“2020 seems to be the year of stablecoins,” said Tether CTO Paolo Ardoino.
And he's right. The case for stablecoins became much more compelling in 2020.
Stablecoin supply quietly surged last year to $28 billion after starting the year below $5 billion. And the market continues to see substantive growth. As of January 2021, the current stablecoin supply is over $33 billion.
The two largest stablecoins — Tether and Coinbase's USDC — account for most of the market by total supply. Tether’s USDT comprises over 75% of the market at $25 billion in total supply. On the other hand, USDC comes in second, far behind Tether at 14% of the market and nearly $5 billion in total supply.
So which USD stablecoin should be used by businesses? Which stablecoin is better for B2B payments: USDC or USDT?
It helps to weigh the pros and cons of each in order to make an informed decision based on your unique circumstances. But before we get into specifics, let's think more broadly about the fundamentals and underlying technology.
What are stablecoins?
Stablecoins are a cryptocurrency whose value is backed 1:1 by another asset, such as the US dollar, euro, yuan, or gold. This keeps the price stable relative to that asset.
With 24/7 availability, near instant settlement, and lower fees, people are turning to cryptocurrency to make payments.
As the first cryptocurrency, bitcoin paved the way for blockchain payments. In 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz bought two pizzas from Papa John’s for 10,000 bitcoin (worth $30 at the time) which is thought to be the first instance that crypto was used to pay for goods or services. In today's value of bitcoin, those pizzas cost approximately $350 million.
Bitcoin is still the most popular cryptocurrency used for payments, but its wild volatility makes it problematic for enterprise use and payments.
That's where stablecoins come in. While many top cryptocurrencies are still in price discovery, you can take advantage of the benefits of blockchain payments without subjecting yourself to volatility or complicated tax calculations. Stablecoins allow institutions, traders, and individuals to hold crypto without dealing with the highs and lows of bitcoin or ether.
How does it work? The stablecoin issuer will typically hold a reserve in a bank for the asset that is backing the stablecoin. Then, this reserve will serve as collateral for the stablecoin. This is similar to how both USDC and USDT collateralize their stablecoins with fiat.
Other more complex stablecoins (such as Maker’s Dai) are borrowed against locked collateral and destroyed when the loans are repaid. But we'll spare you the details, since we're focusing on USDC and USDT.
Why did stablecoins grow so much last year?
The economic data speaks for itself. Stablecoins exploded in 2020. Total stablecoin supply ballooned by more than 5X in 2020 from around $5 billion to over $28 billion. And for good reason.
For starters, the growth of DeFi in summer 2020 likely would not have happened if stablecoins did not have sufficient liquidity in the market to counter the unpredictable pricing of other crypto assets. Stablecoins are key to making the sophisticated tools being built on top of blockchain technology attractive and usable for developers and traders alike.
Along with the need for stablecoins in DeFi and trading, institutions across the world are using stablecoins to make cross-border (or intra-border) payments in a fraction of the time as fiat payments. This trend accelerated in 2020, with businesses increasingly relying on cryptocurrency for payments. Many companies prefer to transact with a currency that is tied to the global reserve currencies.
In January 2021, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) officially announced that they will permit federally regulated banks to facilitate stablecoin payments and other blockchain activities. There still seems to be plenty of room for growth in 2021 with this news.
Now let's explore the two biggest stablecoins (by market cap) in crypto: USDC and USDT.
What is USDC?
The USD Coin (USDC) was launched in October 2018 by the Centre Consortium, powered by the massive cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and Circle Internet Financial. USDC is the only stablecoin currently supported by Coinbase. It’s built on the Ethereum blockchain as an ERC-20 token.
As of January 14, 2021, USDC is a top-15 coin on every exchange. It has a $4.75 billion in total supply (up from $518 *million at the start of 2020), and holds a 14.5% market share for all stablecoins. It’s quickly become one of the largest coins, and it looks like it's continuing to build serious momentum.
How is USDC stabilized? USDC is pegged 1:1 to actual U.S. dollars (USD) and held in reserve bank accounts. It’s subject to regular audits to ensure that it’s staying an actual dollar. This is how you can trust that USDC will remain $1 regardless of what happens.
