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Treasury Bill : Features, Types, Examples, Advantages & Disadvantages

Last Updated : 16 Jan, 2024
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What is Treasury Bill?

Treasury Bills, or T-Bills, are short-term government securities that let people lend money to the government at a discount. They are a safe way to spend money. Treasury Bills are like IOUs or promises issued by the government. When you buy a Treasury Bill, you’re essentially lending money to the government. In return, the government promises to pay you back the full amount you lent (the face value) at a later date. However, here’s the catch: the government sells these IOUs at a discounted price. This means you pay less than the face value when you buy a Treasury Bill, and when it matures, the government pays you the full face value. The difference between what you pay and what you get back is like the interest you earn for lending your money.

Geeky Takeaways:

  • T-Bills have terms that range from a few days to a year, which gives buyers with short-term financial goals a lot of options.
  • T-Bills are issued by the government through regular sales. Investors can bid competitively or not competitively, which changes the prices and interest rates.
  • People who prefer protection, regular returns, and easy access to cash will be interested in T-Bills. They are also good for people with short-term needs and people who want to get money when they mature.
  • T-Bills are thought to be low-risk investments, but they may not give as good of results as riskier ones, and their prices can change based on things like interest rates, the economy, and events around the world.

Why Government Issue Treasury Bills?

Now, let’s talk about why the government goes through the process of issuing these Treasury Bills:

1. Short-term Financing: Sometimes, the government needs money for a short period of a few days, a few months, or up to a year. It could be to cover unexpected expenses or manage temporary shortages in its budget. Instead, of taking out long-term loans, which might not be necessary, the government can issue T-Bills for a quick infusion of cash.

2. Cash Flow Management: Governments, just like individuals, have times when they receive more money than they spend and other times when they spend more than they receive. T-Bills help the government manage these fluctuations in cash flow. By selling these bills, the government can better balance its budget throughout the year.

3. Debt Management: Governments have various types of debts, and managing them wisely is crucial. T-Bills offer a way to balance the overall debt portfolio. Since these bills have short maturities, they complement longer-term debts like bonds. This strategic mix helps the government adapt to changing economic conditions.

4. Implementing Monetary Policy: This might sound a bit fancy, but it’s essential. Central banks, which are part of the government, use T-Bills to influence the amount of money circulating in the economy. Buy buying or selling T-Bills, they can adjust the money supply, affecting interest rates and controlling inflation.

5. Broad Investor Base: When the government issues T-Bills, it’s not just targeting big financial institutions. These bills are designed to attract a wide range of investors from regular folks to large investment firms. This broad investor base ensures that the government has a stable and diverse source of funds.

Features of Treasury Bills

Understanding Treasury Bills becomes easier when we look at their key features:

1. Maturity Period: T-Bills are like short-term loans. They can have maturities ranging from a few days to one year, depending on what the government needs. So, if you’re looking for a quick turnaround on your investment , T-Bills might be a good fit.

2. Discounted Pricing: This is the unique part. When you buy a T-Bills, you’re paying less than the face value. The difference between what you paid and what you get back is you “Interest” or earnings. It’s a bit like buying something on sale and getting a good deal.

3. Fixed Interest Rate: Even though T-Bills don’t have a stated interest rate like a savings account, the discount at which they are sold effectively determines the yield. So , you know upfront how much you stand to earn when the T-Bill matures.

4. Liquidity: Need to access your money before the T-Bill matures? No problem. T-Bills are highly liquid, meaning you can sell them on the market before they reach their maturity date.

5. Government Backing: This is what makes T-Bills so safe. They are backed by the full faith and credit of the government. The government is committed to paying you back the face value when the T-Bill matures, providing a high level of security.

6. No Default Risk: Since the government guarantees T-Bills, the risk of not getting your money back is minimal. You can count on the government to honour its commitment.

7. Regular Auctions: Governments regularly hold auctions to sell T-Bills. Investors bid on these bills, specifying the interest rate (or discount rate) they are willing to accept. This competitive process helps determine the market interest rate.

8. Non-Callable: Unlike some loans or bonds,, T-Bills are non-callable. This means the government can’t pay them back before the agreed-upon maturity date. You, as an investor, know exactly when you will get your money back.

9. Tax Considerations: The interest you earn on T-Bills is subject to federal taxes, but it’s exempt from state and local taxes. This can be an advantage for investors looking to minimize their tax obligations.

10. Variety of Maturities: T-Bills come in different flavors-30 days, 90 days, 180 days, and one year. This variety allows you to choose the maturity period that aligns with your financial goals.

Types of Treasury Bills

Treasury Bills (T-Bills) come in different types, primarily distinguished by their maturities. The main types are:

1. 30-Day T-Bills: These bills have the shortest maturity, maturing in 30 days from the date of issuance.

2. 60-Day T-Bills: Though less common, some governments issue T-Bills with a 60-day maturity, providing a middle-ground option for investors with slightly longer investment horizons.

3. 90-Day T-Bills: Slightly longer than the 30-day bills, these mature in 90 days, offering a bit more flexibility.

