Balance of Payments Definition, Examples & Account types Team

Balance of payments refers to the difference between inflow and outflow of money in a given timeframe. It’s abbreviated to BOP or BoP. It outlines all transactions between individuals, businesses, and government organizations within a nation and individuals, businesses, and government organizations outside the territory.

Definition of Balance of Payments

The balance of payments (BOP) is the system through which countries track all foreign financial transactions during a given time period. The BOP is usually estimated every semester and every year. It is used to account for any money transfer into or out of a state.

Balance of Payments Definition

The Balance of Payments (BOP) is a record that tracks all financial transactions among citizens of a country and the world at large over a specific time period. This statement lists all transactions made by/to individuals, corporations, and the govt, and aids in the tracking of finances for economic development.

The BOP is divided into two sections: the current account (CA) and the capital and financial account (CFA) (CFA). A payment that produces a liability, such as selling a bond to a foreign government, is recorded in the capital and financial account. However, if a trade does not create a liability (such as the expensive red automobiles), it is recorded in the current account.

The balance of payments of a nation indicates whether it is saving enough to cover for its imports. It also tells whether the economy is sufficient to fund its expansion. The BOP is reported quarterly or annually.

When a country has a balance of payments deficit, it implies that the country is importing more products, services, and investment than it exports. To compensate for its imports, it must loan money from other countries. It's similar to getting a home loan to pay off your mortgage. The predicted increase in real estate prices makes the investment worthwhile.

In a perfect circumstance, where all of the components are accurately shown in the BOP, it ought to be zero. This means that money inflows and outflows are equal. In most instances, this does not occur optimally. BOP tracking is comparable to that of a double-entry financial accounting. There will be a debt entry and a credit side for every trade.

Understanding what balance of payments means is crucial to understanding international economics and how the international markets function.

Examples of Balance of Payments

Foreign funds are classified as credit and documented in the BOP when they come to a country. In the BOP, expenditures from a country are reflected as debits. Assume China sells 100 automobiles to Germany. The sale of the 100 cars is recorded as a debit in China's balance sheet, while the purchases are recorded as a credit in Germany's.

How Does Balance of Payments Work?

If a government exports more than it imports, it has a trade surplus. When a company sells less than it buys, it has a trade imbalance. Let's start with a simple example of a hypothetical X country's balance sheet to understand how each of these scenarios affects the balance of payments.

Amount (in millions) & Categories

  • +$200 Exports
  • −$200 Imports
  • $0 Current account balance
  • +$0  Financial assets received from other countries
  • −$0  Financial assets sent to other countries
  • $0 Capital and Financial account balance
  • CA+FA = $0+$0
  • =$0​

What happens if Country X's trade imbalance grows? Let's say Country X's imports rise to $230.

Amount (in millions) &  Categories

+$200 Exports

−$230 Imports

−$30 CA balance

​However, how will Country X cover its trade imbalance? It will be forced to loan funds from other nations. When an economy has a trade imbalance, foreign financial assets will flow into the region. For instance, Country X sells a $30 bond to Country Y. Country X compensated for the trade imbalance, but now it has a new duty to account for in its balance of payments. The $30 that enters the country is recorded in the capital and financial account, and CA+CFA=0 once more.

Amount (in millions) & categories

+$200 Exports

−$230 Imports

​−$30 CA balance

+$30 Financial inflows

$0 Financial outflows

+$30 CFA balance

CA+FA =−$30+$30 =$0

​If Country X has $40 export earnings, it will be receiving more money from other nations than it pays out, resulting in a current account surplus. With that $40, Country X will purchase financial assets from other countries, sending money out of the economy.

Amount (in millions) & Categories

+$240 Exports

−$200 Imports

+$40 CA balance

+$0 Financial inflows

−$40 Financial outflows

−$40 CFA balance

CA+FA =+$40+−$40 = $0

What Are Types of Account in Balance of Payments?

The current, capital, and financial accounts are the three primary categories of the BOP. There are sub-divisions among these three categories, each accounting for a particular form of foreign financial exchange.

Current Account

The current account keeps track of commodities and services flowing in and out of economies. This account is used to track all raw resources and finished goods cash receipts.

Technology, travel, logistics, commercial services, equities, and revenues from intellectual property laws are all included. A country's Balance Of Trade is made up of all of its products and services combined (BOT).

There are several types of international trade and transfers that take place. Trading, unilateral transfers, or other payouts could all be examples. Visible products are goods traded between countries, while hidden items are services imported and exported (finance, information and technology, etc.).

Money delivered as presents or contributions to inhabitants of other countries is referred to as unilateral transfers. Private transfers, such as money paid by families to relations in another nation, are yet another example.

The balance of commerce of a country is made up of products and services combined. The BOT accounts for the majority of a country's balance of payments, as it includes all exports and imports. When a country has a trade deficit, it purchases more than it sells, but when it has a current account surplus, it sells more than it buys.

