How Do Stablecoins Maintain Their Peg: What You Need to Know

How Do Stablecoins Maintain Their Peg: What You Need to Know

11 min read

If you’re into cryptocurrencies, you know that price volatility can be a real rollercoaster. That’s where stablecoins come into play. Unlike Bitcoin and other more volatile cryptocurrencies, stablecoins aim to keep their market value steady. How? By pegging themselves to something more stable, like fiat currency or other real-world assets.

But let’s step back and understand what “pegging” really means.

In economics, pegging is the practice of tying the value of one asset to another, creating a fixed rate of exchange. This isn’t a new concept; it’s been used by nations and their central banks for ages to bring stability to their own currencies.

For instance, currencies like the United Arab Emirates dirham (AED) and the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) are pegged to the U.S. dollar, the world’s reserve currency.

So, why do countries peg their currencies? Simple.

A stable currency fosters trade and foreign investment. Imagine setting a price for goods and services with a constantly fluctuating currency. Not ideal, right?

Now, back to stablecoins.

These digital assets bring the concept of pegging into the crypto world, offering a stable medium of exchange in an otherwise volatile market. This article will guide you through how do stablecoins maintain their peg, what happens when they don’t, and much more.


What Does Pegging Mean in Crypto?

stablecoin maintain peg

You might have heard “pegged cryptocurrency” and wondered what it’s all about. Simply put, a pegged cryptocurrency is a digital asset whose value is tied to another asset, often a fiat currency like the U.S. dollar or even precious metals like gold. This is where stablecoins like Tether (USDT), USD Coin (USDC), and DAI come into the picture.

So why peg a cryptocurrency? The answer lies in stability. Pegging helps tame the wild swings in token prices, making these assets more predictable and reducing the financial risks.

When a crypto asset is pegged to a fiat currency, the exchange rate is usually 1:1. That means if a stablecoin issuer has one million tokens pegged to the U.S. dollar, they should also hold an equivalent amount in USD as reserve assets. This allows users to buy, sell, and trade these tokens just like they would with Bitcoin or Ethereum, but with the added assurance of knowing their market value at any given time.


Hard Peg vs. Soft Peg: What’s the difference?

Regarding stablecoins, you might not hear much about terms like “hard peg” and “soft peg.” While they might sound like jargon, understanding their differences can give you a clearer picture of how stablecoins maintain their value.


Soft Pegging

For soft pegging, the market is the puppet master pulling the strings. The value of a soft-pegged stablecoin can rise or fall based on market demand. The goal here is stability, and the foreign exchange market sets the rates. But don’t worry, if things get too shaky, the government or stablecoin issuers will step in to stabilize the token’s value.

In crypto, soft pegging usually ties a token’s value to a reserve or another pegged asset like fiat currency.


Hard Pegging

On the flip side, we have hard pegging, where the value of the stablecoin is as fixed as a North Star in the night sky. Central banks or stablecoin issuers set a fixed exchange rate, and that’s that. The value neither rises nor falls, offering a level of financial stability that’s hard to beat. One of the perks of a hard peg is its straightforwardness; you always know what you’re getting.


What Are Stablecoins Used For?

While Bitcoin may be the poster child of the crypto world, its price can fluctuate like the ocean’s tides. Imagine its price skyrocketing from nearly $5,000 to over $60,000 within a year, only to drop almost 50% in the following months. This kind of market volatility is a trader’s dream but a nightmare for anyone looking to use crypto for everyday transactions.

So, where do stablecoins come in? They serve as a more predictable medium of exchange, especially for those who aren’t keen on gambling with their purchasing power. If you’re holding onto crypto assets for the long haul, the last thing you want is to be the guy who paid 10,000 Bitcoins for a couple of pizzas.

On the flip side, merchants accepting crypto payments also prefer stablecoins because they don’t want their hard-earned revenue to vanish if the market price of a cryptocurrency tanks after a sale.

