This paper has two aims: (i) to introduce a novel method for measuring which part of overall citation inequality can be attributed to differences in citation practices across scientific fields, and (ii) to implement an empirical strategy for making meaningful comparisons between the number of citations received by articles in 22 broad fields. The number of citations received by any article is seen as a function of the article's scientific influence, and the field to which it belongs. A key assumption is that articles in the same quantile of any field citation distribution have the same degree of citation impact in their respective field. Using a dataset of 4.4 million articles published in 1998-2003 with a five-year citation window, we estimate that differences in citation practices between the 22 fields account for 14% of overall citation inequality. Our empirical strategy is based on the strong similarities found in the behavior of citation distributions. We obtain three main results. Firstly, we estimate a set of average-based indicators, called exchange rates, to express the citations received by any article in a large interval in terms of the citations received in a reference situation. Secondly, using our exchange rates as normalization factors of the raw citation data reduces the effect of differences in citation practices to, approximately, 2% of overall citation inequality in the normalized citation distributions. Thirdly, we provide an empirical explanation of why the usual normalization procedure based on the fields' mean citation rates is found to be equally successful.