So you’ve learned the blockchain basics and you’re ready to embrace the crypto boom. But it’s a vast new world, and the more crypto garners increasing attention, the harder it can be to figure out how and where to begin. Given that the fast-growing ecosystem is still relatively nascent, now is the moment to learn the ins and outs of cryptocurrency—and understand its potential to revolutionize everything about your finances.

What is Crypto?

In basic terms, cryptocurrency is decentralized, digital money designed to be circulated over the internet. You can exchange them for goods and hold investments  as with traditional money, but without the need to go through a central authority like governments or banks.

Crypto is the first alternative to the traditional banking system. The first cryptocurrency ever created was Bitcoin, launched back in 2008. While it remains the most popular and well-known, other cryptocurrencies have exploded in the decade since. Native to the digital era and designed with the web in mind, crypto is poised to become the fastest, easiest, and safest form of exchanging value that we’ve ever experienced.

What are the Key Features of Crypto?

  • Zero intermediaries - Say goodbye to banking as you know it. Using crypto you can transfer payments without the need for a bank or payment processor—meaning you can enjoy near-instant global transfers 24/7. How you want, when you want, and with low or no fees.
  • Decentralized - Typically, crypto isn’t controlled by a central bank or governing authority. (More on the few exceptions later.) Instead, peer-to-peer networks spread across various computers run open-source software to manage each cryptocurrency. Which means almost anyone who wants to participate in using crypto, can.
  • Privacy and security - When you send crypto to another party, you don’t need to include additional (read: unnecessary) personal information to do so. Because you’re not sending sensitive financial information over the web, your personal data stays protected. And because the blockchain constantly checks and verifies every single transaction made with a specific currency, you can rest assured that it’s secure.
  • Transparency - Blockchain offers unparalleled transparency as a public ledger. Every transaction is recorded and published on it—no matter what. So there’s no opportunity to manipulate those transactions, alter cash flows, or suddenly change the rules.

What are the Benefits of Crypto?

  • Equality and equity - Unlike traditional banking systems, you can use crypto regardless of who you are and where you live. And as decentralized currency, you can do so independent of governmental rules and regulations. If you have access to a smartphone or other internet-connected device, then you have the same access to crypto as everyone else.
  • True ownership - Because no single company, country, or third-party intermediary is in control of crypto, you get to take back control of your assets.
  • Economic freedom - Crypto payments are essentially borderless, facilitating free trade across the globe—even in areas where the government or other authorities place strict control over citizens’ traditional financial services.
  • Opportunity for investment - You can approach your crypto investments in a variety of ways. Buy and sell different coins, stake your crypto as collateral to support the operation of a blockchain, or earn income over time with yield farming. The possibilities are endless. And if you’re looking to invest but minimize risk, consider a stablecoin like USD Coin (USDc).

What is a Stablecoin?

As the name suggests, a stablecoin is a form of cryptocurrency—minus the volatility. These coins get their stability from traditional forms of currency and assets. So you can enjoy all the functional benefits of crypto with less risk. And because stablecoins are in such high demand for borrowing, you can typically save and earn at a higher-than-average interest rate. There are a few different types:

  • Fiat-backed - The value of these coins is tethered to a traditional currency, like USDc, which is pegged 1:1 with the US Dollar. They’re centralized, but less prone to price changes and volatility. And when you want to cash-in, you can redeem the coin’s value in fiat currency.
  • Crypto-backed - Instead of being backed by fiat money, some stablecoins are backed by other crypto assets, like Ether (ETH). They can be volatile, as the price changes based on the value of the underlying asset. In order to compensate, they’re overcollateralized, so a $1 crypto-backed stablecoin might require collateral worth at least $2. These coins are completely transparent and decentralized.
  • Precious metals - Similar to fiat-backed coins, these stablecoins use centralized resources like gold and silver as the underlying asset.
  • Algorithmic - Rather than being backed by another asset, an algorithmic stablecoin will track fluctuations, selling tokens if the price falls below the desired value and supplying them if the price raises above the desired amount. No collateral is necessary and it’s all public, but you have to understand the algorithm and know that the number of tokens you own will change based on total supply. These stablecoins aren’t tethered to the traditional financial system in any way.

Choose How You Get Paid on Rise

Crypto is upending the financial system as we know it, giving individuals back control of their assets and opening new possibilities. At Rise, we know one of crypto’s best features is its ability to put you in the driver’s seat. Which is why Rise Pay offers you the freedom of choice—you decide how to receive payment, whether exclusively in crypto, fiat currency, or a stablecoin.

You work hard for your money. Now it’s time for it to work for you. Ready to explore your options with crypto? Get started on Rise today.

Continue to the next blog in this series: Blockchain 101, Part 2 | Understanding Your Digital Wallet