Background: The way we interact with money is undergoing a sea change. Prompted by the move to more digital transactions and a significant decline in cash usage, central banks are mulling the introduction of central bank digital currencies (CBDC). However, the failure of cryptocurrencies to, despite all the hype, gain widespread adoption as a retail payment solution, poses the question whether central banks can succeed where cryptocurrencies failed.

Method: We present an adoption model for digital currencies, and adapt it separately to cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and CBDC. These models are evaluated in a large-scale user study with 785 respondents from Germany representative of the working-age population. This allows us to test whether CBDC are evaluated differently from cryptocurrencies using multigroup-analysis.

Results: We find that adoption of all three currencies is similarly driven by self-efficacy and trust, while risk factors only show a negligible effect on adoption intention. Furthermore, CBDC score higher for both anteceding measures, indicating a higher willingness to adopt CBDC among the German population.

Conclusion: This study offers encouraging signs for the future adoption potential of CBDC, as while the underlying adoption process could not be shown to be different, the observed level of self-efficacy and trust towards CBDC was significantly higher than for both classical cryptocurrencies and stablecoins. Additionally, this paper illustrates how multigroup analysis can be employed to compare the adoption process of different technologies as long as equivalent model items can be found for each technology.