Malaysian Ringgit (MYR): Definition, Currency Symbol, Exchanging

What Is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)?

The Malaysian ringgit is the currency of the Malaysian Federation. The currency abbreviation for the currency is RM, and the currency code is MYR. This is the code seen when requesting a currency quote, such as USD/MYR, which shows the rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar (USD) and the Malaysian ringgit.

In the Malay language, ringgit means jagged, a reference to the serrated edges of Spanish coins commonly used in the region in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Key Takeaways

  • The Malaysian ringgit is sometimes referred to as the Malaysian dollar. Its abbreviation is RM and its currency code is MYR.
  • The currency's exchange rate is free-floating but is not traded offshore.
  • The currency circulates widely in denominations of one, five, 10, 20, 50, and 100. Larger denominations are unusable in practice.
  • Travelers to Malaysia can obtain ringgits at currency exchanges online or in stores before they travel or in Malaysia.
  • Expect to pay the official exchange rate minus 3% to 5% in exchange fees.

Understanding the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)

The Malaysian ringgit is made up of 100 sen. It is issued in denominations of one, five, 10, 20, 50, and 100 ringgits.

Earlier issues of 500 and 1,000 denominations were removed from circulation in the 1990s to help curb money laundering. These denominations have been demonetized and have no value.

The Malaysian ringgit is used officially by Malaysia and is also accepted in border areas of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Malaysian dollar replaced the Malaya and British Borneo dollar in June 1967 at par. The new currency was officially referred to in dollars and cents until August 1975, when its name was officially changed to ringgit and sen.

Malaysian Ringgit Price History

After the 3.8 peg was dropped in 2005, the currency appreciated to 3.08 against the USD in 2008. It then fell back to 3.73 in 2009. After that it experienced several more ears of appreciation, rising to about 3 ringgits per USD in 2011 through the first half of 2013.

The ringgit then lost value, hitting 4.47 in 2016.

Through early 2022, the MYR was moving between 4.17 and 4.21 per USD.

The ringgit is often unofficially referred to as the Malaysian dollar.

The Malaysian Economy

The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s caused periods of extreme volatility in the Malaysian currency. In response, in 1998 the central bank of Malaysia (Bank Negara) chose to peg the ringgit to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 3.80.

Because of the surge in capital outflows during the crisis, trading ringgit outside of Malaysia was banned.

The peg remained intact until 2005 when Bank Negara went back to a floating ringgit after the People's Bank of China removed the peg on the renminbi. As a result, the ringgit appreciated in value against the U.S. dollar, the Hong Kong dollar, and the Chinese renminbi.

What Affects the Ringgit's Value

The value of the ringgit is susceptible to changes in global emerging markets and political sentiment in Malaysia. In addition, the ringgit has some correlation to commodity prices, as Malaysia is an exporter of oil and natural gas.

Offshore banks that don't have an onshore presence in Malaysia will trade the ringgit as a non-deliverable forward. In 2016 the Bank Negara started cracking down on these as well. The currency remains non-tradable off-shore.

Malaysia is a major exporter of palm oil, rubber, and timber. It also exports crude oil, refined petroleum, and natural gas.

Example of Buying and Selling Malaysian Ringgits

Assume you want to travel to Malaysia. Once you get there, you look up a quote online and see that the current exchange rate is 4.15 USD/MYR. That means that a U.S. dollar is worth 4.15 ringgits in the forex markets.

You won't be able to get that exchange rate when you exchange your dollars for ringgits, though. Whether you buy ringgits through a bank, a currency exchange outlet, or a credit card, the rate you get will include fees.

Currency exchanges post their current rates, which include fees. Banks and credit cards usually post their fee as a percentage to be added to the amount of money exchanged.

Expected Exchange Fees

You can expect the rate you get to be 3% to 5% above the current exchange rate. So if you want to buy MYR with $500, instead of getting 4.15 for each USD, you'll likely get 3.94 (5% less). In other words, your $500 buys 1,970 MYR (500 x 3.94) instead of the 2,075 (500 x 4.15).

The same applies when you leave Malaysia and want to convert your remaining cash back into U.S. dollars. Say you have 1,000 MYR left. The exchange rate online is still 4.15. This time, since you are buying USD, currency exchanges and banks will give you less for your ringgits, giving a rate of 4.36 (5% more) for example. Therefore, your 1,000 MYR converts to $229.36 (1,000 / 4.36) instead of $240.96 (1,000 / 4.15).

Where Can I Exchange Malaysian Ringgits?

Like any foreign currency, Malaysian ringgits can be purchased online or at retail outlets operated by foreign currency exchange companies. Visitors to Malaysia can exchange their home currency for ringgits at currency exchange outlets, banks, or bank ATMs there.

What Is the Historical Exchange Rate for U.S. Dollars to Malaysian Ringgit?

In the five years ending in mid-March 2022, the ringgit's value moved in a fairly tight range, from a low of 3.86 ringgits per U.S. dollar to a high of 4.34. The value of the ringgit is sensitive to political trends in emerging markets and to energy prices, as Malaysia is an exporter of natural gas and oil.

Is MYR Pegged to USD?

The Malaysian currency is not pegged to the U.S. dollar. It has been a floating currency since 1995.

Article Sources
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  1. Bank Negara Malaysia. "Malaysian Bank Notes and Coins: Past Series, Bank Notes Issued by Bank Negara Malaysia."

  2. Yahoo Finance. "USD/MYR (USDMYR=X)."

  3. OANDA. "Malaysian Ringitt."

  4. European Central Bank. "Economic and Monetary Developments: Exchange Rate and Balance of Payments Developments," Page 72.

  5. Britannica. "Economy of Malaysia."

  6. Yahoo Finance. "USD/MYR (USDMYR=X)."

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