Let's say you are in the market for a currency of a smaller market, perhaps Argentinian pesos or the Brazilian real. You are in for a surprise because it may not be as easy as walking in to your favorite foreign exchange retailer and ask for some of it. For example, did you know that some currencies are restricted and that selling, buying or sending money is controlled? This is called a restricted currency.
How can a currency be restricted?
It is certainly shocking to realize that your local bank often times does not carry actual currency and that if you want to exchange either US dollars or Euros you may have to place an order and wait for 4 days to get some cash on your hands. This can be an even bigger issue if you are planning to visit an exotic or obscure destination and a specialist such as B2B Pay or any other party has restricted access to the currency you need. Why is a currency restricted to begin with? Why do governments impose currency restrictions?
Before the 90s most countries in the world had restrictions in place in some shape or form. With the growth of free-market economies most countries abandoned these rules.
There are many reasons for a currency to be restricted, most of which being government imposed. For example, recently Venezuela placed restrictions in its currency in order to control the extreme devaluation of its currency.
These decisions are usually made to:
- Prevent devaluation of a currency
- Avoid capital flight
- Limit access to foreigners for business and tourism
By controlling anybody to exchange the currency, the hope is that the value of the currency remains stable.
Currency restriction types
Different currency restrictions affect citizens from certain economic blocks more than others. Most currency restriction involve some of the following:
- Straight up banning or limiting residents from holding foreign currency
- Having fixed exchange rates (rather than having them be determined by the market) or having partial control over its fluctuation.
- Prohibiting currency exchange or restricting it to government approved retailers.
- Prohibiting or restricting the use of foreign currency within the nation
- Limiting the volume of currency that may be imported or exported
Why are there so many restrictions in currencies
Supply and demand plays a key role in determining the restrictions of a currency. To make it simple, people wanting to buy a currency makes its exchange rate go up and people wanting to sell a currency makes it go down. So if an economy is in trouble, a government may limit the selling of its currency in order to artificially inflate its value.
In a similar fashion, limiting international currency exchange prevents capital flight which is the massive outflux of a currency off a market. In practice, it means that investors cannot pull their money out of a country without exchanging the local currency for that of another country. Imagine if investors all tried to sell stock at once - an economy would collapse. By placing limits on currency exchange, investors cannot sell because money would have nowhere to go.
There are instances where limiting access to foreign currency is a political decision such as in countries like Venezuela or Cuba. The same thing may happen between countries where sanctions are imposed to prevent or control business and visit rights.
In summary, currencies are restricted for economic and political reasons and since there are many types of restrictions, the degree of the results of such restrictions vary.
What are the restricted currencies?
Restrictions change all the time and this list should be treated as a guide only. We recommend calling or visiting your local bank or embassy to determine whether you may buy, sell or send any of the currencies listed below:
- Angola | Angolan kwanza | AOA
- Armenia | Armenian dram | AMD
- Bahamas | Bahamian dollar | BSD
- Barbados | Barbadian dollar | BBD
- Belize | Belize dollar | BZD
- Brazil | Brazilian real | BRL
- Cameroon | Central African franc | XAF
- Chile | Chilean Peso | PHP
- China | Chinese yuan or Chinese Renminbi | CNY
- Cuba | Cuban peso | CUP
- Egypt | Egyptian pound | EGP
- Ethiopia | Ethiopian birr | ETB
- Fiji | Fijian dollar | FJD
- Georgia | Georgian lari | GEL
- Ghana | Ghanaian cedi | GHS
- India | Indian rupee | INR
- Indonesia | Indonesian rupiah | IDR
- Iran | Iranian rial | IRR
- Sri Lanka | Sri Lankan rupee | LKR
- Libya | Libyan dinar | LYD
- Malaysia | Malaysian ringgit | MYR
- Mauritius | Mauritian rupee | MUR
- Morocco | Moroccan dirham | MAD
- Myanmar | Burmese kyat | MMK
- Namibia | Namibian dollar | NAD
- Nepal | Nepalese Rupee | NPR
- Nigeria | Nigerian naira | NGN
- North Korea | North Korean won | KPW
- Pakistan | Pakistani rupee | PKR
- Papua New Guinea | Papua New Guinean kina | PGK
- Philippines | Philippine peso | PHP
- Samoa | Samoan tala | WST
- Russia | Russian ruble | RUB
- South Africa | South African rand | ZAR
- Sudan | Sudanese pound | SDG
- Tunisia | Tunisian dinar | TND
- Ukraine | Ukrainian hryvnia | UAH
- Uzbekistan | Uzbekistani som | UZS
- Venezuela | Venezuela bolivar | VEF