Currency Code: A Complete Guide

Currency codes, a fundamental aspect of international money transfers, are a universal method of identifying currencies. These three-letter codes, established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ensure clarity and prevent misunderstandings in global financial transactions. This article provides an in-depth exploration of currency codes, their structure, and their crucial role in international money transfers.

Understanding Currency Codes

Currency codes are three-letter abbreviations that uniquely identify a country’s currency. These codes are established and maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) under the standard ISO 4217. The ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organisation that develops standards to ensure the quality, safety, and efficiency of products, services, and systems.

The ISO 4217 standard defines three elements: alpha codes, numeric codes, and minor unit. The alpha codes are the three-letter codes we commonly use, such as USD for United States Dollar or GBP for British Pound Sterling. Numeric codes are also defined, particularly useful when a currency symbol might not be recognised. The minor unit refers to a fractional monetary unit, such as cents to a dollar or pence to a pound.

Currency codes are used in various financial transactions, including banking, business, and, most notably, international money transfers. They provide a universal method of identifying currencies, reducing the risk of costly errors in transactions.

Structure of Currency Codes

The structure of currency codes is straightforward and systematic. Each code consists of three letters. The first two letters are derived from the country’s ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code, which is generally the country’s two-letter abbreviation. The third letter is typically the initial of the currency itself.

For instance, consider the British pound sterling, represented by the code GBP. Here, ‘GB’ stands for Great Britain, and ‘P’ represents pound. Similarly, for the Japanese yen, the code is JPY, where ‘JP’ signifies Japan and ‘Y’ denotes yen.

This systematic approach to forming currency codes ensures that each code is unique and easily identifiable, thereby facilitating smooth international financial transactions.

Importance of Currency Codes in International Money Transfers

Currency codes play a pivotal role in international money transfers. They serve as a universal language in the global financial ecosystem, ensuring that money sent from one country reaches the correct destination in another.

  1. Clarity in Transactions: Currency codes eliminate ambiguity in international transactions. For instance, a money transfer from the UK to the US would involve converting GBP (British Pound Sterling) to USD (United States Dollar). The use of these codes ensures both sender and recipient understand the currencies involved.
  2. Determining Exchange Rates: Currency codes are integral to determining exchange rates. Exchange rates are typically quoted as a pair of currency codes, like GBP/USD, representing the amount of the second currency (USD) you can exchange for one unit of the first currency (GBP).
  3. Automating Financial Processes: In the digital age, many financial processes are automated. Currency codes allow systems to process international transactions accurately and efficiently, reducing the risk of human error.

Common Currency Codes and Their Countries

Here are some common currency codes used in international money transfers, along with their corresponding countries:

  1. USD: United States Dollar – United States
  2. GBP: British Pound Sterling – United Kingdom
  3. EUR: Euro – Eurozone countries
  4. JPY: Japanese Yen – Japan
  5. AUD: Australian Dollar – Australia
  6. CAD: Canadian Dollar – Canada
  7. CHF: Swiss Franc – Switzerland
  8. CNY: Chinese Yuan – China
  9. INR: Indian Rupee – India
  10. BRL: Brazilian Real – Brazil

These codes, among others, are used daily in millions of transactions, making international money transfers a seamless process. It’s important to note that not all countries have their own unique currency or currency code. For instance, many countries in Europe use the Euro (EUR), and several countries around the world use the United States Dollar (USD) as their official currency.

How to Find Currency Codes

If you need to find the currency code for a specific country or currency, there are several resources available:

  1. ISO Website: The International Organization for Standardization maintains a comprehensive list of all currency codes on its website. This list is updated whenever there are changes, such as when a new country is added or a country changes its currency.
  2. Financial News and Websites: Financial news sites and currency exchange websites often use currency codes when discussing exchange rates and international finance. These sites usually have a currency converter tool that includes the currency codes.
  3. Banks and Money Transfer Services: Banks and international money transfer services use currency codes in their operations. If you’re making an international transfer, the bank or service will specify the currency code of the currency you’re sending and the currency you’re sending to.
  4. Online Search: A simple online search with the country name followed by “currency code” will typically provide the correct code. For example, searching “Japan currency code” will show that the currency code for the Japanese Yen is JPY.

Remember, it’s crucial to use the correct currency code when making international money transfers to ensure your money reaches the right place.

Table of Common Currency Codes

Currency CodeCurrency NameCountry
JPYJapanese YenJapan
GBPBritish PoundUK
AUDAustralian DollarAustralia
CADCanadian DollarCanada
CHFSwiss FrancSwitzerland
CNYChinese YuanChina
SEKSwedish KronaSweden
NZDNew Zealand DollarNew Zealand
MXNMexican PesoMexico
SGDSingapore DollarSingapore
HKDHong Kong DollarHong Kong
NOKNorwegian KroneNorway
KRWSouth Korean WonSouth Korea
TRYTurkish LiraTurkey
RUBRussian RubleRussia
INRIndian RupeeIndia
BRLBrazilian RealBrazil
ZARSouth African RandSouth Africa
DKKDanish KroneDenmark
PLNPolish ZlotyPoland
THBThai BahtThailand
IDRIndonesian RupiahIndonesia
HUFHungarian ForintHungary
CZKCzech KorunaCzech Republic
ILSIsraeli New ShekelIsrael
CLPChilean PesoChile
PHPPhilippine PesoPhilippines
AEDUAE DirhamUnited Arab Emirates
COPColombian PesoColombia
SARSaudi RiyalSaudi Arabia
MYRMalaysian RinggitMalaysia
RONRomanian LeuRomania


  1. How are Currency Codes Determined?

    Currency codes are determined by the ISO. The first two letters of the code are usually the country's ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code, and the third letter is typically the first letter of the currency itself.

  2. Can a Country Change its Currency Code?

    Yes, a country can change its currency code if it introduces a new currency. For example, when the Euro was introduced, the countries that adopted it changed their currency codes to EUR.

  3. Are Currency Codes and Country Codes the Same?

    No, currency codes and country codes are not the same. While both are standardized by the ISO, a country code is a two-letter code that represents a country, while a currency code is a three-letter code that represents a currency.

  4. Can a Country Have More Than One Currency Code?

    Yes, a country can have more than one currency code if it has more than one official currency. For example, Panama uses both the Panamanian balboa (PAB) and the US dollar (USD).

  5. What Happens to the Currency Code When Countries Merge or Split?

    When countries merge or split, the currency code may change depending on whether a new currency is introduced. For example, when Sudan split into Sudan and South Sudan, South Sudan introduced a new currency and received the currency code SSP.

  6. Are Currency Codes Used in All International Transactions?

    Yes, currency codes are used in all international financial transactions, including money transfers, to ensure clarity and prevent errors. They are also used in business and travel to denote currency exchange rates.