Stablecoins aim to offer the best of both worlds: the benefits of digital assets without the wild price swings. They’re often backed by fiat currencies or other real-world assets, providing a level of financial stability that’s hard to find in more volatile cryptocurrencies.


How Different Stablecoins Maintain Their Peg? How Do Stablecoins Maintain Their Peg?


The term ‘stablecoin’ often appears as a cornerstone concept in crypto. It’s crucial to understand that stablecoins come in various forms, each with its own unique way of maintaining value. From fiat-collateralized to commodity-backed stablecoins, crypto-backed, and even algorithmic stablecoins, the landscape is as diverse as it is fascinating.

It is important to note that one cannot plainly claim a token or a coin is linked to the value of, for example, 1 US dollar. Specifically, digital currency project owners generally need to have a particular amount of United States dollars in reserves at all times to be able to guarantee the pegged value of their digital currency.

This is even more significant when such a cryptocurrency can be openly traded across multiple exchanges allowing numerous financial transactions. Holding broad amounts of dollars in reserve is one of the main challenges when pegging a cryptocurrency.

Depending on the type of stablecoin, a digital currency can currently be pegged using one of the following methods:


Maintaining Reserves

First up, we have centralized stablecoins like USDC, issued by Circle. These stablecoins are as traditional as it gets in the crypto world. An equivalent amount of fiat currency backs them, usually, the U.S. dollar, held in a centrally managed vault. So, for every USDC token out there, there’s a real U.S. dollar sitting in a vault. This is what we call fiat-backed stablecoins. It’s like having a digital twin of your dollar bill, offering a stable value you can count on.


Using Algorithms

Any asset does not back these stablecoins; they’re controlled using smart contracts, maintaining a peg by algorithmically managing demand and supply. Terra’s UST was a popular algorithmic stablecoin that eventually collapsed.


The Hybrid Approach

Some mix and match these methods, using both reserves and algorithms to maintain their stablecoin pegs. These are often the most resilient stablecoins, capable of weathering various market conditions.


What is Depegging, and How Does Stablecoins Lose Their Peg?

pegged usdt

Stablecoins are digital assets designed to maintain a consistent value by being pegged to a more stable asset, often a fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. However, there are instances when this pegging mechanism fails, leading to what is known as ‘depegging.’ Understanding the reasons and implications of depegging is crucial for anyone involved in the cryptocurrency market.

Depegging isn’t just a crypto phenomenon; it’s happened in traditional finance too. Remember the Thai Baht’s USD peg collapse in 1997? That was a wake-up call for many. In crypto, a depegging event is often a sign of impending doom, especially for algorithmic stablecoins that rely on computer code to maintain their value.

So, what causes a stablecoin to depeg? Let’s break it down:


Liquidity Crunch

Stablecoins need a healthy market where they can be easily traded. When that doesn’t happen, their value can wobble. Take the case of USDC in March 2023. Two major banks serving crypto companies collapsed, causing USDC to plummet to $0.88. Why? Because Circle had billions in reserves with one of those banks, and over a weekend, the market got spooked. No banks were open for Circle to offer refunds, leading to a sell-off.


Market Shenanigans

Yes, market manipulation is a thing, even in the crypto world. Tether (USDT) found itself in hot water in 2017 for allegedly manipulating Bitcoin prices. A study even suggested that Tether wasn’t fully backed by U.S. dollars but by loans from an affiliated crypto exchange.


Design Hiccups

Sometimes the stablecoin’s design itself is the Achilles’ heel. For instance, TerraUSD (UST) and LUNA faced catastrophic depegging during a market crash in 2022. Their design allowed for a $1 UST to be claimed for $1 LUNA, but when the market tanked, it triggered a downward spiral, wiping out billions in value.


Lack of Trust

Last but not least, trust—or the lack of it. When people start doubting a stablecoin’s stability, they hit the ‘Sell’ button faster than you can say ‘depegging.’ And that can trigger a massive price drop, making the peg as shaky as a leaf in the wind.