4. 180-Day T-Bills: With a six month maturity period, these T-Bills provide an option for investors seeking a medium-term investment.

5. One-Year T-Bills: The longest maturity among T-Bills, these bills mature after one year, making them the most extended short-term option.

T-Bill Maturities, Redemptions, and Interest Earned

Understanding how T-Bill maturities work, the redemption process, and interest earned is essential for investors:

1. Maturities: The maturity of a T-Bills is the period it takes for the government to repay the face value of the investor. Different maturities cater to various investor preferences, allowing flexibility in aligning investments with short-term goals.

2. Redemption: When a T-Bills matures, the government repays the investor the full face value of the bill. For instance, if you purchased a $1,000 T-Bill, you would receive $1,000 when it matures. The government redeems the bill at its face value.

3. Interest Earned: T-Bills are sold at a discount to their face value, and the difference between the purchase price and face value represents the interest earned. For example, if you bought a $1,000 T-Bill for $980, your interest earned at maturity would be $20.

Purchasing T-Bill

Investors can buy T-Bills directly from the government through auctions. Here’s a simplified process of purchasing T-Bills

1. Auction Participation: The government regularly conducts T-Bill auctions, providing an opportunity for investors to bid for T-Bills. These auctions are a primary means for the government to issue new T-Bills and raise funds.

2. Competitive and Non-Competitive Bids: Investors submit bids at these auctions, either competitively or non-competitively. In a competitive bid, an investor specifies the interest rate they are willing to accept, while in a non-competitive bid, the investor agrees to accept the average rate determined by the competitive bids.

3. Auction Results: After the auction, the government reviews the bids and announces the results. Successful bidders are awarded T-Bills based on their bid amounts and accepted interest rates. The government aims to strike a balance between raising the required funds and ensuring competitive interest rates.

4. Payment and Issuance: Investors who win the bids are requited to make payments for the T-Bills they were awarded. The governments issue the T-Bills to these investors, and they are held either until maturity or can be sold in the secondary market.

Example of a Treasury Bill Purchase

Let’s walk through an example of purchasing a Treasury Bill:

1. Auction Day: The government announces a T-Bill auction with a face value of $1,000 and a 90-day maturity.

2. Bid Submission: You decide to participate in the auction. You submit a competitive bid, stating that you are willing to accept a 1% interest rate.

3. Auction Results: The government reviews all bids. If your bid is among the accepted ones, you will receive a 90-day T-Bill with a face value of $1,000 and an interest rate of 1%.

4. Payment: You pay the discounted price for the T-Bill based on the 1% interest rate. If the average rate determined by competitive bids is also 1%, then your payment might be close to the value.

5. Holding or Selling: You can choose to hold the T-Bill until maturity, receiving the face value plus interest after 90 days. Alternatively, you can sell the T-Bill in the secondary market before maturity if you need to access funds earlier.

Treasury Bonds vs. Treasury Notes vs. Treasury Bills

To navigate the world of U.S. Treasury securities, it’s crucial to understand the difference between Treasury Bonds, Treasury Notes, and Treasury Bills. These debt instruments vary in terms of maturity, interest payments, and investment purposes.


Treasury Bills

Treasury Notes

Treasury Bonds


Short-term, with maturities ranging from a few days to one year.

Intermediate-term, with maturities ranging from two to ten years.

Long-term, typically exceeding ten years.


Sold at a discount, and the difference between the purchase price and face value represents the interest earned. No periodic interest payments: interest is earned at maturity.

Pay fixed interest every six months. Sold at face value, providing regular interest income.

Pay fixed interest every six months. Sold at face value, providing regular interest income.


T-Bills are ideal for short-term investors seeking a safe and liquid investments without the need for regular interest income.

Treasury Notes suit investors with a medium-term investment horizon who prefer a predictable stream of income through regular interest payments.

Treasury Bonds are suitable for long-term investors looking for steady interest income over an extended period.

Advantages of T-Bills

1. Safety: T-Bills are considered one of the safest investment because they are backed by the full faith and credit of the government. The likelihood of default is extremely low.

2. Liquidity: T-Bills are highly liquid instruments. Investors can easily buy or sell them on the secondary market before maturity, providing flexibility and access to funds.

3. Predicable Returns: The return on T-Bills is known upfront, making them attractive for investors seeking stability. The absence of periodic interest payments simplifies the calculation of potential returns.

4. Diversification: T-Bills provide a short-term investments option that complements longer-term investments. Including T-Bills in a portfolio can contribute to overall diversification.

5. Accessible to Small Investors: T-Bills have relatively low minimum investment requirements, making them accessible to a wide range of investors, including individuals with smaller amounts to invest.

Disadvantages of T-Bills

1. Lower Returns: While T-Bills offer safety, their returns are generally lower compared to riskier investments. Investors trade off higher returns for the security of government-backed debt.

