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Exchange rates last updated Thursday, 14 December 2017 11:12:49 AM EST. The online exchange rates provided by this Currency Converter are intended as a guide only and should not be used for transactional purposes. All rates are subject to change from time to time without notice. Exchange rates used in-store may differ from those offered online. The Travelex online sell rate will be used for conversions from US Dollars to a foreign currency.
The latest on USD to BRL exchange rates
The lowdown on the Brazilian real
The Brazilian real was introduced on July 1 1994, when it replaced Brazil’s old currency, the cruzeiro real. This was all part of the Plano Real, a reform package designed to put an end to three decades of inflation across the country.
The sign for the Brazilian real is known as the cifrão and it looks very much like a dollar sign ( ). Unlike the dollar, it’s officially written with two vertical strokes instead of one, but you probably won’t find it on any computer keyboards because it’s considered a matter of font design rather than its own symbol, and is usually written as R$ instead. Also, it’s worth remembering that the plural of real is reais, not reals.
A look back at US dollar to Brazilian real rates
On the day it was introduced, the Brazilian real was defined as equal to one unidade real de valor (also known as one URV or ‘real value unit’). This URV was in turn defined to be worth 2750 of the old currency, the cruzerios real, which was the exchange rate of the US dollar to the cruzeiro real on that particular day. As a result, when it was introduced, the new real was worth exactly one US dollar.
Right after its introduction, the real started to unexpectedly gain value against the US dollar, as a result of large capital inflows across late 1994 and into 1995, reaching as much as $1.20. After this, from 1996 up until 1998, the Central Bank kept a tight control on the exchange rate, ensuring that the real depreciated slowly against the dollar, remaining at around $1 to R$1.10.
The Brazilian real devaluation
In January of 1999, the Russian default and the disruption of the international markets eventually forced the Central Bank to float Brazil’s exchange rate. This meant that the Brazilian real devalued to almost R$2 to one US dollar.
From 1999 to 2002, the real devalued gently with no real shocks – until late 2002 that is when the leftist candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came onto the scene. The financial markets considered Lula to be a radical populist and his presence lead to an increase in inflation and a currency crisis. Brazilians were worried about another default on government debt and started exchanging their reais into other currencies or into physical assets. By October 2002, the exchange rate had reached its lowest ever rate of R$4 to 1 US dollar.
However, once Lula actually took office, the crisis began to subside. Together with finance minister Antonio Palocci and Arminio Fraga, he reassured the nation that their intention was to continue the policies already in place, such as inflation-targeting and carrying on the floating exchange rate. After this, the real began to fluctuate upwards again, rising to R$2 to $1 by 2005.
Steadily increasing in value, the real became worth more than $0.50 by May 2007, the first time since 1999.
The Brazilian real over the last ten years
The real has had a somewhat tempestuous last ten years. Falling in value against the US dollar, factors such as the corruption scandal at state-owned oil company Petrobas, the subsequent downgrade by credit rating agency Moody’s and President Dilma Rousseff's austerity plan have all played a role.