Meme stocks aside, there's arguably been no investment hotter in 2021 than joke-based cryptocurrency Dogecoin (CRYPTO:DOGE). At one point in early May, it had delivered a trailing-six-month return of 27,000%. For context, that's higher than the benchmark S&P 500, including dividends, over the past 56 years.

While there are a number of reasons retail investors are sold on Dogecoin as the future currency of the world, one of the most-commonly cited catalysts are its lower transaction fees, relative to the Big Two in crypto, Bitcoin (CRYPTO:BTC) and Ethereum. After all, a new medium for transactions should be more efficient than the existing infrastructure it's trying to replace.

However, the reality is that Dogecoin's transaction fees are markedly higher ($0.74, as of June 8) than a number of other popular digital currencies. According to BitInfoCharts.com and various white-paper data, the following seven popular cryptocurrencies (listed in no particular order) all offer significantly cheaper transaction fees. And they happen to be more efficient at validating and settling transactions, too.

A Shibu Inu breed dog posing for a picture.

The Shiba Inu helped inspire joke-based crypto Dogecoin. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Stellar

Under-the-radar cryptocurrency Stellar (CRYPTO:XLM), which I've chosen as one of my digital currency survivors, can easily undercut and outperform Dogecoin. Payments made on Stellar's blockchain can be verified and settled in mere seconds -- Dogecoin takes closer to 20 minutes -- and the average transaction costs 0.00001 of a Lumen, Stellar's token. Based on the Lumen's price of $0.36 on June 9, the average fee is about $0.000004 per transaction.

What's more, Stellar's developers have claimed it can handle up to 3,000 transactions per second, which would give it a real chance to become a medium for payments in the future.

An up-close view of a physical silver XRP coin next to circuitry.

The logo of Ripple XRP. Image source: Getty Images.

2. Ripple

Another payments-focused cryptocurrency with exceptionally low fees is Ripple (CRYPTO:XRP). The average transaction on Ripple's open-source, decentralized blockchain takes approximately 3 to 5 seconds to validate and settle, which would substantially expedite the up to one week it can take some cross-border payments to complete. Ripple can do all of this for a fee of approximately $0.00265, according to BitInfoCharts. 

It's also noteworthy that Ripple has partnered with a number of financial institutions to test its RippleNet cross-border payments network. These include Bank of America, American Express, and Royal Bank of Canada

Messy stacks of silver and gold coins with the Ethereum Classic logo.

The logo for Ethereum, which branched off from Ethereum Classic. Image source: Getty Images.

3. Ethereum Classic

Even though it's known more for its smart contracts than its payment prowess, Ethereum Classic (CRYPTO:ETC) can also run circles around Dogecoin. Ethereum Classic is capable of handling in the neighborhood of 15 transactions per second, and according to BitInfoCharts has a transaction fee of less than a penny ($0.00749, as of June 8). It's completing most transactions in 5 to 7 1/2 minutes, which is considerably quicker than Dogecoin, as well. 

More than likely, Ethereum Classic's future will depend on its ability to upgrade its smart contracts -- i.e., the protocols that help to verify, facilitate, and enforce the negotiation of a contract. 

A silver and gold Monero XMR coin stood on its side.

The symbolic token of Monero's XMR. Image source: Getty Images.

4. Monero

While it might not be the most obvious payment choice next to Ripple and Stellar, privacy coin Monero (CRYPTO:XMR) also offers substantially lower transaction fees, relative to Dogecoin. As of this past week, the average transaction on Monero's blockchain cost $0.059. That's 92% lower than Dogecoin's typical transaction fee.

What makes Monero so intriguing is its open-source protocol known as CryptoNote, which creates ring signatures that obfuscate the name of the sender of payments made in XMR (Monero's coin). Or, in English, it makes it impossible for an outside observer to know who sent a payment. Once a transmittance has been made, only the recipient will be able to see the stealth address, making the transaction anonymous and secure.

A person holding a small glowing golden lock that's surrounded by latticework representing blockchain.

Image source: Getty Images.

5. Nano

Nano (CRYPTO:NANO) is unique among the cryptocurrencies in this discussion because it has no transaction fees. That's right, folks: It doesn't get any cheaper than free! Transactions are also validated and completed in under a second, in most cases. This suggests over 1,000 transactions can be completed with Nano before a single Dogecoin transaction is confirmed by miners.

Rather than relying on a single blockchain where people are competing to add blocks, every user operates a blockchain that they can add to. This Block Lattice, as Nano refers to it, is transparent, immutable, and ensures that expansion can be limitless, without compromising network performance. 

A digital map of the world, with multiple nodes and binary code placed all over the map.

Image source: Getty Images.

6. Cardano

Ultra-popular cryptocurrency Cardano (CRYPTO:ADA) can also run circles around Dogecoin from an efficiency standpoint. It's verifying and settling transactions considerably faster, and its average transaction fee equates to roughly 0.16 to 0.17 ADA (Cardano's token), or about $0.27 at the midpoint.

Most eyes are on the rapid multi-point development of Cardano's blockchain. An upgrade last summer, known as Shelley, increased the number of nodes that network participants can run, which ultimately boosted average daily transactions well over tenfold. There's also the Goguen development, which incorporates smart contacts onto Cardano's blockchain. The launch of smart contracts in the coming months should really ramp up interest in Cardano. 

An up-close look at a gold and silver physical Litecoin.

The symbol for Litecoin. Image source: Getty Images.

7. Litecoin

Even though Litecoin (CRYPTO:LTC) and Dogecoin share some history (Dogecoin is a fork of LuckyCoin, which was itself forked from Litecoin), Litecoin is the far superior of the two, in terms of efficiency. The typical Litecoin transaction settles in 2 1/2 minutes, which is one-quarter of the time for Bitcoin and one-eighth the time for Dogecoin, on average. Its transaction fee of $0.0075 is also microscopic next to Dogecoin's. 

Although acceptance for cryptocurrencies remains minimal worldwide, it's also worth pointing out that roughly twice as many businesses accept Litecoin compared to Dogecoin, according to online business directory Cryptwerk.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.