USDC is available to trade at seven different exchanges, including Coinbase, Poloniex, Binance, and KuCoin. For Coinbase Pro or Coinbase Prime users, you’re able to purchase and sell USDC from all regions of the world. If you have USDC on Coinbase, it’s simple to convert your USDC back into fiat and withdraw to your bank account.
How can I use USDC?
Since USDC is an ERC-20 token, any two ethereum wallets can send and receive USDC to anyone in the world almost instantly.
This ERC-20 based token can be used by any new decentralized application (dApp) built on the Ethereum blockchain. That’s why USDC is popular in the DeFi community. USDC holders are free to explore the wild west of DeFi lending, high-yield savings accounts, and other possibilities.
Most recently, USDC partnered with the exiled government of Venezuela to provide aid to people and healthcare workers in Venezuela. According to the CEO and founder of Circle, stablecoins are now a tool for US foreign policy and USDC is leading the charge.
Many believe that coins like USDC go against the crypto narrative of being anti-fiat, but there's an opportunity here. In order for crypto to go mainstream, it needs to work collaboratively with traditional finance. Fiat-to-crypto payment rails are going to become more and more prevalent in the coming years.
How to get paid in USDC
With Gilded, it’s easy to send and receive payments using USDC. You can send invoices to your customers priced in USD (or other global currencies) and then accept the payment in USDC.
When you pay with USDC, the fees are lower, payment is faster, and you don’t have wait for an intermediary. Gilded never touches your funds. For those that prefer the convenience of a trusted custodian, Gilded's Coinbase integration allows you to send and receive USDC payments directly in your Coinbase account.
What is USDT?
Tether, known by its ticker symbol of USDT, is widely known as the first stablecoin project. Originally known as MasterCoin, the idea for Tether was first conceived in January 2012 and officially launched in 2014 by Bitfinex. It’s a fiat-collateralized currency, meaning that the value is supposed to be pegged 1:1 to the U.S. Dollar.
USDT has nearly $25 billion in supply and accounts for greater than 75% of the total stablecoin supply (which fell below 80% for the first time last year). It’s the third biggest cryptocurrency by market cap as of today and it’s the reigning king of stablecoins.
How do I use USDT?
Since USDT is the biggest stablecoin by high margins, it provides high liquidity to its users. Most notably, USDT has a daily 24 hour volume of well over $100 billion, almost double that of Bitcoin. It’s the most liquid cryptocurrency in the world.
This makes it perfect for traders who need easy access to transfer funds. You can enter and exit trades without huge changes in price (like you would with Bitcoin or Ethereum). And if you’re only trading between various digital currencies, then the tax liability is lower or non-existent.
It’s also a good use as a medium of exchange, and not just for traders. More and more businesses and freelancers are using Tether as a form for B2B payments.
But Tether also is not without controversy, which center around whether it’s fully backed by the U.S. Dollar.
In 2019, Bitfinex, the exchange that shares a parent company with Tether, reportedly raided $850 million of Tether reserves for their outstanding debt.
We won’t get into too much detail here but it’s worth mentioning. We recommend that you to do your own research and reach your own conclusions.
75% of the stablecoin market believes that Tether is still trustworthy.
How to get paid in USDT
Getting paid in USDT is super simple with Gilded. Since Tether is such a liquid asset, you never have to worry about the supply running low or the price becoming volatile.
And just like USDC, you’re going to save yourself time and fees by making or accepting payments with USDT.
Should you use USDC or USDT?
Short answer: it depends. From our research and conversations with hundreds of customers and prospects, it depends on your specific needs, preference, and your customer profiles.
USDC is most commonly used by institutions in the United States (or where Coinbase is offered in other countries). If your customers are businesses, then you will likely want to use USDC to send invoices to your customers. If you're a Gilded user working with Gilded's Coinbase integration, it makes sense to use USDC.
On the other hand, USDT is most commonly used by traders and investors. Tether is a tool that allows traders to protect profits and stay in crypto. It allows you to keep your money on exchanges without subjecting yourself to volatile bitcoin prices. If your customers are traders, then perhaps USDT is the right choice.
Reminder: this article is for educational purposes only. This is not investment advice, and we encourage you to do your own research.
Want to incorporate USDC or USDT into your payment and billing process? Let us show you how.
Gilded empowers businesses to transact globally, using blockchain to unlock more efficient business operations. Our seamless invoicing, payment and accounting software helps businesses get paid faster and more transparently, with dramatically lower fees.
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