Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Stablecoins vs Bitcoin: Unveiling the Trio of Key Differences

5 min

June 27, 2024

In the ever-evolving world of finance, cryptocurrencies are emerging as powerful tools to tackle the challenges of making and receiving payments. They are quickly becoming integral to the global payments ecosystem. This article delves into two prominent cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin and stablecoins. We'll unravel the key differences between them and provide insights on how businesses can determine whether and how to incorporate these digital assets into their operations.

Quick Overview: Stablecoins vs. Bitcoin

Imagine a financial powerhouse with a market cap of $1.23 trillion, ranking among the top 20 economies globally. That’s the current landscape of the cryptocurrency market. Dominating this space is Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, boasting a market cap of nearly $600 billion and accounting for 48% of the entire market. Meanwhile, stablecoins—a specialized category of cryptocurrencies with almost 100 varieties in circulation—collectively hold a value of about $128 billion, making up roughly 10% of the market.

Both Bitcoin and stablecoins operate independently of traditional financial infrastructure. This freedom spares businesses from the usual headaches associated with banking and card networks, such as sluggish processing times, hidden costs, and limited access to financially excluded markets.

By leveraging blockchains, users can exchange Bitcoin and stablecoins, reaping benefits like faster settlement times, lower transaction costs, simplified operations, and entry into markets where cryptocurrencies are gaining traction as preferred payment methods.

Despite their shared blockchain foundation, Bitcoin and stablecoins differ significantly. In this article, we’ll delve into three primary distinctions: purpose, management, and interoperability. But first, let's revisit the essentials of Bitcoin and stablecoins.

A Quick Dive into Stablecoins: Stability in a Volatile World

Stablecoins are a unique breed of cryptocurrency designed to tame the wild swings of the crypto market by pegging their value to more stable assets, such as fiat currencies or commodities like gold. This stability is achieved through various mechanisms, including maintaining reserves of the underlying asset or using sophisticated algorithms to balance supply and demand. Let's explore the four main types of stablecoins:

Fiat-Collateralized Stablecoins

Fiat-collateralized stablecoins, also known as off-chain stablecoins, are anchored by reserves of traditional fiat currencies, such as the US dollar, stored in a bank account or custody service. The supply of these stablecoins matches the fiat currency reserves held. Prominent examples include Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC).

Commodity-Collateralized Stablecoins

Commodity-collateralized stablecoins are tied to reserves of physical assets like gold, silver, or other commodities. Each stablecoin in circulation is backed by a corresponding quantity of the commodity, ensuring the stablecoin’s value reflects that of the underlying asset. Examples include PAX Gold (PAXG) and Tether Gold (xAUT).

Cryptocurrency-Collateralized Stablecoins

Cryptocurrency-collateralized stablecoins, also known as on-chain stablecoins, are secured by reserves of other cryptocurrencies such as Ether (ETH) or Bitcoin (BTC). These stablecoins utilize smart contracts to lock in cryptocurrency reserves. Notable examples are Dai (DAI) and Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC).

Algorithmic Stablecoins

Algorithmic stablecoins, also referred to as non-collateralized or seigniorage-style stablecoins, rely on algorithms and smart contracts to regulate their supply and maintain their value. When the stablecoin’s price rises above its peg, the algorithm increases supply to bring the price down, and reduces supply when the price falls below the peg. An example of this type is USDD.

In essence, stablecoins offer a blend of the innovative aspects of cryptocurrency with the steadiness of traditional financial assets, making them a versatile tool in the digital economy.

Bitcoin in a Nutshell: The Pioneer of Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin stands as the trailblazer in the world of cryptocurrencies. Launched in January 2009, it is not only the oldest but also the largest cryptocurrency by market cap. Unlike stablecoins, Bitcoin is a singular entity, its value and presence far removed from traditional financial systems. With around $13.4 trillion worth of Bitcoin exchanged daily, its reach and impact are undeniable.

Understanding Bitcoin can be challenging due to its unique mechanics. Central to Bitcoin is its decentralization: no single organization or individual owns the Bitcoin network. Instead, its operations and oversight are managed by a global network of computers, known as nodes. These nodes facilitate direct transactions between users, all recorded on an immutable public ledger.

Originally celebrated as an investment asset, Bitcoin is gaining traction as a medium of exchange. Major companies like Starbucks, Microsoft, and AT&T now accept Bitcoin payments, highlighting its growing acceptance in everyday transactions.

However, Bitcoin is not without its criticisms, primarily due to its notorious price volatility. Over the past year, Bitcoin's price has swung from a high of $31,134 to a low of $15,742. This volatility poses challenges for businesses, complicating pricing strategies and conversion timing for Bitcoin into fiat or other cryptocurrencies.

