What is a fiat currency? Fiat money definition IG International
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What is a fiat currency? Fiat money definition IG International

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Fiat money gives authorities a lot of control over its supply and value. Gresham's law applies the principle that bad money drives out good money and relates to currency markets. Full BioSuzanne is a content marketer, writer, and fact-checker. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree from Bridgewater State University and helps develop content strategies for financial brands.

What Are Alternatives to Fiat Money?

Nowadays, almost all countries have fiat money as a legal tender. Although gold coins could be an alternative to fiat money since you can buy and sell them, they are not commonly used for everyday purchases.Cryptocurrency is another fiat money alternative that's on the rise. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin could be used in the future as the main form of currency, but for now, it's still not widely accepted.

Surrounded by uncertainty as to what its value will be the next day or even within an hour, use of it in any business can be detrimental. Any government or entities that want to use gold-backed currencies need to have a huge gold reserve to back all the currency units they have. Basing on the example above, if a government gold reserve only has 1 billion grams of gold, then it could only produce 1 billion units. But recklessly producing lots of paper money could potentially affect its value.

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Fiat money is not backed by any physical reserves; instead, fiat money finds its value in the faith of the holder and the government that accepts it as legal tender. What’s more, since a government charges tax in the currency it issues, the fiat money also gets its value through this relation. Every country in the world has a fiat currency that they have accepted as the legal tender. Euro is one of the strongest fiat currency examples, which is the currency of Europe.

  • It enabled the country to borrow by offering US Treasuries to investors without accumulating more gold.
  • The birth of a new currency is supported by a promise of the government to be fiscally responsible in handling the printing of money.
  • Fiat money is the term used to describe currencies that are backed by the government that issued them and aren't aren't tied to the value of a physical commodity such as gold or silver.
  • In a commodity-backed money system, the commodity is not directly traded.
  • Stability also allows fiat money to act as a means of storing value and facilitating exchange.

Fiat money is currency issued by a government that is backed by the authority and power of that government and its economy, rather than a physical commodity. The system also promotes the boom-and-bust cycle in the economy. In his 1949 paper “Human Action,” Austrian economist and sociologist Ludwig von Mises asserted that currency not tied to commodity allows a government to expand the money supply. When used to stimulate the economy, expanding the money supply further and further would lead to an inevitable collapse of the monetary and economic system. Federal agencies and Central Banks work together to determine how much of a certain fiat currency is in circulation globally, and if there is a requirement for more.

The Pros and Cons of Fiat Currencies

The fiat definition states that all currencies whose values are not pinned by physical assets are categorised as fiat. Just like the US dollar, for instance, it doesn’t have any real asset like gold, silver, or some other physical commodity backing its value. Central banks can ‘print’ an almost infinite amount – perhaps only being restricted by the amount of paper it requires. For instance, we only need to look at Venezuela as an example. Its currency, the Bolivar Fuerte, replaced the original Bolivar, but inflation still increased by thousands.

Fiat money brings stability, partially because of the previously mentioned advantages. As the money supply can react to increasing economic output, it is able to represent the goods available much more effectively. It is cheaper and easier to produce, so it can enter the market in a short period of time. So you need someone to mine it, transport it, mould it where necessary, and then finally store it.

Production of Fiat Money

Fiat money's relative stability and the ability of central banks to control the supply and manage the economy is one of its biggest advantages. It allows for ease of regulation and control over the supply. This authority over money supply allows central banks and governments to manage variables such as credit supply, interest rates, and money velocity.

But as advantages of fiat money, the law recognizes it as an acceptable means to pay debts, taxes, and other financial obligations. After the gold standard collapsed, paper money was no longer supported by any commodity. Thus, fiat money has no intrinsic value because the paper to make it is worth much less than the nominal stated on the banknote. We consider it valuable because the government guarantees it as legal tender. So, everyone is willing to accept and use it in economic transactions. And it has been gaining acceptance in government and business.

Why is it called fiat currency?

Centralization refers to the fact that a central authority, such as a government or central bank, has the sole power to issue and regulate the supply of currency. This central authority is responsible for setting monetary policy and deciding how much currency to produce and distribute via the financial system. Because it isn’t backed by commodities, fiat currency gives central banks greater control over the economy.

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Unlike the fiat currency system, representative money didn’t give policymakers the flexibility to produce more cash as needed. We saw a great example of fiat monies and the ability to control interest rates, money supply, and liquidity with the central bank’s response to the Great Recession in 2008. The ability to control those aspects of the money helped lessen the blow to LTC both the U.S. and global economies.

Due to its ability to store purchasing power, people can make plans with ease and create specialized economic activities. For example, a business dealing with mobile phone assembly can buy new equipment, hire and pay employees, and expand into other regions. Century, the government and banks had promised to allow the conversion of notes and coins into their nominal commodity on demand. However, the high cost of the American Civil War and the need to rebuild the economy forced the government to cancel the redemption. Fiat money serves as a good currency if it can handle the roles that a nation's economy needs of its monetary unit—storing value, providing a numerical account, and facilitating exchange. It also has excellent seigniorage, meaning it is more cost-efficient to produce than a currency directly tied to a commodity.

However, around 1000 AD, China implemented the first instance of paper money due to the exceedingly high demand for precious metals. How does fiat money differ from commodities, like gold or silver, that were used as money? Since its first introduction, cryptocurrency has been subject to much debate about whether it can be better than fiat currency.


"It's not used as advantages of fiat money yet, transactionally, very much, because of that short-term volatility in purchasing power," Edstrom says of Bitcoin. The views expressed on this blog are those of the bloggers, and not necessarily those of Intuit. Third-party blogger may have received compensation for their time and services. This blog does not provide legal, financial, accounting or tax advice. The content on this blog is "as is" and carries no warranties.

Federal Reserve has a dual mandate to keep the unemployment rate and inflation rate low. Fiat currency is not supported by any physical commodity, but by the faith of its holders and virtue of a government declaration. Paper money acts as a storage medium for purchasing power and an alternative to the barter system. It allows people to buy products and services as they need without having to trade product for product, as was the case with barter trade.

In the South African country Zimbabwe, devastating hyperinflation occurred to the point where they had to abandon the Zimbabwean dollar. This hyperinflation began in the late 1990s and reached its peak in 2008. The U.S. dollar is one of the reserve currencies in the world, along with the euro, British pound sterling, Japanese yen, and Chinese yuan. This reinforces the stability of the U.S. dollar as the U.S. The United States Mint carries out the production of physical bills and coins in the United States.

The purchasing power of money for goods and services falls in a short time, making people unwilling to hold onto money. In the past, money was made of precious metals such as gold and silver. Some of the other commodities used are copper, cocoa beans, salt, and pepper.

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