10 Most Expensive Currencies in 2016 (Hint: #1 Isn’t the U.S. Dollar)

Expensive Currency in 2015As of January 19, 2016, the most expensive currency in 2016 is not the U.S. dollar, the British pound, or the euro. Surprisingly, the most valuable currencies in the world don’t always belong to the wealthiest economies.

The following list of currencies gives the U.S. dollar a run for its money when it comes to the most expensive currency in the world. All exchange rates are as of January 19, 2016.

10. Australian Dollar (AUD)

One Australian dollar buys US$0.69

The Aussie is a commodity-based currency, much like the Canadian dollar, but with the added exposure to Japan and Far East trade. 2015 was a horrendous year for the natural resource sector and that’s shown plainly enough in the currency’s value down under, but it still clinched the final spot on our top 10 most expensive currencies list.

9. Singapore Dollar (SGD)

One Singapore dollar buys US$0.70

After gaining independence in 1965, Singapore’s currency, the Singapore dollar, came into existence as a pegged currency, first to the British pound and then to the U.S. dollar. However, the currency started free floating 20 years later, giving the SGD room to run. Its value has skyrocketed as Singapore became an intellectual hub of the East. With the country beating gross domestic product (GDP) forecasts in the last two quarters, the SGD is looking strong. (Source: “TAKE A LOOK-Asia GDP: China’s Q4 growth is weakest since 2009,” Reuters, January 19, 2016.)

8. Bruneian Dollar (BND)

One Bruneian dollar buys US$0.70

Brunei is a tiny nation found in Southeast Asia. Nestled between Malaysia and the South China Sea, this little country has an extremely high GDP per capita. Although the currency has fallen from its US$0.83 peak five years ago, the Bruneian dollar still packs a big punch in global forex markets.

7. Libyan Dinar (LYD)

One Libyan dinar buys US$0.74

During the so-called Arab Spring, Libya was plunged into chaos. Its iron-fisted dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was overthrown by a raging populist movement that failed to unify the country. Nonetheless, Libya’s bountiful supply of oil kept the nation’s currency in good standing. Even after the price slump in crude, it remains number seven on our list.

6. Swiss Franc (CHF)

One Swiss franc buys US$0.99

Switzerland’s famously secretive banking sector made the national currency a safe haven for international capital. The country pegged the franc to the euro when it joined the currency union, opting for a dual system rather than choosing to abolish the franc. However, it let the franc float freely last year, causing a sharp appreciation in the CHF to USD exchange rate. (Source: “Swiss Central Bank Ready To Curb Franc Gains,” The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2016.)

5. Euro (EUR)

One euro buys US$1.09

Despite its terribly dysfunctional economic and political systems, Europe still managed to keep the euro above the U.S. dollar. It remains one of the most expensive currencies on the planet, which is tragic for anyone who likes visiting Rome or Paris. I’m personally expecting the euro to slide down the list in 2016.

4. British Pound (GBP)

One British pound buys US$1.42

While the U.S. dollar gained on most currencies in the last year, the British pound ended 2015 on a positive streak. The pound sterling is still really expensive for Americans. It’s embarrassing whenever you hand a fistful of greenbacks to currency converters and only get back little more than half that quantity. It looks like poaching Mark Carney (formerly of the Bank of Canada) to run the Bank of England was a great idea for the pound.

3. Omani Rial (OMR)

One Omani rial buys US$2.60

The Middle East has been in a bind since oil prices collapsed in the summer of 2014. Quite frankly, the real issues began when oil prices were above $100.00 a barrel, giving U.S. extractors the margins to fully develop shale technology. The resulting oversupply has decimated the crude oil market, but even so, the Omani rial is still outrageously expensive at $2.60.

2. Bahraini Dinar (BHD)

One Bahraini dinar buys US$2.65

The Bahraini dinar is certainly buoyant because of its ties to Saudi Arabia and the oil market, but it has one additional factor in its column. Bahrain is the home of an American naval base that is crucial to U.S. influence in the region. Its strategic importance gives the Kingdom of Bahrain an outsize role in foreign affairs, which has also cemented its currency’s costly stature.

1. Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)

One Kuwaiti dinar buys US$3.28

The Kuwaiti dinar is another currency that benefits from crude oil, yet its history is a tangled mess. The currency first came online in 1961, valued at 1:13.33 against the Indian rupee, then went on to be measured against a basket of other currencies. They momentarily adopted the Iraqi dinar during the Gulf War and later pegged the Kuwaiti dinar to the U.S. dollar. However, it’s been free floating since 2007 and in 2013, it became the most expensive currency in the world.

Rank Country Name Currency Name
1 Kuwait Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)
2 Bahrain Bahraini Dinar (BHD)
3 Oman Omani Rial (OMR)
4 United Kingdom British Pound (GBP)
5 European Union Euro (EUR)
6 Switzerland Swiss Franc (CHF)
7 Libya Libyan Dinar (LYD)
8 Brunei Bruneian Dollar (BND)
9 Singapore Singapore Dollar (SGD)
10 Australia Australian Dollar (AUD)