Capital Account

All overseas capital transactions are noted in the capital account. This involves the purchase or sale of non-financial commodities (such as land) and non-produced resources (such as a diamond mine) that are required for extraction but have not yet been developed.

The capital account is divided into financial flows originating from loan forgiveness, the trade of goods and financial assets by migrants departing or entering a nation, the exchange of possession on fixed assets (assets like machinery used in the manufacturing process to generate revenue), the transfer of money received to the trade or acquirement of fixed assets, donation and inheritance taxes, demise levies, and ultimately, uninsured loss to capital assets.

A capital account has three primary components:

Loans and borrowings - This category comprises all sorts of loans made in foreign nations by the business and public industries.

Investments - funds invested in corporate equities.

Forex reserves - The capital account is influenced by forex reserves held by the nation's central bank to regulate and manage the rate of exchange.

Financial Account

Global financial flows connected to business, housing, securities, and equities are tracked in the financial account. Government-owned assets, such as Forex assets, precious metals, SDRs held by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), property and assets kept overseas, and international investment, are also parts of financial accounts. Foreigners' personal and public assets are also included in the financial account.

What Are Components of Balance of Payments?

All interactions between enterprises in one nation and the world at large over a period of time are included in the BOP. The current account, capital account, and financial account are the three main BOP elements. The capital and finance accounts must be balanced by the current account.

How is Balance of Payment Calculated?

The current account, capital account, and financial account balances are added together to calculate the balance of payments. The term "balance of payments" includes a sequence of all payments and liabilities for imports versus all payments and liabilities for overseas exports. It is the monitoring of a country's whole financial income and expenses.

The current account balance plus the capital account balance plus the financial account balance equals the balance of payments.

To begin, the current account balance is calculated, which is the total of the debit and credit balances on different goods trades. The current account covers items, which can include bought or sold produced commodities or raw resources.

The capital account balance, which corresponds to the sale or purchase of non-financial resources such as property or other tangible assets, is then calculated. For example, an iron quarry used for iron ore processing is a product that is necessary for manufacturing but has not been made.

The financial account balance, which includes foreign monetary flow of funds associated with investment, is now calculated.

Finally, a balance of the capital account, a balance of the current account, and a balance of the finance account are added together to calculate BOP.

Understanding Imbalances and Balancing Mechanisms

The current account must be in balance with the aggregate capital and financial accounts; but, as previously stated, this happens very rarely. It's also worth noting that, in the case of variable exchange rates, the change in exchange rate of money might exacerbate BOP disparities.

This loaned sum is recognised as a capital account outflow if a country owns a fixed asset overseas. The transfer of that fixed asset, on the other hand, will be deemed a current account inflow (earnings from investments). As a result, the current account deficit will be covered.

When a nation's current account deficit is funded by its capital account, it is essentially sacrificing capital assets in exchange for products or services.

When inhabitants of a country pay more on importing than they save, the nation's current account imbalance occurs. To finance the nation's debt, other governments lend money or invest in the enterprises of the deficit country. Since its industries profit from exporting to the deficit country, the loan country is frequently prepared to pay for the said imbalance. In the short term, the current account deficit benefits both countries.

However, if the current account deficit persists for a long period of time, economic expansion will be slowed. Foreign financiers may begin to question if they will receive a sufficient return on that investment. If demand diminishes, the borrowing government's currency's value may fall as well.

A trade deficit occurs when the government imports more goods than it exports. Imports refer to any goods or services generated in a foreign country, even if they are manufactured in the home country.

Even when all the imports are sold by and profited by a domestic enterprise, a trade imbalance can result. Deficits are increasing as multinational firms and labour outsourcing become more common.


The balance of payments idea is crucial since it indicates if a country has sufficient finances to pay for its purchases. It also reveals if the nation has the manufacturing capacity to support its economic expansion. Many emerging economies liberalised their BOPs as a result of globalisation in the late twentieth century. These governments removed limitations on BOP accounts in order to benefit from cash flows from industrialised countries, which helped their economy. The market for bank lending, and not the money market, is impacted by variations in capital and financial accounts. When a country transfers its financial assets to some other, it is actually transferring its savings.

The balance of payments allows researchers and economists to assess a country's economic strength in relation to other nations. Furthermore, the capital and finance accounts must theoretically be balanced against the current account, that is, BOPs must be zero, although this rarely occurs.

Data on the balance of payments & international investment status are essential for determining globalized economic strategy. Payment disparities and foreign direct investment are two significant concerns that authorities aim to solve when looking at balance of payments figures.

While a country's balance of payments must balance its current and capital accounts, mismatches between countries' current accounts can and often do occur. In 2020, the United States had the world's highest current account deficit ($647 billion). At $274 billion, China possessed the world's highest surplus.




























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