So, the next time you hear about a stablecoin depegging, you’ll know it’s time to dig deeper and understand what’s really going on.


Popular Pegged Examples

From the dollar-pegged giants to asset-backed novelties, let’s explore some stablecoins examples in the crypto world:


Tether (USDT)

USD Tether, or USDT, is the largest stablecoin by market capitalization. It’s a fiat-backed stablecoin, meaning it’s pegged to the US dollar. The stablecoin’s price aims to maintain a 1:1 ratio with the dollar, thanks to its dollar-denominated assets held in reserves. Unlike other crypto assets, Tether offers a level of price stability, making it a go-to for traders and investors alike.



USD Coin, commonly known as USDC, is another stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar. Created by Circle and Coinbase, USDC operates on the Ethereum, Stellar, Algorand, and Solana blockchains. It’s fully backed by reserves of the U.S. dollar, making it one of the most trusted stablecoins in the market. The 1:1 peg to the U.S. dollar provides a stable value, making it a popular choice for traders and investors who want to avoid the volatility often associated with other cryptocurrencies.


Digix Gold (DGX)

If you’re intrigued by the idea of owning gold but want to stay in the digital realm, Digix Gold (DGX) might be your answer. This Ethereum-based token is backed by real-world assets, specifically gold. Each DGX token is equivalent to one gram of physical gold stored in a secure vault in Singapore. It’s a brilliant example of how stablecoins can be backed by physical assets other than fiat currencies.


Propy (PRO)

Moving away from fiat and precious metals, let’s talk about tokenizing real estate. Propy is a blockchain company that offers tokenization services for tangible real estate assets. This opens up opportunities for smaller investors to own a piece of property, thereby democratizing access to real estate investments. It’s an innovative way to bring financial stability implications into the property market.



DAI is an algorithmic stablecoin that operates on the Ethereum blockchain. Unlike Tether, which is backed by off-chain assets like bank deposits, DAI is backed by crypto assets and governed by smart contracts. It’s a decentralized approach to maintaining price stability and gaining traction in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space.


Euro Coin (EUROC)

Launched by Circle Internet Financial, the same company behind USDC, Euro Coin (EUROC) is a stablecoin pegged to the Euro. It operates as an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain and is fully backed by Euro reserves in leading U.S.-based financial institutions. The stablecoin aims to facilitate quick and cost-effective Euro transfers across borders. It’s redeemable 1:1 for Euros and is expected to be widely adopted as European Union regulations continue to evolve.


Security Tokens

Last but not least, let’s touch on security-backed cryptocurrencies. Companies like Polymath are pioneering this space by offering a platform based on smart contracts for launching security token offerings. These tokens fully comply with financial market infrastructure regulations, making them a safer bet for traditional investors.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg regarding stablecoins and their potential to revolutionize how we think about money and assets. Whether it’s fiat money, precious metals, or real estate, the stablecoin universe is expanding and worth watching.


The Takeaway: Navigating the Stablecoin Landscape

Stablecoins have carved out a unique niche in the crypto ecosystem, offering a stable digital currency for many applications—from everyday payments and remittances to more complex financial maneuvers like DeFi lending and yield farming. They’ve become the go-to trading capital for crypto investors looking to pivot between high-risk and low-risk assets.

But let’s not forget, that these digital assets achieve their stability through various pegging mechanisms, often tying their value to real-world assets like fiat currencies. And while this pegging usually works like a charm, it’s not foolproof. As we’ve seen with the depegging events of UST in 2022 and USDC in 2023, stablecoins are not without their risks.

So, now that you know how do stablecoins maintain their peg, what’s the bottom line? Stablecoins are indispensable tools in the crypto toolbox, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. As with any financial asset, it’s crucial to do your own research (DYOR) and understand the mechanics and risks involved.

In a world where digital currencies are rapidly gaining traction, stablecoins offer a compelling blend of stability and innovation. But remember, even the most stable of coins can wobble. So, tread carefully and make informed decisions as you navigate this exciting yet complex landscape.

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