What is currency risk?

Currency risk, also known as exchange rate risk or FX risk, can be defined as the risk that investors’ assets will be negatively affected by currency depreciation. Since currency rates are constantly changing, investors trading in different currencies should take this into account when making foreign investments. Currency fluctuations can have a significant impact on your returns, both positively and negatively.

How are investors exposed to currency risk?

If you decide to invest in a product denominated in any foreign currency, whether it is to buy or sell, the transaction will be in that currency. Therefore, a currency conversion will take place. Of course, the current exchange rate or any fluctuations can impact the price you pay as well as the performance of your portfolio.

Exchange rate risk also applies to companies that conduct business internationally. For example, if a company purchases materials overseas and that country’s currency appreciates against the local currency, the company may end up paying more for the materials than it had in the past.

Why do currencies fluctuate?

Investors interested in foreign markets may lose or gain from currency exposure. Understanding the reasons why currencies fluctuate can help you when creating your investment plan and deciding how much risk to take. Below are three main reasons why currencies fluctuate:

  • Countries’ monetary policy: Central banks can influence the demand for currency by adjusting the money supply or changing interest rates.

    Countries can influence the value of its currency by buying or selling it. Generally speaking, a country will sell its currency when it wants to decrease its value.

    If a country's interest rate increases, this can lead to an appreciation (increase in value) of its currency. High interest rates can attract money to flow into a country, which can strengthen its value. On the contrary, when the interest rate decreases, it can result in depreciation (decrease in value) of the currency.

  • Inflation: Inflation rate measures how much the average price of a basket of goods increases over a period of time. Typically, countries with higher inflation rates have lower currency values. For example, if inflation rates rise in the UK compared to the Eurozone, this means that the price of UK goods increases more quickly compared to European ones and therefore they can be less competitive. As a result, demand for GBP can decrease and thus its value.

  • Current political and economic situation: The economic and political conditions of a country have an impact on local currency. Generally speaking, if the country is politically and economically stable, investments in this country are seen to be more stable. As a result, higher demand leads to a higher value of the relevant currency.

    On the other hand, global tension, local conflicts or even wars can lead to lower demand of a local currency. This can have a major impact on the level of foreign exchange risk.

Types of currency risk

There are generally three classifications of currency risk: transaction risk, translation risk and economic risk. As an investor, it is important to understand and consider these risks when investing in foreign financial instruments.

  • Transaction risk arises when an investor is buying a product from another country and price is denominated in the foreign currency. For example,

    if the foreign currency appreciates against your home currency, it means that you will need to pay more in your home currency to make the transaction.

  • Translation risk is a risk that companies face when they deal with foreign currencies and have foreign assets on their balance sheets. In this case, when companies report their earnings, they typically have to convert the value of foreign assets back to the local currency. When exchange rates fluctuate between countries, the translation value of assets will also fluctuate. Depending on the movement of the exchange rate, a financial gain or loss will be reported.

  • Economic risk is relevant when the market value is influenced by unexpected currency fluctuations. While unavoidable, this can have a significant impact on a company. Economic risk is also referred to as forecast risk.

Currency handling at DEGIRO

Transactions in foreign currency can be handled in two ways; using the AutoFX option or holding foreign funds manually. AutoFX is the default option and we automatically convert the required amount. If you sell a stock, proceeds will also be converted back to your base currency. With Manual currency holding, you have the possibility to manually convert funds and hold foreign currency on your account. If you frequently trade in foreign currencies, the Manual function could be a more cost-effective option. An overview of the fees for both options can be found on our Fees page.

Open an account

The information in this article is not written for advisory purposes, nor does it intend to recommend any investments. Investing involves risks. You can lose (a part of) your deposit. We advise you to only invest in financial products that match your knowledge and experience.


Your investment journey starts here

Open a free account and join over 2.5 million investors worldwide on our user-friendly platform.

Investing involves risks. You can lose your invested funds. We advise you to only invest in financial products which match your knowledge and experience. This is not investment advice.

Investing places your capital at risk. Read our full warning here.


We want to empower people to become the best investors they can be. By offering a universe of possibilities and choices on our user-friendly platform, we are removing barriers to make investing accessible to everyone: beginners or experts. You get access to a wide variety of products on more than 50 global exchanges to have the freedom to invest the way you like. In our world, you also get great value for money. So, without compromising an inch on the quality, security and range of our investment services, we offer incredibly low fees. Prioritising your needs has helped us become the leading European online broker. Our 2.5+ million clients and 100+ international awards are proof of our success.

This communication is issued on behalf of flatexDEGIRO Bank AG and has been approved as a financial promotion on 3rd August 2023, for the purposes of section 21 of the Financial Services Market Act 2000 (FSMA), by Resolution Compliance Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN:574048). flatexDEGIRO Bank AG is an overseas firm which is not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. This means that the FCA Rules made under FSMA for the protection of retail clients do not apply to the services provided by flatexDEGIRO Bank AG but investors are instead protected under applicable German law and Dutch law rules that apply to flatexDEGIRO Bank AG. Investors are not protected by the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

flatexDEGIRO Bank Dutch Branch, a foreign branch of flatexDEGIRO Bank AG | Amstelplein 1, 1096HA Amsterdam | phone: +31 20 261 3072 | e-mail: clients@degiro.com | flatexDEGIRO Bank Dutch Branch is registered with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce under number 82510245. | flatexDEGIRO Bank Dutch Branch, trading under the name DEGIRO, is the Dutch branch of flatexDEGIRO Bank AG. flatexDEGIRO Bank AG is an overseas company primarily supervised by the German financial regulator (BaFin). In the Netherlands, flatexDEGIRO Bank Dutch Branch is registered with DNB and supervised by AFM and DNB. | flatexDEGIRO Bank AG is a licensed German bank supervised by the German financial regulator and registered with the German Chamber of Commerce under number HRB 105687.