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USDT vs. USDC vs. UST: How Do They Compare?

Alex Lielacher
Last updated: | 5 min read
Source: Adobe/sonsedskaya


Stablecoins are taking an increasingly growing market share of the overall crypto markets as the demand for digital dollars continues to rise among crypto investors.

Read on to learn about the similarities and differences between USDT, USDC, and UST in this stablecoin comparison guide.

What is USDT?

Tether (USDT), created by Tether Limited, is the world’s leading stablecoin by market capitalization. It is a digital currency tied to the US dollar to keep its value stable.

USDT was designed to be pegged 1:1 to the US dollar. This means while the price of other cryptoassets fluctuates, USDT’s price usually stands around USD 1.

USDT operates on several blockchains, including Ethereum (ETH), Algorand (ALGO), EOS, Solana (SOL), Tron (TRX), and more. Tether can interface with these blockchains to allow for the issuance and redemption of USDT.

The leading stablecoin is backed by cash reserves, unsecured short-term debts, and other dollar-denominated fixed income securities, according to an audit of Tether. It claims that as of 31 December 2021, Tether held USD 78.68bn in assets versus USD 78.54bn in liabilities of which USD 78.48bn relates to digital tokens issued.

While USDT is by far the largest and most liquid stablecoin in the market, it has faced controversies, especially in regard to transparency around its dollar reserves. 

At the time of writing (noon UTC on Friday), USDT has a total market capitalization of over USD 83.5bn.

What is USDC?

USD Coin (USDC) is a stablecoin pegged to a ratio of 1:1 with the US dollar. USD Coin, commonly referred to as USDC, was launched in 2018 and is backed by the Centre Consortium (led by Coinbase and Circle). The consortium says its mission is to provide a stable digital currency and create an ecosystem where financial partners, wallets, exchanges, and crypto companies can interact within existing global financial regulations.

USDC is implemented across several networks, including Ethereum, Avalanche (AVAX), Algorand, Solana, Hedera Hashgraph (HBAR), Tron, Stellar (XLM), and more. According to the consortium, each USDC is backed by USD 1 or an asset with equivalent value kept in accounts in regulated US financial institutions.

Users who onramp through a USDC issuer can transfer fiat currency to receive USDC. The issuer will execute a series of instructions with the Centre to verify, validate and mint USDC tokens. Thereafter, the user can transfer the tokens externally to other parties.

To redeem USDC, a user requests a redemption from an issuer. Once it has been successfully verified and validated, the relevant USDC tokens are ‘burned’, and funds from the underlying reserves are transferred to the user’s bank account.

At the time of writing, USDC has a total market capitalization of USD 48.7bn.

What is UST?

TerraUSD (UST) is a decentralized algorithmic stablecoin that underpins the Terra (LUNA) blockchain. TerraUSD was launched in 2020 and was designed to offer a stablecoin solution for decentralized finance (DeFi) to the masses.

UST is pegged to the US dollar in an attempt to maintain its value at USD 1. However, unlike centralized stablecoins, UST isn’t backed by dollar reserves in a bank account. Instead, to mint a UST token, users pay USD 1 worth of LUNA, which acts as TerraUSD’s reserve asset.

TerraUSD is the leading cross-chain protocol in the industry. This means that the leading blockchains support UST, and its dropship bridge protocol enables it to integrate into several DeFi and decentralized exchange (DEX) platforms.

Moreover, TerraUSD’s Anchor protocol offers up to 20% yields on UST deposits. This yield is in the form of staking rewards from major proof-of-stake (PoS) networks and interest paid from borrowers using the Anchor savings protocol. 

At the time of writing, UST is the third-largest stablecoin and has a total market capitalization of almost USD 18.7bn.

USDT vs. USDC vs. UST: Key differences

Launch year201420182020
Stablecoin issuerTether is the sole issuer of USDT.USDC is issued by Circle but can also be issued and redeemed by other member institutions of the Centre Consortium.UST operates on the Terra blockchain and Terra’s LUNA token is used as the reserve asset to maintain the stablecoin’s value.
Base fiat currencyPegged to the US dollar in a 1:1 ratioPegged to the US dollar in a 1:1 ratioUST relies on a swap function to maintain its peg by contracting the supply of UST when it is below the peg and expanding LUNA, and vice versa when it is above the peg.
Collateral type85% reserves in cash and cash equivalents, short-term deposits, and commercial notes. The remainder is in secured loans, corporate bonds, precious metals, and even, holding other digital tokens.100% reserves in cash and cash equivalents including USD deposits in banks and short-term highly liquid investments.Utilizes several mechanisms to maintain its peg ranging from partial collateralization to programmatic contraction.
Blockchains supportedEthereum, Algorand, EOS, Solana, Tron, and more.Ethereum, Avalanche, Algorand, Solana, Hedera, Tron, Stellar, and more.Terra, Ethereum

 USDT vs USDC vs. UST: Pros & Cons

Price stabilityRelatively stable in value pegged 1:1 to the dollarVery stable in value pegged 1:1 to the dollarNot very stable in value pegged 1:1 to the dollar
Ability to blacklist wallet addressesYesYesNo
RegulationSomewhat regulatedHighly regulatedUnregulated
AdoptionMost accepted stablecoin in the market.Second-largest stablecoin in the market. Popular in DeFi.New stablecoin, but is already the third-largest. Mainly popular in DeFi on Terra blockchain.

UST allows a limited number of nodes that keep the network stable, which makes it less decentralized than other networks. However, it is more decentralized than USDT and USDC.


So which one’s the best?

When it comes to stablecoins, it’s not easy to definitively say that one stablecoin is better than the other. It really depends on what you are looking for.

If you are looking to trade digital assets in large volumes and prefer to use a highly compliant stablecoin backed by a regulated company, USDC is probably the way forward. Conversely, if you prefer to deal in a stablecoin that is not centralized and backed by US dollars, you would choose UST out of the three stablecoins mentioned in this guide. If you need deep liquidity and wide market acceptance, USDT is probably your go-to stablecoin.

Like with so many things in crypto, it’s up to you to do your own research and decide what’s best for your digital wallet.


Learn more: 
Tether’s Reserves
Circle’s Valuation Doubles to USD 9B as New Holding Company Expected to Go Public
Bitcoin Extends Sell-Off Despite Luna Buying, Strong On-Chain Data

Stablecoins See Growth With Crypto Market Stuck in ‘Bearish Lull’
Regulatory Clarity, More Transactional Use Could Boost Stablecoin Adoption – Crypto Summit Panel

Cardano’s Djed Stablecoin Testnet Goes Live, ADA Outperforms
Tron’s Justin Sun Launches ‘Most Decentralized Stablecoin,’ Bitcoin Might Get a Role Here Too