USD Coin

What Is USD Coin?

USD Coin (USDC) is a digital currency that is fully backed by U.S. dollar assets. USDC is a tokenized U.S. dollar, with the value of one USDC coin pegged 1:1 to the value of one U.S. dollar. The value of USDC is designed to remain stable, making USDC a stablecoin.

Stablecoins are commonly backed by reserve assets like dollars or euros to achieve price stability. The price stability of USDC contrasts sharply with the notorious price fluctuations of other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Key Takeaways

  • USD Coin (USDC) is a cryptocurrency that is backed by fiat money, making it a stablecoin.
  • USDC reserve assets are held in segregated accounts with U.S.-regulated financial institutions.
  • USD Coin is not issued by the U.S. government.

Despite its name, it is important to note that USDC is not issued or backed by the U.S. government. USD Coin is an open-source project, meaning that anyone can view and contribute to the project's code.

Keep reading to understand more about USD Coin, including how USDC works and the various use cases for the digital currency.

Understanding USD Coin

USD Coin is a digital currency that is fully backed by U.S. dollars or dollar-denominated assets like U.S. Treasury securities. USDC's reserve assets are held in segregated accounts with regulated U.S. financial institutions. The accounting firm Grant Thornton oversees these segregated accounts and provides monthly attestation reports.

You may be wondering about how USDC maintains the 1:1 peg with the U.S. dollar. If you initiate a transaction to buy one USD Coin using fiat currency, then that fiat currency is deposited and stored as one U.S. dollar and the new USDC is minted. If you sell a USD Coin in exchange for fiat currency, then the USDC is "burned" when the fiat money is transferred back to your bank account.

USDC is compatible with several blockchains, including:

  • Ethereum
  • Algorand
  • Solana
  • Stellar
  • TRON 

USD Coin is managed by Centre, a consortium co-founded by the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and Circle, a financial technology company. Centre aims to change the global financial landscape by connecting every person, merchant, financial service, and currency worldwide.

Advantages and Disadvantages of USD Coin

Pros
  • Low price volatility

  • Fully backed by U.S.-regulated reserve assets

  • Can be used as a hedge against inflation

Cons
  • No price appreciation

  • Mix of reserve assets not fully disclosed

  • Not immune to U.S. dollar price inflation

Use Cases for USD Coin

As a price-stable digital asset, USD Coin can be used in several ways:

  • Hedge against volatility: Investors with exposure to other cryptocurrencies can reduce their portfolios' volatility by strategically buying a stablecoin like USDC. Owning USDC during periods of significant market volatility can help to stabilize a portfolio's value.
  • Pricing in fiat money: Digital assets listed on cryptocurrency exchanges can be priced in fiat money using a stablecoin like USDC.
  • Stable price-pegging: The price stability of USDC enables the stablecoin to represent equity ownership or fund investments. USDC can also be used to represent liabilities or debt.
  • Remittances: USDC can be used to send funds across borders. Recipients can store USDC without using a bank account or being concerned about price volatility.
  • U.S. dollar exposure: Non-U.S. investors wishing to gain exposure to the U.S. dollar can add USDC to their cryptocurrency investment portfolios.
  • Hedge against inflation: Non-U.S. investors concerned about inflation of their local currency can hold a stablecoin like USDC to help protect the value of their money.
  • Global crowdfunding: Startup companies and nonprofit organizations can raise money from investors and donors worldwide by soliciting digital currency. Raising funds in the form of a stablecoin like USDC ensures that the value of the money raised does not fluctuate over time.
  • Blockchain interconnection: Since USDC is compatible with several autonomous blockchains, using USDC can be a way to integrate payment systems and applications across blockchains.

What type of stablecoin is USDC?

USD Coin is a fiat-collateralized stablecoin, meaning that USDC tokens are collateralized by fiat money like U.S. dollars. Other types of stablecoins include those that are collateralized by a cryptocurrency, or an algorithm, or by hybrid approach.

Is investing in USD Coin risky?

USD Coin, as a cryptocurrency, is generally considered risky as an investment. While stablecoins like USDC have less price volatility than other cryptocurrencies, stablecoins may be subject to increased scrutiny by regulatory agencies like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Investors should know the risks before purchasing USDC.

Can I buy less than $1 of USDC?

You can buy fractions of USD Coin just like you can divide U.S. dollars into pennies. You can purchase as little as 0.001—equal to one-tenth of a cent—of USD Coin.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Coinbase. "Introducing USD Coin (USDC) - Stablecoin By Coinbase." Accessed Feb. 2, 2022.

  2. Centre. "Whitepaper," Pages 10-11. Accessed Feb. 2, 2022.

  3. Circle. "The Power of USDC Brought to Multiple Blockchains." Accessed Feb. XX, 2022.

  4. Coinbase. "USD Coin (USDC)." Accessed Feb. 2, 2022.

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