2. Interest Rate Risk: If interest rates rise after purchasing T-Bills, investors might miss out on potentially higher returns available in the market. T-Bills lock in a specific rate at the time of purchase, and changes in market rates can impact their relative attractiveness.

3. Inflation Risk: T-Bills might not keep pace with inflation. The fixed return at maturity may not fully compensate for the erosion of purchasing power over time due to inflation.

4. Market Fluctuations: T-Bill prices can be influenced by market conditions, impacting their value if sold before maturity. Changes is supply and demand dynamics, economic indicators, and central bank policies can affect market prices.

What Influences T-Bill Prices?

Several factors influence T-Bill prices in the market, affecting their yields and attractiveness to investors:

1. Interest Rates: Changes in prevailing interest rates have a direct impact on T-Bill prices. When interest rates rise, existing T-Bills with lower rates become less attractive, potentially leading to a decline in their market prices.

2. Economic Conditions: The overall economic environment, including indicators such as inflation rates, GDP growth, and unemployment, can influence T-Bills prices. Strong economic conditions might lead to higher interest rates, affecting T-Bill values.

3. Supply and Demand: The demand for T-Bills in auctions and on the secondary market plays a crucial role in determining their prices. Increased demand typically leads to higher prices and lower yields.

4. Central Bank Policies: Actions taken by central banks, such as adjustments to monetary policy and interest rates, can have significant effects on T-Bill prices. Central bank decisions influence overall market conditions and investors sentiment.

5. Market Sentiment: Investor perceptions, fears, or optimism about economic and geopolitical conditions can impact T-Bill prices. Market sentiment often drives short-term fluctuations in demand and, consequently, prices.

6. Inflation Expectations: Investors consider future inflation expectations when evaluating T-Bills. If investors anticipate higher inflation, they may require higher yields to compensate for the potential loss of purchasing power.

7. Global Economic Conditions: T-Bill prices can be influenced by global economic conditions and events. Factors such as trade tensions, geopolitical instability, or global economic downturns may impact investor preferences and risk perceptions.

Who Should Consider Investing in Treasury Bills?

Investing in Treasury Bills can be suitable for a range of investors with different financial goals and risks tolerances. Here are some scenarios where T-Bills may be an attractive option:

1. Safety-Oriented Investors: Individuals who prioritize capital preservation and are risk-averse may find T-Bills appealing due to their high level of safety. The full faith and credit of the government back T-Bills, minimizing default risk.

2. Short-Term Investment Needs: Investors with short-term financial goals, such as saving for a near-future expense or creating an emergency fund, may benefit from the liquidity and stability offered by T-Bills.

3. Income-Seeking Investors: While T-Bills do not provide regular interest payments like Treasury Notes or Bonds, they can still be suitable for income-seeking investors who prefer a lump-sum payment at maturity.

4. Portfolio Diversification: T-Bills can serve as a diversification tool within a broader investment portfolio. Including low-risk assets like T-Bills can help balance a portfolio and reduce overall risk exposure.

5. Risk Mitigation in Volatile Markets: During periods of market volatility or economic uncertainty, investors may seek safe-haven assets. T-Bills, being considered low-risk, can serve as a temporary refuge for investors looking to mitigate risk.

6. Liquidity Needs: Investors who value liquidity and want the flexibility to access their funds quickly may find T-Bills attractive. The ability to sell T-Bills on the secondary market before maturity provides liquidity.

7. Individuals with Limited Capital: T-Bills offer safety and liquidity, they may not be suitable for everyone. Investors with a longer time horizon or those seeking higher yields might explore other investment options such as Treasury Notes or Bonds, corporate bonds, or equities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are T-Bills Risk-Free?


T-Bills are often considered nearly risk-free due to the backing of the government. However, they still carry some minimal risks, such as inflation risk.

2. How do i buy Treasury Bills?


You can buy Treasury Bills directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury through auctions. To participate, you can visit the official website of the Treasury Direct portal. Individuals can also buy T-Bills through banks of financial institutions that participate in Treasury auctions.

3. Can I Sell Treasury Bills they Mature?


Yes, you can sell Treasury Bills on the secondary market before they reach maturity. The secondary market provides liquidity, allowing investors to buy or sell T-Bills to other investors. The Prices in the secondary market may fluctuate based on market conditions and interest rates.

4. How is the Interest on Treasury Bills Taxed?


The interest earned on Treasury Bills is subject to federal income tax. However, it is exempt from state and local taxes. Investors receive a Form 1099-INT from the issuer, detailing the interest income earned during the tax year.

5. Can I Use Treasury Bills as Collateral for a Loan?


Yes, Treasury Bills can be used as collateral for loans. Financial institutions may accept T-Bills as a secure asset against which they can extend credit. This can be a way for investors to leverage their T-Bill holdings to access additional funds.

6. How often are Treasury Bill auctions conducted?


Treasury Bill auctions are conducted regularly by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The frequency of auctions may vary, but they are typically held on a weekly basis. The Treasury publishes a schedule of upcoming auctions, and investors can participate in these auctions based on their investment preferences and goals.

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