In Currencies We Trust – Perception Matters

Published on
Feb 6, 2023
Written by
Read time
3 mins


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Key Takeaways

•  The adoption of digital currencies is on the rise
•  Different currencies serve varying functions and play distinct roles in the market
•  Currencies can be used in competition or in combination, depending on their use case
•  Trust influences perception and the willingness to use different currencies

As the use of cashless payments gains popularity, the adoption of digital currencies is on the rise. However, the rate of adoption varies among different demographics and is influenced by factors such as age, technology savvy, and trust in the issuing entity. Younger individuals who are comfortable with technology are more likely to use payment apps like Apple Pay, CashApp, or PayPal, while older individuals tend to prefer credit and debit cards.

The Role Played by Different Currencies

The perception and adoption of digital currencies are influenced by two main considerations: security and benefits. When making the decision to use a digital currency, individuals weigh factors such as time, convenience, cost savings, software encryption, and reliability. The level of trust and popularity of different digital currencies can vary significantly and are shaped by both the issuing entity and the context in which they are used.

Different currencies serve varying functions and play distinct roles in the market. Because the issuing entity and context of a currency can determine its end use, even if two currencies have the same value, they may not be accepted as interchangeable. For example, a company may allow customers to earn and use mileage points for plane tickets, but the government may not accept those points as payment for taxes, even if they have the same value in dollars.
To better understand the unique characteristics of the following currencies, let's define each one individually.

Fiat currencies are issued by governments and are backed by the full faith and credit of the issuing government. They derive their value from the trust people have in their worth and are not backed by commodities such as gold. The value of a fiat currency is determined by factors such as scarcity and the stability of the government, and it is recognized as legal tender with the characteristics of a government-issued currency, serving as a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account.

Branded currencies are any form of physical or digital financial certificates issued by a brand, such as loyalty points or cashbacks, that can be used to purchase goods or services from the issuing brand. These currencies are sold, awarded, or paid out to customers with the goal of incentivizing sales.

Digital currencies are electronic assets that can be used as a means of payment. They exist in digital form and can only be accessed and transferred through computers or mobile devices. Branded currencies, such as coupons, discounts, points, and gift cards that exist solely in digital form, are also considered digital currencies.

Electronic money is also a type of digital currency that is stored and used electronically to make payments and conduct financial transactions online. It is issued by a central authority such as a bank or financial institution and operates similarly to traditional fiat currencies. Electronic money can be stored on digital devices, including computers and mobile phones, and is often used in conjunction with traditional payment methods, such as credit cards or bank accounts.

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that can also be considered securities or assets due to their fluctuating prices. They use cryptographic and blockchain technology to ensure secure financial transactions online. Unlike traditional currency transactions that require a central authority or intermediary such as a bank, cryptocurrencies can be transferred through a peer-to-peer network without the need for intermediation.

Stable coins are digital currencies that use blockchain technology and can be traded and used in similar ways to other cryptocurrencies. Because they are designed to maintain a stable value similar to traditional fiat currencies like the US dollar, stable coins can be used to conduct business in the same way that traditional currencies are used for online transactions.

Competition or Combination

The interaction between different types of currencies in the market is determined by their individual value propositions. Consumers and businesses may choose to use them either in competition or in combination, depending on their specific needs and preferences. Let’s look at two different use cases.

In the first instance, when a customer earns a cashback in a branded currency, it is deposited into their account and can be redeemed for products or services offered by the issuing brand. The amount remains a branded currency and is not converted by the customer. In the second instance, a customer receives a payout in a branded currency and the amount is converted into fiat when they spend it using a debit card. The currencies work in concert to create an efficient flow of funds in both instances, requiring no change in the customer’s behavior to facilitate the process—it’s automated seamlessly to create a frictionless user experience.

Trust is a critical factor in shaping a customer's willingness to use a particular currency, whether it’s branded or fiat. Because a customer's perception of a currency is influenced by their trust in it, a currency must be secure and offer tangible benefits for them to use it. Understanding this dynamic is crucial for effectively leveraging the advantages of various currency types in the market.

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