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Foreign exchange refers to the act of changing one nation's currency to another's. Today forex can refer to currency trading, where investors are trying to make a profit, the same way as a stock trader would. FX can also apply to those exchanging money for personal or business use. Foreign exchange can particularly be important if you're sending money home to family, invest in a foreign country, or have clients located overseas.
Currencies are traded through electronic communications networks (ECNs) – to the tune of $7.5 trillion per day (as of April 2022). The forex market is the largest financial market in the world, covering companies investing in foreign companies, tourists exchanging money and traders looking to leverage rates to turn a profit.
Factors that affect how a country's currency trades include inflation rates, political developments, monetary policy and foreign trade. Other factors are consumer confidence about the economy and economic growth, monetary policies in other countries, investor speculation and news about elections, new government policies and natural disasters.
You have many options when it comes to converting currencies, with each appealing to a specific situation.
Many foreign exchange providers offer flexible tools that can insulate you against rapidly fluctuating market exchange rates – and help you better predict when it's best to complete your exchange. These hedging and planning tools include:
While some providers offer competitive rates but higher fees, others could offer lower fees but weaker rates. Weigh rates and fees against convenience and compare at least three providers – banks and online specialists – before deciding on a service.
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