Below you will find out the highs, lows & trends of the British Pound to US Dollar rate, why you should be wary of forecasts, and how to achieve a better rate.
I've put this page together to help give you a better understanding of the GBP/USD rate.
Strongest GBP to USD rate ever
The Pound to Dollar rate reached a high of $2.649 on 6th Mar 1972. That remains the strongest the Pound has been against USD since it freely floated in 1971.
Prior to the 1970s, the Pound to Dollar rate was fixed at a level set by the British government.
For much of the 1800s and early 1900s, the rate was maintained at around $5 for every £1.
In 1940, the British government devalued the Pound to around $4 for every £1. Two further devaluations occurred in the 1960s before the Pound became a freely floating currency in 1971.
Weakest GBP to USD rate ever
The Pound to Dollar rate reached an all-time low of $1.054 on 25th Feb 1985. The fall in the rate was more a function of US Dollar strength than British Pound weakness.
A doubling in the oil price led to high inflation in the 1980s. To combat inflation, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates above 20%. This led to huge international capital inflows into the US and a surge in the value of the Dollar.
Is GBP stronger than USD?
In nominal terms, £1 is worth more than $1. So at face value, the British Pound is stronger than the US Dollar.
However, the value of one currency compared to another is not a true indicator of strength, wealth or power.
A better way to measure a currency's strength is through its relative movement over time. Over the past 50 years, the Pound has halved in value against the US Dollar.
How did Brexit affect GBP/USD?
The British Pound fell 13% against the US Dollar in the two weeks following the Brexit referendum. The Pound fell in value as Brexit created uncertainty for trade, emigration and the legal system going forward.
How did Coronavirus impact GBP/USD?
The GBP to USD exchange rate fell 12% within the space of two weeks in March 2020. Investors sold the Pound in favour of the perceived safety of the US Dollar.
Why Pound to Dollar rates are often ‘fake’?
It’s easy to get a Pound to Dollar rate off the internet these days.
Even Google automatically gives you a rate.
There are also dozens of websites such as XE, FX Street, Oanda and Daily FX, that provide live GBP/USD rates, charts and news.
But when it comes to moving your money (in the real world!), customers are often in for a shock.
That's because they find out that the rates they’ve seen online are not actually genuine customer rates.
This important fact is usually buried away somewhere in a disclaimer.
If you dig around you will see words like “for information purposes only” or “not transactional rates”.
The GBP/USD rates you see online are something called 'interbank rates'.
Interbank rates are used by the banks to exchange currencies between themselves for the purposes of balancing their books - they are not customer rates.
Even large companies and currency brokers, who trade huge volumes of currencies everyday, don't buy at interbank rates.
When customers use interbank rates to make life plans, it creates a false expectation.
If you are looking to convert Pounds into Dollars and want to budget effectively, I would suggest requesting a genuine quote from a bank or currency broker.
British Pound to US Dollar chart (last 50 years explained)
Key lessons from history:
- Overall, the GBP/USD rate has halved in value over the last 50 years.
- Volatility was extreme in the 1970s and 1980s but has since moderated.
- Most of the big moves were triggered by major events. Major events often have multi-year effects.
- There's usually at least one 'major event' per decade.
- Periods of stability eventually get disrupted by things like war, natural disaster, financial or political crises, and more recently Coronavirus.
- Peaks and troughs are a natural occurrence for exchange rates.
- Over shorter timeframes, factors such as economic data, political news and investor speculation impact the rate.
Can you trust GBP to USD forecasts? (Hint: No)
According to Google, 22,000 people search for a British Pound to US Dollar forecast every month.
I get why.
We all want to know what the future holds: a bad exchange rate can cost you a lot of money.
But a word of warning: just because you find some 'experts opinion' on the internet, it doesn’t mean it can be trusted.
Generally speaking, the exchange rate forecasts I have found online are a load of rubbish.
You are better off flipping a coin.
The fact is with any kind of forecast; there is always a mixture of opinions.
And that's the point.
If something was unanimously agreed upon, it would already be embedded in today's exchange rate.
As the expression goes "If you're reading about it, it's already in the price."
It's only things that are presently unknown that will move the rate.
Who can honestly predict future unknown events with any sort of reliability or consistency?
If they could, they certainly wouldn't be bragging about it on TV or writing an online blog. They would make billions trading currencies.
I wouldn’t rely on any financial clairvoyant – especially if they're hiding behind fancy technical terms.
I prefer the old adage: Trade what you see.
Next, I'll explain how I deal with the volatility inherent in exchange rates.
Getting the best US Dollar rate
While I’m not a fan of forecasts (particularly long-dated ones), I still think it’s important to keep a close eye on exchange rates.
You’ve seen from the chart above that exchange rates are prone to large swings.
For a client’s perspective, the daily volatility represents both opportunities for buyers and sellers.
No matter what your timeframe – a day, a week, a month or a year – there will always be underlying trends, periods of stability and inflection (turning) points.
As a currency broker, we seek to take advantage of the best opportunities and work with our clients to achieve a more favourable exchange rate.
By having a currency broker on your side, they can monitor the rate for you and let you know when it moves in your favour.
I haven’t met many clients who want to sit and watch the rate all day.
They have neither the time nor the inclination.
However, a currency broker watches the exchange rates continuously as part of their job.
Sometimes a single piece of news, like the latest Budget or Presidential tweet, can trigger a move.
You may be looking out for a specific rate or simply appreciate someone letting you know if there is a big swing in your favour.
I should point out that this part of our service is not available at many other brokers.
Banks certainly won't give you any guidance on rates. That's not their area of expertise.
And even within the money transfer industry, most providers are just online-only platforms or apps.
Some of the better known online platforms are PayPal, Transferwise, and CurrencyFair. They give you access to a platform that quotes you a live rate, and you have to do the rest.
That suits some people, but not everyone.
I know from experience, a lot of people would rather have some guidance and assistance with their transfer, particularly if the sum involved is large.
Logically, the more money you are looking to transfer, the more timing and costs matter.
Even small, fractional moves in the US Dollar rate can have a big impact on the money you receive.
On a money transfer of say £50,000, if the rate moved against you by just 1% rate, it would cost you an extra £500.
Swings of that size often happen every single day.
No one has a crystal ball, but I always think it's better to be alert to opportunities and risks than just accept whatever rate is in front of you.
Through considered timing, it's possible to achieve a substantially better exchange rate.
Who are we?
I am one of the Directors at Key Currency – one of the UK’s leading currency specialists.
We’ve helped thousands of people send money abroad.
The cost of our money transfer service is included within the exchange rate we quote you. There are no additional fees or charges whatsoever.
As an independent currency specialist, we have far lower overheads than the banks, enabling us to pass on the savings to you.
And unlike banks and online-only systems, we don’t make you do everything yourself.
All our customers are allocated an account manager (yes - a real person) who can offer guidance on rates, assist you with your transfer and answer any questions you may have.
It makes the process a lot smoother and less stressful for our customers.
We have attained a 5-star “Excellent” rating on the customer review website Trustpilot; the highest rating available.
Protection and security of funds is our top priority. Key Currency is an FCA regulated Authorised Payment Institution (No. 753989), and as such, all money transfers are conducted through safeguarded client accounts.
If you would like to compare our rates to your bank or existing provider, please request a quote below.