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Brazil's currency unit is the real (plural = reais) and is made up of 100 centavos and written using the symbol R$. The currency exchange symbol for the real is BRL.  The real has been relatively stable for Brazil since its introduction in June, 1994. The rampant inflation of the early 1990's (often amounting to over 1% per day) is now only a distant memory.

The real is issued in denominations of 1 real (as both a note that is no longer being produced and a coin), 2 reais, 5 reais, 10 reais, 20 reais, 50 reais and 100 reais notes. Centavos are issued in denominations of 1 centavo (no longer produced and now VERY rare), 5 centavos, 10 centavos,  25 centavos and 50 centavos.

 
At its introduction in June, 1994, the exchange rate of the real was essentially on a  par with the US dollar. Since then, it has fluctuated widely and at one point, in mid August, 2000, dropped as low as R$ 4.03 = USD$ 1.00. However, since then, the Brazilian real has made the most impressive gains against the US dollar of any currency in the world and continues to do so.

At the end of 2009, the U.S. dollar was near an eight year low against the real, having lost a whopping 33+% of its value during 2009 alone. During the past 12 month period, the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar (USD) has fluctuated from a low of (BRL) R$1.5310 to a high of (BRL) R$1.7790. Throughout 2010, the U.S. dollar generally maintained a day-to-day exchange rate between (BRL) R$1.70 and (BRL) R$1.80, occasionally dipping below the (BRL) R$1.70 level. However, 2011 has thus far been devastating to the dollar. By late July, 2011, the dollar has fallen as low as R$1.5310, its lowest level since way before 2008 when the global financial crisis began.

In April, 2010, the Brazilian Central Bank raised interest rates in the country, which had as its result the strengthening of the real and the weakening of the dollar. The real reached a quarterly high of 1.7205 in April 2010, two days after the Brazilian Central Bank raised the benchmark interest rate 0.75 percentage point to 9.5 percent. Since then, the Brazilian Central Bank has raised the benchmark interest rate to 12.5% in an attempt to curb inflation. While some do not see the central Bank raising interest rates again in 2011, there are many who expect at least one more raise of 0.25% before the end of 2011 if inflation continues.

During 2010 and on into 2011, the Central Bank of Brazil has held numerous spot auctions to buy U.S. dollars in their efforts to weaken the real and, thereby, make Brazilian exports less costly on the world market. On May 6, 2010, the real declined the most in almost a year and a half, primarily based upon concerns about Greece’s financial crisis and the worry that the crisis may spread to other European nations, including Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. But this was only temporary. The real continues its climb against the dollar as well as other currencies.

For the latest, up to the minute exchange rate for the Brazilian real to/from US dollars, euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, etc., visit our online Currency Converter. and (for historical exchange rates of up to five years)  visit http://finance.yahoo.com/currency. Information about Brazilian banking and banks is also available as well as examples of all the most current Brazilian banknotes and coins in circulation including their reverse / obverse sides. Also included are the designs of new series of banknotes that started being issued in late 2010.

You may see different exchange rates listed in various places as commercial, bank, tourist and/or parallel. All are usually within a few points of the others. The commercial or bank rate is the rate most often used in commercial transactions as well as the one most often used (but not always) by online currency converters. The tourist rate is just what it implies, the exchange rate a tourist can expect if exchanging, for example, dollars for reais at an airport, bank, hotel, authorized money exchange or travel agency. The tourist rate is usually a little less  than the commercial or bank rate. The parallel rate is often the basis used by cambistas (black market money changers). For all rates, there is also a different rate depending upon whether you're buying or selling reais or buying or selling another currency (e.g. dollars, euros, pounds, yen, etc.).

Caution! Especially when dealing with money, keep in mind that, in Brazil, the use of commas (,) and periods (.) expressed in numerals is exactly the opposite of what is used in the United States. Brazilians use a period (.) instead of a comma (,) —to delineate thousands— and a comma (,) instead of a period (.) —to delineate fractions. Normally, an amount in reais is written as R$, consequently, R$ 6,00 (with a comma) is six reais and R$ 6.000 (with a period) is six thousand reais. Likewise, for amounts with fractions (centavos), it's 1.045,25 instead of 1,045.25 (one thousand, forty five reais and twenty five centavos) or R$ 10,25 instead of R$ 10.25 (ten reais and twenty five centavos).

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