What is a Treasury Bill and How Does It Work?

Treasury Bills are an instrument issued by the United States Treasury for a brief time and for a maturity period of between a few days and 52 weeks (one year). They are one of the best investments since they are supported by the United States government’s absolute trust and credit.

When a taxpayer purchases a Treasury bill, he lends the government money. The US administration spends the funds to finance its obligations and pays recurring costs including pensions and supplies. T-Bills are sold for a limit of 5 million dollars, from 1000 dollars which is the standard.

The bills of the treasury are exchanged at a discount of their true value. For instance, a $20,000 par value Treasury bill can be sold for $19,000. By means of the Department of Treasury, the US administration agrees to pay the creditor at the specified due date the entire face value of the T-bill. When the government is ready, the lender will pay 20,000 dollars, which will bring a benefit of 1000 dollars.

The amount of benefit from the payment is taken into account as the interest paid on the T-bill. The disparity between the T-bill’s value and the sum an investor spends, which is measured as a percentage, is the discount price. In this case, 5 percent of the face value is the discount rate. The cost of T-Bill can be found on the website of the United States Treasury.

Why Buy T-Bills?

Treasury bills are common for several reasons;

  • They are not only so cost-effective that almost everyone is willing to buy them, but they deliver quick returns and are basic.
  • In addition, you are excluded from government taxes on your cash from investment in treasury bills. However, you do pay federal income tax.
  • Financial bills often constitute a highly liquid investment medium. So they can quickly be traded.
  • They can be traded and quickly turned into cash on the secondary market. If you sell a bill on the secondary market, instead of waiting for it to mature, you sell it to another individual.
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How Do Treasury Bills Work?

Like all debt instruments, T-Bill prices and returns to investors are subject to a variety of factors including macroeconomic trends, tolerance to investor risk, inflation, fiscal policy, and complex T-Bill supply and demand terms.

Currency Policy

The monetary policies of the Federal Reserve would undoubtedly influence the price of the T-bill. T-bill interest rate seems to be similar to the Fed average called the Fed rate.

However, an increased federal fund rate continues to draw investment in other debt securities, which leads to a decrease in the T Bill rate due to lower demand. The fall lasts until the interest rate of the T-Bill is higher than the federal fund rate.

Duration of Maturity

A T-bill’s maturity influences its worth. A one-year T-bill, for example, usually has a better return than an additional three months. For this reason, longer maturities represent an added risk for investors.

For example, for a three-month T-bill, a $2,000 T-bill maybe sell at $1940, a six-month T-bill at $1900, and a twelve-month T-bill at a price of $1800. Investors expect a higher return rate to make up for a longer period of time to bind their assets.

Tolerance to Risk

The risk exposure levels of an investor often influence a T-bill price. In expanding the U.S. economy and higher returns on other debt securities, T-bills are less competitive and would be lower in prices. Although if shares and the economy are uncertain and other assets in the debt sector are deemed risky, the “safe haven” quality in T-bills is higher.


The prevalent inflation rate can also influence the price of T-bills. For e.g., if the rate of inflation stands at 5% and the rate of discount of T-bills is 4%, investing in T-bills becomes not so attractive when the true rate of return is a loss. This results in lower demand for T-bills and a fall in their rates.

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The Process to Purchase Treasury Bills

The following three methods could be used to buy treasury bills:

1) Non-competitive Bidding Method

The bidder accepts the discount rate calculated by the auction in non-competitive tenders. The income received by a creditor is equivalent to the average T-bill auction price.

This approach is preferable to individual borrowers because at the expiry of the maturity period they are promised the entire value of a bill. Payment is rendered by TreasuryDirect or by a bank or broker of the lender.

TreasuryDirect is an online and electronic marketplace framework for the holding and trading of investors in qualifying Treasury securities. The TreasuryDirect scheme is managed by the Public Debt Bureau, a division of the federal government, of the United States Treasury Department.

Investors may engage in treasury auctions, including buy bills from the US Treasury to buy debt securities. This software is fairly affordable and trouble-free for the purchase of government debt securities.

2) Competitive Bidding Method

In a competitive auction, buyers are able to purchase T-bills at a defined discount rate. Each bid stipulate which bidder or creditor is able to consider the lowest rate or discount margin. Applications approved first of all for the lowest discount rate.

Whereat that stage there are not enough bids to completely subscribe to the issue, offers are accepted at the next lowest cost. The method continues until the whole problem is sold. Payments for purchases must be made by a bank or broker.

3) Secondary Market Method

On the secondary market, investors can purchase or sell treasury bills. There are also mutual funds and ETFs that hold previously released T-bills. ETFs are also available. It is cheaper than most people believe to buy treasury on the secondary market. Many brokers offer complete access to the bond market for their clients, but fees are different.

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If it’s necessary to buy and sell treasury bills, many of the best brokerage companies offer a free trade in treasury bills. Much further, the annual ETF payments and the monetary market are totally avoided. U.S. government standard bills are cheaper to purchase than most other securities when the time to maturity is under consideration.