Who sets the rates? Common questions about currency exchange rates

Ever wondered where the rates come from, and how they can impact you? We answer some common questions in this guide to exchange rates.

Xe Consumer

February 3, 2021 5 min read

Checking foreign currency exchange rates

Who's in charge of setting currency exchange rates? If you've ever sent money overseas or checked the rates, this is a question that may have definitely crossed your mind. Who decides what is the value of money, and why do rates fluctuate that much during the day?

It’s normal to wonder, and fortunately for you, we’ve got the answers to those questions and more.

How do currency exchange rates work?

Every country in the world has its own currency, and each of these currencies is valued differently. When you exchange one currency for another, you're actually buying money, just in a different currency than the one used in your country.

The exchange rate tells you how much the currency used in your country is worth in foreign currency. The rates constantly change for some countries, whereas others use fixed exchange rates. As a rule of thumb, a country's social and economic outlook is the main factor that influences the currency exchange rate.

That’s the quick answer. If you’re in the mood for a more in-depth look, check out our previous blog post.

What are the main types of exchange rates?

The main types of rates are variable (or flexible) and fixed rates.

Most countries have variable currency exchange rates, which are determined by the foreign exchange market. Because these rates are flexible, they fluctuate every minute, often influenced by market movements, political events, economic forecasts, and more. 

Countries such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Mexico all use flexible exchange rates. It's important to note that even though government policies can influence currency exchange rates, the government can't actually regulate them. The rates are always determined by Forex traders on the foreign exchange market.

Several countries use fixed currency rates, and that is because the government dictates when the rates change. This is the case for the Saudi Arabian riyal, for example. The fixed rates are pegged to the U.S. dollar, and the central bank in the countries that use this system holds U.S. dollars to keep the rate fixed. 

How do forex traders establish currency exchange rates?

The market forces of supply and demand are the main factors that determine currency exchange rates. The level of demand for a currency determines its value in relationship with other currencies. For example, if the demand for British pounds by Americans increases, the supply-demand forces will cause an increase of the British pound's price in relation to the dollar.

The exchange rates between two countries are affected by countless factors, both geopolitical and economic. Some of the most common of them include:

  • Inflation reports

  • Interest rate changes

  • Gross domestic product numbers

  • Unemployment rates.

Forex traders take all these factors and more into account when establishing currency exchange rates. If a country has a strong economy that's growing, investors will be interested in buying its goods and services, which means that they'll need more of its currency.

On the other hand, when a country has an unstable economy, investors will be put off and less willing to invest, which means that the currency will not be highly valued. Investors always want to make sure they will get paid back before deciding to hold government bonds in a particular currency. 

How do exchange rates affect you?

The value of money affects every individual on a daily basis, as the prices of essentials such as groceries and gas at the pump are correlated to it. When the value of money declines steadily over time, it causes inflation, and the result of that is a price increase for everything, including basic goods.

If you're traveling or making a payment to another country that uses a different currency, it's important to check for exchange rate values and plan your finances accordingly. Many people check whether the currency of the country of their destination is strong or weak before booking a vacation. That's because a weak currency in the destination country means that you can buy more of it with your own currency, so you have more money to spend on your trip.

How can you get the best rates when sending money overseas?

As we’ve said before, unfortunately there’s no specific time where you can guarantee you’ll get a great rate. But there are a few things you can do to help yourself out.

If you're transferring money to someone in another country, you need to look carefully at your options, as some transfer methods are more expensive than others. For example, if you're using your bank to make a transfer, you'll often need to pay a fee on top of the exchange rates set by the bank, which are usually disadvantageous.

By using an online money transfer service such as Xe, you can save money on fees and get great exchange rates. Your money will also reach its destination faster, and the entire process of making the transfer is easy both on the website and the mobile app. 

See for yourself! Log in or sign up to get a quote for your money transfer, and compare it to what you get from your local bank.

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