In finance, an exchange rate (also known as a foreign-exchange rate, forex rate, or rate) between two currencies is the rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another. It is also regarded as the value of one country’s currency in terms of another currency (Figure 1). For example, an inter-bank exchange rate of 91 Japanese yen (JPY, ¥) to the United States dollar (USD, US$) means that ¥91 will be exchanged for each US$1 or that US$1 will be exchanged for each ¥91.
Exchange rates are determined in the foreign exchange market, which is open to a wide range of buyers and sellers where currency trading is continuous. The spot exchange rate refers to the current exchange rate. The forward exchange rate refers to an exchange rate that is quoted and traded today, but for delivery and payment on a specific future date.
How the Foreign Exchange Market Works
In the retail currency exchange market, a different buying rate and selling rate will be quoted by money dealers. Most trades are to or from the local currency. The buying rate is the rate at which money dealers will buy foreign currency, and the selling rate is the rate at which they will sell the currency. The quoted rates will incorporate an allowance for a dealer's margin (or profit) in trading, or else the margin may be recovered in the form of a commission or in some other way.
Different rates may also be quoted for different kinds of exchanges, such as for cash (usually notes only), a documentary form (such as traveler's checks), or electronic transfers (such as a credit card purchase). There is generally a higher exchange rate on documentary transactions (such as for traveler's checks) due to the additional time and cost of clearing the document, while cash is available for resale immediately.