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Security Tokens vs Utility Tokens

Understanding Tokens

In the context of cryptocurrencies, a token is a digital asset, utility, or unit of value issued by a company. These tokens are essentially programmable assets or access rights managed through smart contracts and a distributed ledger. They are typically issued during an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), which is similar to an Initial Public Offering (IPO). The primary distinction between an IPO and an ICO lies in the fact that in an IPO, investors receive stocks in return for their investment, whereas in an ICO, they receive tokens. These tokens can later be used to access a company’s products or services.

What Are Security Tokens?

Security tokens are digital assets whose value is linked to an external asset that can be traded, and they are subject to federal laws regulating securities. Compliance with these regulations is mandatory for security tokens, as failure to do so can result in serious consequences, including penalties and potential setbacks for the project’s development.

These tokens represent assets such as ownership in real-world assets, earnings from those assets, company shares, or entitlement to interest payments or dividends. Economically, they function similarly to bonds, derivatives, and equities. When startups adhere to regulatory requirements, security tokens open up a wide range of potential applications. They are also referred to as securitized tokens. The concept of a Security Token Offering (STO) is designed to enhance investor trust in various project investments.

Features of Security Token

  • Security tokens electronically verify identities by securely storing personal information
  • These tokens are issued by Security Token Services (STS) and are responsible for authenticating a person’s identity
  • They can be used as an alternative or with passwords to confirm the owner’s identity
  • It’s worth noting that security tokens are not immune to risks and may be lost, stolen, or susceptible to hacking.

Benefits of Security Token 

Efficiency: Security tokens remove middlemen, making fundraising and trading more efficient, with faster settlements and reduced costs. They improve dividend issuance, voting, and liquidation preferences

Automation: Security tokens enhance compliance and automate processes like dividend payments, allowing for customised rules to meet jurisdictional regulations

Transparency: Blockchain maintains a secure digital record of ownership and transactions, protecting investors and reducing disputes

Improved Liquidity: Security tokens boost liquidity by tokenising traditionally illiquid assets, enabling fractional ownership, and expanding investor access.

How Does Security Token Work?

Security tokens are created for investment purposes, and token holders receive additional coins as dividends whenever the issuing company generates profits in the market. Holding these security tokens also grants users ownership in the company. The blockchain serves as a platform for establishing a voting system that empowers investors to influence the company’s decision-making process. In essence, a cryptocurrency token that passes the Howey Test is classified as a security token, as it derives its value from an external tradeable asset

Federal securities laws apply to security tokens since they are classified as securities. The Supreme Court created the Howey Test, which is used to evaluate whether particular transactions meet the criteria for being considered ‘investment contracts’. If so, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 govern these transactions, resulting in particular disclosure and registration obligations. Security tokens are also subject to laws like the following:

Regulation D:

  • Allows offerings to avoid SEC registration via ‘Form D’ filed post-sale
  • Offers can be made to accredited investors under Section 506C with investor verification and truthful information.

Regulation A+:

  • Permits SEC-approved security offerings to non-accredited investors, raising up to $50 million
  • Registration requirements may take more time and incur higher costs compared to other options.


  • For securities offered outside the US, exempt from Section 5 registration requirements
  • Creators must comply with the security regulations of the country where offerings take place.

What Are Utility Tokens?

Utility tokens, often called user tokens or app coins, are typically distributed in crowdfunding campaigns, such as ICOs. These tokens function like digital coupons, offering future benefits like reduced fees or exclusive access to a product or service. Unlike security tokens, they aren’t considered investments and can be exempt from federal securities regulations when properly structured. Examples include tokens like Filecoin, Siacoin, Civic, and more.

Features of Utility Tokens

  • Token owners have rights like product ownership, voting, and decentralised storage through utility tokens
  • Utility tokens exchange value for services and offer rewards to improve user experiences
  • They serve as blockchain currency and may become a financial payment alternative
  • Users can share utility tokens to earn rewards and access blockchain infrastructure and decentralised services.

Benefits of Utility Token

Tokenised Ecosystems: They help create and sustain ecosystems where users are incentivised to participate and contribute, fostering network growth

Incentives and Rewards: Utility tokens can be used to incentivise users, such as offering rewards, discounts, or staking benefits, for actively participating in the ecosystem

Transparency and Security: Blockchain technology provides transparency and security, which can benefit users of utility tokens

Borderless Transactions: Utility tokens can be used for transactions across borders, simplifying international payments.

Security Tokens Vs. Utility Tokens

Security Tokens and Utility Tokens can be differentiated on the basis of the following table:

Basis Security Tokens  Utility tokens
Purpose A security token represents legal ownership of a verified physical or digital asset on the blockchain Utility tokens support ICO funding and establish an internal economy in the project’s blockchain, with token holders gaining voting rights within the ecosystem.
Expectations The value of a security token is directly linked to the company’s valuation. In contrast, a utility token’s value is independent of the company’s current valuation.
Scam Potential Security tokens have minimal scam potential due to high regulation. Utility tokens, being less regulated, are susceptible to scams, with fraudulent ICOs and tokens aimed at quick profits.
Regulation Status Utility tokens are relatively unregulated, making it challenging to establish ICO regulations. Security tokens necessitate compliance with the Howey test, involving both the company and investors.



Security tokens represent ownership and investment, subject to regulatory oversight. Utility tokens offer access to blockchain services, fostering ecosystems and use cases. Understanding the distinction is crucial for making informed decisions in the evolving world of blockchain and cryptocurrency investments. However making an investment in any of the following aspects requires detailed research and greater insights from investment experts. 

Akash G Varadaraj