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What Is a Stablecoin?

Adam Lienhard
What Is a Stablecoin?

Stablecoin (e.g., Tether, USDC) is a type of cryptocurrency that aims to maintain a consistent value in relation to another asset, like the US dollar. They are commonly used for storing value or transferring funds between different cryptocurrency platforms or wallets without converting to fiat currencies (USD, EUR, etc.). 

Types of stablecoins

Stablecoins come in different types: fiat-backed stablecoins, cryptocurrency-backed stablecoins, and algorithmic stablecoins. 

Fiat-backed stablecoins are supported by a reserve of fiat currency. Cryptocurrency-backed stablecoins are backed by a reserve of another cryptocurrency. Algorithmic stablecoins make use of algorithms to maintain a stable value in relation to another asset, like a fiat currency or a cryptocurrency.

Stablecoins can be centralized and decentralized. Companies and organizations that own a reserve of fiat currency or other assets back centralized stablecoins. Decentralized stablecoins, on the other hand, are backed by cryptocurrency held in a decentralized smart contract.

But what makes a coin stable? There are different stability mechanisms employed by stablecoins to uphold a steady value. One way is collateralization (i.e. credit support) when a coin is supported by a reserve of another asset (fiat or crypto). The other way is an algorithmic model based on demand and supply to maintain a stable value.


Stablecoins offer several advantages over traditional fiat currencies. These include faster transaction processing, lower fees, and increased transparency

Stablecoins are widely used within the cryptocurrency space. They are particularly useful in facilitating the transfer of funds between exchanges or wallets without the need to convert to fiat currency. 

They also play a vital role in decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, providing liquidity and enabling transactions between various blockchain-based protocols. 

Stablecoins have also become a popular choice for cross-border payments. In countries where traditional banking services are limited, stablecoins offer a faster and more cost-effective alternative for sending money across borders.

The stablecoin market has experienced substantial growth in recent years, with its total market capitalization surpassing $ 128 billion in 2023. This growth can be attributed to the rising demand for cryptocurrency trading and DeFi applications, as well as concerns regarding the stability and transparency of some fiat currencies.

Are stablecoins stable?

Nevertheless, stablecoins also present certain risks due to regulatory issues, possible price changes, and the danger of centralization.

Although stablecoins are designed to retain a steady value compared to the US dollar, there have been instances where their value has fluctuated. For instance, in March 2020, Tether’s stablecoin value briefly dropped below $1. It raised concerns about the stability of stablecoins.

Moreover, stablecoins are facing stiff competition from other digital currencies like central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and other cryptocurrencies. CBDCs are digital versions of fiat currency that are issued and backed by central banks. Additionally, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum also provide a reliable means of transferring value without requiring the use of stablecoins.

The current state of affairs

Although stablecoins are a popular choice, they do come with some risks. Concerns have been raised regarding the transparency and stability of certain stablecoins. Some stablecoins have faced questions about the adequacy of their reserves, while others have been criticized for their lack of transparency and accountability.

In the last years, stablecoins have faced regulatory challenges in certain areas because they lack government or central bank support. In the United States, stablecoins are closely monitored by regulatory entities like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Still, the existing crypto policies put investors at risk.

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