One of the most popular uses for cryptocurrencies is sending payments across borders because the fees are often much lower than if you were to use a traditional method such as a bank. However, one of the best potential uses for digital assets is likely micropayments, as they can be settled quickly without the use of a third-party. But what cryptocurrencies are best for this sort of transaction? Let’s jump in.
What is a Micropayment?
Simply put, a micropayment is a payment of less than $5. Due to the low value of these sorts of transactions, you want to be using a network that charges little to no fee for sending this small amount (or even a large amount), in order to make it a worthwhile payment method.
Whether you’re repaying someone for a coffee, buying a coffee yourself, or tipping a content creator, sending a micropayment with a fee of more than a cent isn’t very worthwhile, especially if you do it often. That’s why we’ve created this list of the digital assets that are best for micropayments.
Best Cryptocurrencies for Micropayments and Why
Below are five of the best crypto assets for micropayments. For each asset we’ll discuss why it’s good for micropayments and the fee you should expect to pay. This is in no particular order and is by no means an exhaustive list. Let’s start with using the Bitcoin Lightning Network.
Bitcoin (BTC) – Lightning Network
Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is a layer-2 blockchain network built on top of Bitcoin’s base layer. The Lightning Network uses a combination of smart contracts and bidirectional payment channels to essentially remove the need for block confirmations. Doing this means that transactions are practically instant. The only current limitation is the number of channels that are currently available. But as long as you and the recipient are both using the Lightning Network, the transaction is instant and the fee will essentially be zero.
In addition, the more payment channels that are open (nodes), the faster the network gets, as it routes payments through all open channels. The Lightning Network can already handle 1,000,000 transactions per second and they are instantly finalized with almost no fee. This makes it one of the best options for micropayments.
Stellar (XLM) is a multi-currency backend payment network that runs on tokens known as Lumens. Stellar itself is the blockchain network, and Lumens are the token used to process transactions on the blockchain. It has excellent transaction speed and low fees, with every transaction costing less than 1 cent. Stellar’s transaction fees are so low which makes it ideal for micropayments and cross-border remittances alike.
Solana (SOL) is a proof of stake blockchain network that is known for its transaction speed and cheap transaction costs. Solana processes transactions in parallel, helping to greatly reduce the chances of network congestion. Transactions involving separate accounts can be executed at the same time. This allows Solana to efficiently support payment and settlement transactions that occur primarily between two distinct parties or where a single party pays out to many other parties, which certainly includes micropayments.
Solana’s transaction fees are extremely affordable at less than a cent, but they’re also predictable. Knowing the fees will be low in advance for even micropayments helps make Solana an attractive network to use for such types of transactions.
Dogecoin (DOGE) was started in 2013 by Jackson Palmer, an Adobe software engineer, and Billy Markus, an IBM software engineer. It has since been championed by Elon Musk. The asset uses a proof of work consensus mechanism just like Bitcoin, with blocks being mined every minute and 10k DOGE entering circulation through each block reward. The block speed isn’t as fast as the other assets on this list, but the fees are extremely attractive when it comes to micropayments.
For micropayments with Dogecoin, you can expect to pay less than 0.01 DOGE (DOGE is currently 5 cents US per, so you’d be paying $0.0005 in fees). Even for larger payments on the Dogecoin network the fees are generally less than a cent unless you choose a higher speed for the transaction.
Polygon (MATIC) is the most popular layer-2 (L2) blockchain network built on top of Ethereum. Transactions on Polygon take place on child chains, keeping the majority of traffic off of the Ethereum parent chain. This infrastructure results in faster and cheaper transactions on the Polygon network than for those on Ethereum.
Transactions can be finalized in just a few seconds on the Polygon layer, with fees coming in at under 1 cent much like the other asset on this list. For anyone using the Ethereum ecosystem, Polygon is likely their best option for micropayments and regular transactions (such as token swaps) alike. You could also make an argument for fellow L2s such as Arbitrum or Optimism.
Elon Musk has already obtained a license for X (Twitter) to process payments including crypto. This could be a huge boon for the sector if and when it’s enabled, though it will depend on the accepted assets. If nothing else, the desire to allow this sort of payment on X points to the usefulness of digital assets being used for micropayments between individuals on the internet.