Despite the regulatory uncertainties, Bitcoin is recognized as a payment method in many countries, including the US, Canada, the EU, the UK, Australia, and Japan. This recognition underscores its significant role in the evolving digital economy, bridging the gap between traditional finance and the future of money.

Is Bitcoin a Stablecoin?

No, Bitcoin is not a stablecoin. Stablecoins are a unique type of cryptocurrency designed to maintain their value by pegging their price to a stable asset like fiat currency (e.g., the US dollar) or commodities (e.g., gold). Their main goal is to minimize price volatility, making them ideal for transactions and as a store of value.

Bitcoin, however, is known for its price volatility. Its value is not tied to any external asset or currency but is determined by supply and demand in the open market. This results in significant fluctuations in its price over short periods, influenced by factors like market demand, investor sentiment, and regulatory developments.

In short, while stablecoins aim for stability and predictability, Bitcoin thrives on market dynamics, making it a completely different type of digital asset.

Stablecoin vs. Bitcoin: The Big Three Differences

Bitcoin and stablecoins are both prominent players in the cryptocurrency world, but they serve different purposes and operate in distinct ways. Let's explore three key differences between Bitcoin and stablecoins.

1. Purpose

Bitcoin and stablecoins have fundamentally different goals. Bitcoin was created as a decentralized digital currency, aiming to provide an alternative to traditional fiat currencies. Its price is driven by market demand and speculation, leading to significant price fluctuations. While Bitcoin can be used for payments, it is primarily viewed as a long-term store of value and a hedge against fiat inflation and currency devaluations.

In contrast, stablecoins were developed to address the price volatility of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Leading stablecoins maintain price stability by holding 1:1 reserves of a specific asset or currency, typically the US dollar. This stability makes stablecoins ideal for payments and business settlements.

2. Management

Stablecoins are generally "centralized" cryptocurrencies, managed by a single entity or organization. For instance, Tether is issued by Tether Limited, and USD Coin is issued by Centre, a consortium founded by Circle. Users must trust these issuers to manage the underlying reserves properly. Many stablecoin issuers provide independent audits or attestations of their reserves to ensure transparency.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a decentralized cryptocurrency. It operates without a single controlling entity and is managed by a protocol embedded into its network from the start. This protocol, maintained through a consensus mechanism, determines when new bitcoins are issued, to whom, and how transactions are verified. Bitcoin prioritizes user privacy by employing cryptographic techniques to protect identities.

3. Interoperability

Stablecoins are designed to operate across multiple blockchains, unlike Bitcoin, which exists solely on its own network. This multi-blockchain capability enables stablecoins to achieve interoperability, allowing seamless transfers and usage across different blockchain networks. This interoperability enhances liquidity and use across decentralized finance platforms and ecosystems.

Operating across multiple blockchains also means that stablecoins can be processed more efficiently, especially during times of high network congestion, by utilizing blockchain networks with faster transaction confirmation times and higher throughput. It improves resilience by eliminating single points of failure, reducing downtime risk, and mitigating regulatory uncertainty in any one jurisdiction.

Developers can explore different blockchain networks, test new features, and experiment with unique functionalities. This fosters competition and innovation within the stablecoin market. For example, new stablecoins like Circle's Euro Coin, TrueEuro, AUDT, and poundtoken are challenging the dominance of the US dollar peg. Others, like Frax, use unique pegging mechanisms, blending collateral-backed and algorithmic controls to stabilize value.

While Bitcoin operates solely on its own blockchain, it benefits from being open-source and decentralized, enabling continuous innovation. The Lightning Network, a layer-two scaling solution, enables faster and cheaper "off-chain" transactions, making Bitcoin more suitable for small-value payments. Proposed upgrades like Taproot aim to enhance privacy, scalability, and smart contract flexibility, while projects like CoinJoin, Wasabi Wallet, and Samourai Wallet focus on transaction obfuscation to enhance privacy. Platforms like RSK, Sovryn, and Stacks are developing DeFi services leveraging Bitcoin's blockchain, further expanding its utility.

In summary, while Bitcoin and stablecoins play crucial roles in the cryptocurrency landscape, they do so in diverse ways, each with its own unique advantages and challenges.

Navigating Safety: Stablecoins vs. Bitcoin

Bitcoin and leading stablecoins both boast strong track records, but determining which is safer hinges on the merits of centralized versus decentralized cryptocurrencies and your intended use.

Counterparty Risk

Centralized stablecoins come with counterparty risk, as well as regulatory oversight. Bitcoin, with its decentralized blockchain, has proven resilient against cyberattacks. Its consensus protocol, incentive structures, and scale make it virtually immune to individual subversion.

