Just how many of your department’s payment transactions involve foreign currencies? Chances are, even if it’s a small portion, it’s probably grown over the past few years. Companies in the U.S. imported about $180 billion worth of goods and services in January 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. While that’s down from January 2008, when imports topped $200 billion, it’s still a hefty number.

In late 2009, Accounts Payable News and Transglobal Payment Solutions studied the impact of foreign currency payments within AP. While the study focused on firms within the U.K., it offered some interesting insights nonetheless:

1. About 70 percent of payments made in foreign currencies were a result of having suppliers in other countries. In contrast, only about 10 percent of foreign currency payments were for payroll.

2.  While 40 percent of respondents indicated that foreign currency payments make up only 1 percent of transactions, for about one-fifth of respondents, these payments accounted for more than 20 percent of their transactions.

3. Similarly, 40 percent handled foreign currency transactions a few times each month. Nearly one-third completed at least one transaction each week.

4.  Sixty percent use their main bank to handle these transactions. If they were going to switch service providers, price would be the reason, according to more than four out of five respondents.