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What is a Spot Transaction?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Spot transactions are financial transactions that often occur with foreign exchange purchases. The terms of this type of transaction call for immediate payment for the currency, usually at a specified rate and in the currency preferred by the seller. In some cases, the terms of a spot transaction may allow the buyer to pay for the purchase within a specified period of time, usually less than forty-eight hours after the deal is struck.

While common in currency trading deals, the concept of the spot transaction is also used in other types of purchase situations. When a buyer pays immediately for any type of goods or services that are also delivered at once, that can be said to be a form of spot transaction. From this perspective, the purchase of any type of goods and services where the buyer pays in cash, and renders the full price to the seller at the time of the purchase, can be classified as a spot transaction.

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The term spot transaction is most commonly associated with transactions that are made on the foreign exchange market. Here, a buyer identifies a currency that he or she wishes to purchase, usually with the anticipation that the currency will increase in value sufficiently over the short term so that it can be sold at a profit. Rather than using some type of delayed payment method, the buyer and the seller work out the terms of the transaction, which usually involves identifying the exact amount of a different currency that the seller will accept, and identifying the exact time frame in which payment will be rendered. While some spot transactions are instantaneous, there is often a small delay as funds are transferred to bank accounts and delivered to the seller. This can take up to two business days to accomplish, depending on the circumstances.

One of the main benefits to the seller is that a spot transaction allows access to the funds from the sale sooner rather than later. This positions the seller to make use of those funds, and the currency they are issued in, to move forward with other types of investing projects. In other situations where the delay between entering the transaction and receiving payment takes longer, the seller is not able to make use of those resources until they are actually in hand.

Buyers also benefit from a spot transaction, in that it is possible to use the acquisition immediately, including selling the recently acquired currency for another currency. Because of the fast pace of currency trading today, it is not unusual for a buyer to engage in a spot transaction involving two specific currencies, then immediately set up another transaction using the acquired currency and a third world currency. This strategy can often make efficient use of emerging changes in the relative value of different currencies in comparison to other currencies, and allow the investor to earn a significant return in a very short period of time.

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