Brazilian Currency: A Guide to the Brazilian Real

November 18th, 2021

As the largest country in South America, Brazil is consistently in the spotlight. Whether it’s for the dynamic (to put it mildly) political situation or for the world-renowned culture, people always want to know what’s happening in Brazil. And as an extension, Brazilian currency – the real – is the focus of many investors and travelers.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you would like to know about Brazilian currency in a short, 5-minute read. You can read about its origin and development, learn about some modern trends, and find where you can exchange Brazilian reals. But first, we’ll start off with the basics.

Brazilian Real Basics

The international currency code for the Brazilian real is BRL and the currency symbol is R$. The Brazilian currency is a decimal currency, i.e. one Brazilian real can be divided into 100 centavos. The Central Bank of Brazil is the issuing authority.

Denominations of the Real

Brazilian money comes in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos, and 1 R$ coins, while banknotes come in denominations of R$2, R$5, R$10, R$20, R$50, R$100, and R$200. R$1 banknotes still exist and can be found in circulation, but the R$1 banknote has been discontinued since 2005.

The Brazilian real was issued in two series – one from 1994 and the other from 2010. The banknotes of the newer series have added security enhancements and they are of different sizes to help vision-impaired people distinguish between them.

In addition, commemorative R$10 banknotes were issued in 2000 to commemorate the 500th year of the Portuguese arrival to Brazil. The commemorative banknotes feature Pedro Álvares Cabral on the obverse, while all the other banknotes display the Efígie da República on the obverse.

What Is the Currency Exchange Rate for the Real?

1 USD is worth approximately 5.54 BRL as of November 2021. However, because exchange rates fluctuate daily, you can always use this currency converter to check the current currency exchange rate. If you would like to receive notifications to your email when the rate for the real changes, you can sign up for this free exchange alert service.

The History of Brazilian Currency

The history of currency in Brazil can be traced back to the Portuguese arrival in the 16th century. The Portuguese real was used from the 16th to 18th century, when it was replaced by the old Brazilian real. However, since the mid-20th century, the currencies used in Brazil changed rather rapidly. Namely, the following currencies were used before the modern real:

  • The first cruzeiro, from 1942 to 1967
  • The cruzeiro novo, from 1967 to 1970
  • The cruzado, from 1986 to 1989
  • The cruzado, novo from 1989 to 1993
  • The cruzeiro, real from 1993 to 1994

The Modern Brazilian Real

Brazilian Currency

The Brazilian currency currently in use – the real – was introduced on July 1, 1994. It was introduced as part of an economic plan, called the Plano Real, which was intended to combat high degrees of inflation. The plan worked and mostly stabilized the Brazilian currency and economy.

When it was introduced, 1 BRL was worth 1 USD. What’s more, the real gained on the USD in the next few years and by 1995 1 BRL was worth approximately 1.20 USD, which was also the highest value the real ever had.

In this period and up until 1999, the exchange rate was controlled by the Central Bank of Brazil, which allowed the real to stay relatively close to the dollar. By 1998, 1.2 BRL was worth around 1 USD. However, economic instability caused by both internal and external factors forced the Brazilian government to institute a floating exchange rate for the real in 1999.

Since that time, the exchange rate of the real has seen significant fluctuations. By 2003, around 1 USD = 3.52 BRL, then by 2010, 1 USD = 1.66 BRL, by 2017, 1 USD = 3 BRL, etc. In short, the exchange rate of the real is far from stable. But that is one of the main reasons investors are interested in it.

What Is Happening to the Real Currently?

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Brazilian economy has suffered. Consequently, the Brazilian currency has also depreciated, reaching historic lows. Conversely, there are indications that the Brazilian economy is stabilizing and that the real might follow, or even appreciate.

Further, Brazil is widely considered an emerging market economy and there are always predictions that it could rise to become a global economic powerhouse, which could also lead to an appreciation of the real. However, many factors influence the value of a currency and no prediction can ever be certain.

Where Is the Brazilian Real Used?

Unlike some other currencies, the real is only used in Brazil. On the other hand, there’s no limit to what you can do with the real in Brazil. Do you wish to visit this (in)famous Brazilian wax museum? You’ll need reals for admittance. We’re being a bit facetious, but the point is that the Brazilian real is the only widely-accepted currency in the largest country in South America.

Where Can You Buy the Real?

US First Exchange enables you to exchange exotic currencies from all over the world, online and with a few simple clicks. When you exchange Brazilian reals with us, you will receive high-grade banknotes delivered right to your doorstep within 24 – 48 hours.

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