How Does Currency Exchange Make Money

how does currency exchange make money


Understanding how money is made from currency exchange requires a deep dive into the realms of foreign exchange. The fluctuations in these realms spread over the globe are largely due to two major components: the transactional and operational mechanisms.

Transactional Mechanism: Bid-Ask Spread

When you visit a currency exchange agency, you may notice two rates: the buy rate (bid) and the sell rate (ask). This concept is prevalent in the world of finance. The key is that the asking price is always higher than the bid price. The difference between these two rates is known as the "spread," and it is from this differential that currency exchange businesses make a significant portion of their revenue. This profit, known as the 'margin,' is essentially the cost you pay for the convenience of converting your money without needing to negotiate directly on the forex markets.

Applying The Spread

Suppose a Canadian traveler wishes to exchange their CAD (Canadian Dollar) for USD (United States Dollar). They may go to an exchange bureau which offers a bid rate of 0.75 USD for 1 CAD, and an ask rate of 0.77 USD for 1 CAD. If they were to exchange 100 CAD, they would receive 75 USD. However, if they later return and wish to change their 75 USD back to CAD, they would receive roughly 97.40 CAD, after the exchange rate has been applied. The bureau, thus, makes a profit from the spread of this transaction - approx 2.60 CAD in this case.

Volume Trading & Interest Rate Differentials

Apart from the bid-ask spread, money changers also profit from the sheer volume of currency trading. By working on large amounts, even tiny rate differences can translate into significant absolute earnings. Additionally, profit can also be generated from interest rate differentials, especially for banks and financial institutions. They can borrow money in one currency with a low-interest rate and then lend it in another currency with a higher interest rate.

Forward Contracts and Future Agreements

Businesses dealing in foreign currency can lock their rates through forward contracts and future agreements. They agree to buy or sell foreign currency at a future date, at a rate decided now. If the exchange rates move favorably in the future, they make a profit, and if not, they have hedged their losses.

Spread Betting and Currency Speculation

Currency speculation or trading in a forex market is another way of making money. Money exchange shops, traders, and banks bet on the movement of currency rates and make profits from correct predictions. However, this involves risk, and professionals with a high understanding of international markets usually undertake it.


Making money from currency exchange is not as simple as it appears. It involves understanding several factors like bid-ask spread, volume trading, forward contracts, currency speculation, and more. The forex market operates 24/7, and it demands constant attention to the economic, financial, and political developments worldwide, from the ancient city exchanges to digital trading platforms.