Price Volatility

Bitcoin's price volatility is well-known. This can be problematic for those using Bitcoin for payments or short-term speculation but is less of an issue if held as a long-term asset. Stablecoins, while generally more stable, are not without risks. Algorithmic stablecoins, for instance, have shown vulnerability to market confidence crises. The TerraUSD collapse in May 2022 is a notable example, where it lost its dollar peg and nearly all value. Fiat-collateralized stablecoins can also falter, as seen in March 2023 when USD Coin (USDC) briefly dropped to 87 cents due to reserves held at the failed Silicon Valley Bank. Despite these incidents, stablecoins typically restore their pegs quickly.

Regulation

Regulation plays a crucial role in assessing safety. While Bitcoin is legal in most countries, it remains unregulated. In contrast, some stablecoins offer regulatory protection. For instance, Gemini Dollar (GUSD), Binance USD (BUSD), and Pax Dollar (USDP) are regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services. USD Coin (USDC) is overseen by the FCA in the UK and FinCEN in the US.

Stablecoin advocates can take heart from increasing regulatory measures aimed at safeguarding users. In the US, a draft bill proposes that the Federal Reserve approve any non-bank stablecoin issuers, ensuring they maintain and prove reserves, demonstrate technical expertise, and promote financial inclusion. The EU’s MiCA framework imposes new transparency and consumer protection obligations on stablecoins, and the UK’s Financial Services and Markets Bill (FSMB) offers similar regulatory oversight.

This isn't a zero-sum game. Supportive regulation for stablecoins doesn’t imply a tough regulatory future for Bitcoin. Many regulatory measures apply to all cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin. Additionally, Bitcoin’s established presence means any severe regulatory crackdowns would likely face significant resistance from the business community.

In conclusion, the safety of Bitcoin versus stablecoins depends largely on what you prioritize: the decentralized, robust nature of Bitcoin or the regulated, price-stable appeal of stablecoins. Each has its unique advantages and risks, catering to different needs and preferences in the crypto landscape.

Stablecoins vs. Bitcoin: The Best Choice for B2B Payments and Settlements in 2024

Choosing between stablecoins and Bitcoin for B2B payments in 2024 depends on various factors, including business needs, desired stability, regulatory considerations, transaction volume, and geographical scope.

Stablecoins often excel in B2B transactions due to their price stability, offering predictable pricing and minimizing currency slippage during settlements. They mimic traditional fiat currencies, making them familiar and easier to integrate into existing systems. Additionally, stablecoins lead in cryptocurrency regulation, providing added security and compliance. However, with around 100 different stablecoins available, each with unique governance models and regulatory oversight, careful evaluation is crucial.

Businesses should prioritize stablecoins with robust technology, deep liquidity, and experienced management teams to withstand market fluctuations and regulatory changes. Fiat-collateralized stablecoins, such as Tether (USDT), USD Coin (USDC), Binance USD (BUSD), TrueUSD (TUSD), Pax Dollar (USDP), and Gemini Dollar (GUSD), offer a reliable bridge between traditional and cryptocurrency payment systems

TransFi enhances this ecosystem with its Payout, Collections, and Ramp products. TransFi Payout facilitates efficient cross-border payments for large transaction volumes. The Collections product allows businesses to accept various cryptocurrency payments , expanding their global reach. The Ramp product simplifies fiat-to-crypto conversions, easing businesses into the digital currency space.

In summary, while Bitcoin and stablecoins both play significant roles, stablecoins generally offer more advantages for B2B payments and settlements in 2024. Their stability, regulatory advancements, and ease of integration with existing systems make them a practical choice for businesses adopting cryptocurrency for transactions. Stablecoins provide a secure and efficient option for modern B2B transactions.

Conclusion

In this article, we've explored the key differences and use-cases between Bitcoin and stablecoins, highlighting their benefits and risks.

One pressing question for businesses is how to adopt Bitcoin or stablecoins for payments and settlements. Cryptocurrencies often feel like uncharted waters, perceived as both complex and risky.

To navigate these challenges, businesses can leverage third-party fintech solutions. These fintech partners assume the full exposure to cryptocurrency during fiat conversions, ensure regulatory compliance, and provide seamless 'on' and 'off' ramps bridging traditional and crypto finance. TransFi is a standout example of such a fintech. With TransFi's platform, businesses can effortlessly integrate stablecoins into their fiat payment and settlement processes, making the transaction smooth and secure.

By partnering with TransFi, businesses can confidently step into the world of cryptocurrency, enjoying the benefits without the associated complexities and risks.

TransFi Team

Unlocking the Future of Finance

Payouts

Make global payments at the speed of a click

Collections

Accept payments, remove borders.

Ramp

Unlock Seamless Digital Currency Transactions Anywhere

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.