The spot exchange rate refers to the current exchange rate. The forward exchange rate refers to an exchange rate that is quoted and traded today but for delivery and payment on a specific future date.
An exchange rate quotation is given by stating the number of units of "term currency" or "price currency" that can be bought in terms of 1 unit currency (also called base currency). For example, in a quotation that says the EURUSD exchange rate is 1.3 (1.3 USD per EUR), the term currency is USD and the base currency is EUR.
There is a market convention that determines which is the base currency and which is the term currency. In most parts of the world, the order is:
EUR – GBP – AUD – NZD – USD – *** (where *** is any other currency).
Quotes using a country's home currency as the price currency (e.g., EUR 1.00 = $1.45 in the US) are known as direct quotation or price quotation (from that country's perspective) () and are used by most countries.
Quotes using a country's home currency as the unit currency (e.g., £0.4762 = $1.00 in the US) are known as indirect quotation or quantity quotation and are used in British newspapers and are also common in Australia, New Zealand and the eurozone.
direct quotation: 1 foreign currency unit = x home currency units
indirect quotation: 1 home currency unit = x foreign currency units
When looking at a currency pair such as EURUSD, the first component (EUR in this case) will be called the base currency. The second is called the term currency. For example : EURUSD = 1.33866, means EUR is the base and USD the term, so 1 EUR = 1.33866 USD.
Currency pairs are often incorrectly quoted with a "/" (forward slash). In fact if the slash is inserted, the order of the currencies should be reversed. This gives the exchange rate. e.g. if EUR1 is worth USD1.35, euro is the base currency and dollar is the term currency so the exchange rate is stated EURUSD or USD/EUR. To get the exchange rate divide the USD amount by the euro amount e.g. 1.35/1.00 = 1.35
Market convention from the early 1980s to 2006 was that most currency pairs were quoted to 4 decimal places for spot transactions and up to 6 decimal places for forward outrights or swaps. (The fourth decimal place is usually referred to as a "pip.") An exception to this was exchange rates with a value of less than 1.000 which were usually quoted to 5 or 6 decimal places. Although there is no fixed rule, exchange rates with a value greater than around 20 were usually quoted to 3 decimal places and currencies with a value greater than 80 were quoted to 2 decimal places. Currencies over 5000 were usually quoted with no decimal places (e.g. the former Turkish Lira). e.g. (GBPOMR : 0.765432 – EURUSD : 1.3386 – GBPBEF : 58.234 – EURJPY : 165.29). In other words, quotes are given with 5 digits. Where rates are below 1, quotes frequently include 5 decimal places.