Money exchange: the history of ISO 4217

February 24th, 2012

The ISO 4217 code list is used in banking and business globally and is so commonly employed in listings of money exchange rates that the codes are recognised by layman and foreign currency professionals alike. Through its ubiquity, it allows foreign exchange brokers, such as, to provide the best exchange rates in the UK.
It consists of three letters, followed by a three digit number and then a separate single digit. The first two letters designate the country code, and the third is usually the initial of the currency itself. For example, USA’s currency code is USD (US for USA and D for Dollar). The country designator is also ratified by the three digit number, which is uniquely assigned. The final digit, also known as the exponent, indicates how the foreign currency is split into minor currency units (for example, the US Dollar (USD) has 100 minor units to the major unit so have an exponent of “2” whereas the Omani Rial has 1000 minor units so has an exponent of “3”).
Of course, it is important to stress that these codes refer to currencies, not to sovereign nations per se. There are some supranational currencies, such as the Euro (EUR), which are used by many countries. There are also some currencies, such as the Tuvaluan Dollar (TVD), which are used by territories that are not independent.
In addition, there are items that do not relate to money exchange that are tabulated in the ISO 4217 code list, including some precious metals and international finance entities (e.g. bond market units). As with foreign currency, these items are so important in global trade and banking that it is imperative they were included in the coding so they could benefit from the disambiguation it provides.
By establishing these codes, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) aimed to provide a systematic idiom for international trade, where language barriers and regional business colloquialisms can sometimes suffer from confusions. Furthermore, the code allows for the differentiation between historical and current currencies so that major changes to the architecture of national money exchange markets can be articulated in the global market.
At, we are regularly grateful to the ISO 4217 coding system for the clarity it brings to our day-to-day provision of money exchange for you. With our innate understanding of how the global currency markets interweave, we are able to consistently offer the best exchange rates in the uk. Please visit our website, where we can help with all your foreign currency exchange needs.