What are Stablecoins in Crypto: Definition, Types and How They Work

Stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency that aim to provide stability and reliability in the volatile and unpredictable crypto market.

Unlike most cryptocurrencies, which are subject to extreme price fluctuations, stablecoins are designed to maintain a stable value relative to a certain asset or currency.

In this article, we will explore the definition, workings, and types of stablecoins, and how they can benefit the crypto world.

What are Stablecoins?

Stablecoins are a subset of cryptocurrencies that are backed by or pegged to a reserve asset, such as fiat currency, gold, or another cryptocurrency.

The idea behind stablecoins is to combine the best features of both fiat and crypto: the stability and trust of fiat, and the speed, security, and transparency of crypto.

Stablecoins can be used for various purposes, such as:

1. A medium of exchange:

Stablecoins can facilitate transactions and payments across borders and platforms, without the risk of volatility or intermediaries.

2. A store of value:

Stablecoins can preserve the purchasing power of users, especially in countries with high inflation or currency devaluation.

3. A unit of account:

Stablecoins can provide a common and consistent measure of value for goods and services, as well as for accounting and auditing purposes.

4. A bridge between crypto and fiat:

Stablecoins can enable users to easily switch between crypto and fiat, without the hassle of conversion fees or delays.

Types of Stablecoins  and How Stablecoins Work?

Stablecoins use different mechanisms to achieve and maintain their stability.

Depending on the type of reserve asset and the degree of decentralization, stablecoins can be classified into three main categories: (Types of Stablecoins)

  • fiat-backed
  • crypto-backed
  • algorithmic.

1. Fiat-backed Stablecoins

Fiat-backed stablecoins are the most common and straightforward type of stablecoins.

They are backed by a fixed ratio of fiat currency, such as US dollars or euros, held in a bank account or a trust.

For example,

One unit of a fiat-backed stablecoin is equivalent to one unit of the fiat currency it is pegged to.

The most popular fiat-backed stablecoins are Tether (USDT), USD Coin (USDC), and Binance USD (BUSD).

The main advantage of fiat-backed stablecoins is that they offer a high degree of stability and liquidity, as they are directly linked to the value of the fiat currency. However, they also have some drawbacks, such as:

  • Centralization: Fiat-backed stablecoins rely on centralized entities, such as banks or trusts, to hold and manage the reserves. This introduces the risk of censorship, fraud, or insolvency of the custodians.
  • Regulation: Fiat-backed stablecoins are subject to the laws and regulations of the jurisdictions where the reserves are held. This may limit their accessibility and usability in some regions or platforms.
  • Auditability: Fiat-backed stablecoins require regular and transparent audits to verify that the reserves match the supply of the stablecoins. However, some stablecoins may lack sufficient or credible audits, raising doubts about their solvency and legitimacy.

2. Crypto-backed Stablecoins

Crypto-backed stablecoins are backed by a basket of other cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, held in a smart contract.

The ratio of the reserve to the stablecoin is not fixed, but rather determined by a collateralization ratio, which is usually higher than 100%.

For example, one unit of a crypto-backed stablecoin may require 150% or more of the reserve cryptocurrency as collateral.

The most prominent crypto-backed stablecoins are MakerDAO’s DAI and Synthetix’s sUSD.

The main advantages of crypto-backed stablecoins is that

  • They are more decentralized and trustless, as they do not depend on any third-party custodians or intermediaries.
  • They are also more resistant to regulation and censorship, as they operate on public and permissionless blockchains.

However, they also face some challenges, such as:

  • Volatility:

Crypto-backed stablecoins are exposed to the volatility of the underlying cryptocurrencies, which may affect their stability and value.

To mitigate this risk, crypto-backed stablecoins use overcollateralization and liquidation mechanisms, which may result in losses or penalties for the users in case of extreme price movements.

  • Complexity:

Crypto-backed stablecoins involve complex and technical processes, such as collateralization, liquidation, governance, and risk management.

This may increase the learning curve and the entry barrier for the users, as well as the potential for human or technical errors.

3. Algorithmic Stablecoins

Algorithmic stablecoins are not backed by any reserve asset, but rather by an algorithm that adjusts the supply of the stablecoin according to the market demand and price.

The goal of the algorithm is to maintain the stablecoin’s price at a certain target, such as one US dollar, by increasing or decreasing the supply accordingly.

For example, if the price of the stablecoin is above the target, the algorithm will increase the supply to lower the price; if the price is below the target, the algorithm will decrease the supply to raise the price.

Some examples of algorithmic stablecoins are Ampleforth (AMPL), Basis Cash (BAC), and Terra (LUNA).

The main advantage of algorithmic stablecoins is that

  • They are fully decentralized and autonomous, as they do not rely on any reserve asset or collateral.
  • They are also more scalable and flexible, as they can adjust the supply dynamically and indefinitely.

However, they also have some limitations, such as:

  • Uncertainty:

Algorithmic stablecoins are subject to the uncertainty and unpredictability of the market forces and the human behavior.

The algorithm may not always be able to achieve or maintain the stability of the stablecoin, especially in times of low demand or high volatility.

  • Incentives:

Algorithmic stablecoins rely on the incentives and expectations of the users to support and sustain the stability of the stablecoin.

However, these incentives and expectations may not always be aligned or rational, leading to speculative or irrational behaviour that may undermine the stability of the stablecoin.

How Stablecoins can Benefit the Crypto World?

Stablecoins can offer various benefits and opportunities for the crypto world, such as:

1. Enhancing the usability and adoption of cryptocurrencies:

Stablecoins can make cryptocurrencies more accessible and attractive to a wider range of users and use cases, especially those that require stability and reliability.

Stablecoins can also serve as a gateway or a bridge for users to enter and exit the crypto world, as well as to interact with other crypto platforms and services.

2. Improving the efficiency and innovation of the crypto ecosystem:

Stablecoins can enable faster, cheaper, and more secure transactions and payments across borders and platforms, without the friction and inefficiency of intermediaries or conversion fees.

Stablecoins can also foster more innovation and experimentation in the crypto space, by providing a stable and versatile base layer for building and testing new applications and protocols.

3. Diversifying the risk and exposure of the crypto market:

Stablecoins can provide a hedge and a safe haven for crypto users and investors, especially in times of high volatility or uncertainty.

Stablecoins can also diversify the risk and exposure of the crypto market, by offering different types of stablecoins with different features and trade-offs.


Stablecoins are not just another type of cryptocurrency.

They are a game-changer for the crypto world, as they offer stability and reliability in a market that is often volatile and unpredictable.

Stablecoins can make cryptocurrencies more user-friendly, efficient, innovative, and diverse.

 owever, stablecoins are not perfect, and they come with their own trade-offs and challenges.

As the famous investor Warren Buffett once said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

Therefore, before you jump into the stablecoin bandwagon, make sure you do your research and understand the pros and cons of each stablecoin.

After all, as the legendary economist John Maynard Keynes said, “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”


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