppose €66 is remaining. If the exchange rate has dropped to 1.02, the change from euros to dollars will be $67.32.

€66 x 1.02 = $67.32


The Japanese yen is calculated differently. In this case, the dollar is placed in front of the yen, as in USD/JPY.

The equation for USD/JPY is: dollars x exchange rate = yen

If a traveler to Japan wants to convert $100 into yen and the exchange rate is 110, the traveler would get ¥11,000. To convert the yen back into dollars one needs to divide the amount of the currency by the exchange rate.

$100 x 110 = ¥11,000.00

-or-

¥11,000.00/110= $100

How Do Exchange Rates Affect the Supply and Demand of Goods?

Changes in exchange rates affect businesses by changing the cost of supplies that are purchased from a different country, and by changing the demand for their products from overseas customers.

What Is the FOREX?

The forex market, or foreign exchange market, allows banks, funds, and individuals to buy, sell or exchange currencies. The market operates 24 hours, 5.5 days a week, and is responsible for trillions of dollars in daily trading activity as traders look to profit by betting that a currency's value will either appreciate or depreciate against another currency.

What Is a Restricted Currency?

Exchange rates can differ within the same country. Some countries have restricted currencies, limiting their exchange to within the countries' borders and often there is an onshore rate and an offshore rate. A more favorable exchange rate can often be found within a country's borders versus outside its borders and a restricted currency has its value set by the government. China is an example of a country that has this rate structure and a currency that is controlled by the government. Every day, the Chinese government sets a midpoint value for the currency, allowing the yuan to trade in a band of 2% from the midpoint.

The Bottom Line

An exchange rate is a rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another currency. While most exchange rates are floating and will rise or fall based on the supply and demand in the market, some exchange rates are pegged or fixed to the value of a specific country's currency. Exchange rate changes affect businesses and the cost of supplies and demand for their products in the international marketplace.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "U.S. Dollars to Euro Spot Exchange Rate."

  2. Harvard Business Services. "How Exchange Rates Affect Your Business."

  3. Hong Kong Monetary Authority. "How Does the LERS Work?"

  4. Travelex. "Exchange Rates Explained."

  5. Trading Economics. "Chinese Yuan."

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