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20 December 2022

Coinbase’s USD stablecoin – what is it and why should you use it?

USD Coin offers a safer way to invest in and hold cryptocurrency.

Here’s everything you need to know about USD Coin (USDC), one of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase’s stablecoin offerings – from what a stablecoin is, to how you can access it.

What is Coinbase?

Coinbase is a publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange platform. The company is hoping to provide a fairer, more accessible and efficient way to access and trade cryptocurrency via its easy-to-use and secure platform.

What is a stablecoin?

Put simply, stablecoins are digital money. Their prices are pegged to a reserve asset such as the US dollar or gold. This reduces volatility compared to other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Because they are far less volatile, they are better suited to day-to-day commerce and transfers.

What is USDC?

USD Coin (USDC) is a type of stablecoin.

USDC is always worth the same as $1, because it’s pegged to the US dollar.

USDC is backed by dollar reserves that are at least equal to the USDC in circulation. These reserves are held in transparent, segregated accounts in regulated financial US institutions.

The currency operates on the Ethereum blockchain. This is the leading smart contract platform and is highly supported by developers. It also allows for speedy transfers (they can be completed in under an hour), and also means there are none of the costs associated with traditional banking and transfer methods.

Back in 2018, Coinbase co-founded the Centre Consortium to develop USDC. The stablecoin has become one of the most popular ones: its market capitalisation has grown by 150 times in three years. USDC also powers many innovative decentralised finance applications.

What are the pros of USDC?

The fact that USDC is always redeemable on a one-to-one basis makes it far more stable than most cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are usually associated with volatility, and their value can vary greatly depending on many external factors.

However a stablecoin, such as USDC, offers a safer way to invest in and hold cryptocurrency. It’s an attractive option for those who want to invest in cryptocurrency even when the market is in turmoil, as it has been of late, but don’t want to expose themselves to heavy losses.

You don’t need a bank to hold USDC, you can sign up to an exchange like Coinbase. USDC can easily be used in online transactions. Stablecoins may also offer ways to earn interest on your investments, often at a higher rate than you would get from a bank.

Owners of USDC will also be able to interact with new decentralised applications (dApps), allowing access to trading, insurance, saving, lending and borrowing, all while using a trusted form of digital currency. Check out Coinbase Wallet for access to DeFi here.

Is USDC easily accessible?

You can convert US dollars to USDC by creating or signing in to your Coinbase account. As part of its mission to increase economic freedom in the world and in order to make USDC more available and accessible, Coinbase is waiving commission fees when customers buy or sell USDC via any fiat currencies on the platform – from Australian dollars to South African rands.

Additionally, users can earn 1 per cent APY on their USDC holdings.

Coinbase will distribute rewards for the days you have a balance of at least $1 of USDC on Coinbase every month, meaning the higher your USDC balance the more rewards you can earn.

Coinbase’s research shows USDC has been more readily adopted in the US, but it is hoping to increase its use throughout the globe. Currently, three times more USDC is bought with US dollars vs non-US dollar currencies. Coinbase believes this is likely because users outside the US have to pay fees to convert their local currency into USDC, which creates a “barrier to broader international adoption”.

Disclaimer: Capital may decrease in value, or lose all value. Past performance is not a guide for future performance. Not regulated in the UK or protected by financial compensation schemes. Subject to capital gains tax (CGT).

[See also: Misery in the middle aisle: how Britain made budgeting a luxury this Christmas]

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