Why not use Double or Float to represent currency?

When it comes to representing currency in programming, it is generally advised to avoid using the double or float data types. Although these types may seem convenient due to their compactness and ease of use, they are not suitable for accurately representing currency values. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this advice and discuss the alternative ways to handle currency representation in programming.

1. Precision Issues

The primary reason why double and float types should not be used for currency representation is the precision issue. These types are based on the floating-point representation, which can introduce rounding errors in decimal values. Since currency values require high precision, it is crucial to maintain the accuracy of the calculations.

Let's consider an example:

                double amount = 10.55;
                double taxRate = 0.075;
                double total = amount * taxRate;

In this code snippet, we are calculating the total amount by multiplying the base amount (10.55) with the tax rate (0.075). The expected result is 0.79125. However, due to the rounding errors introduced by the floating-point representation, the output may not be exact:

                Output: 0.79125000000000004

These small discrepancies can accumulate over time and lead to significant errors in financial calculations. Therefore, it is essential to use data types that provide precise decimal representation without rounding errors.

2. BigDecimal Class

To overcome the precision issues associated with floating-point types, the BigDecimal class can be used. The BigDecimal class in Java provides a fixed-point decimal representation with arbitrary precision, making it suitable for handling currency calculations.

Let's modify our previous example using the BigDecimal class:

                BigDecimal amount = new BigDecimal("10.55");
                BigDecimal taxRate = new BigDecimal("0.075");
                BigDecimal total = amount.multiply(taxRate);

By using the BigDecimal class, we can achieve the desired precision without any rounding errors in the output:

                Output: 0.79125

It is important to note that the BigDecimal class requires careful handling due to its immutability and the need to use methods such as setScale and round for rounding operations.

3. Currency Formatting

In addition to choosing the appropriate data type for representing currency values, it is also necessary to consider currency formatting. While the double or float values may be directly used for arithmetic calculations, they do not provide built-in support for currency formatting requirements such as proper decimal places, thousands separators, and currency symbols.

By using the java.util.Currency and java.text.DecimalFormat classes, we can format the currency values according to the desired locale and currency:

                import java.text.DecimalFormat;
                import java.util.Currency;
                double amount = 10.55;
                Currency usd = Currency.getInstance("USD");
                DecimalFormat df = (DecimalFormat) DecimalFormat.getCurrencyInstance();
                String formattedAmount = df.format(amount);

The output of this code snippet will be:

                Output: $10.55

By using the proper formatting classes, we can ensure that the currency values are presented correctly according to the specified currency and locale.


While the double and float data types may seem convenient for representing currency due to their compactness, they should be avoided due to precision issues. The rounding errors introduced by floating-point representation can accumulate over time and lead to significant errors in financial calculations. To handle currency values accurately, it is recommended to use the BigDecimal class, which provides fixed-point decimal representation with arbitrary precision.

In addition to choosing the suitable data type, it is also crucial to consider currency formatting requirements. By using the appropriate formatting classes, we can ensure that the currency values are displayed correctly with the desired decimal places, thousands separators, and currency symbols.