What is a Treasury Bill?

1 min readLast updated November 3, 2023by Rachel Carey

Treasury bills are a short-term investment option. Discover what you need to know about this government-backed investment strategy.


  • Treasury Bills are short-term investments. 

  • T-bills allow you to lend the US government money and accrue interest. 

  • Buying Treasury bills can be done online. 

  • Interest is exempt from tax at state level but not federal level. 

What is a Treasury bill? 

A Treasury bill is a short-term investment that can reach maturity anywhere between a few days and a single year. Also known as T-bills, these short-term debt obligations are backed by the US government’s Treasury Department, making them one of the safest, fastest, and most reliable ways to invest money.  

Treasury bills are appealing to conservative investors who have a low-risk tolerance and are seeking fast maturation from their investments. They offer a simple, straightforward, and typically much faster turnaround process than other investment models.  

T bills are popular due to their speed and a fair degree of predictability. However, they’re not the perfect fit for everyone. If you are interested in investing in Treasury bills, it’s always wise to consult a financial advisor first. A financial advisor can help you create an investment strategy that works for you. Unbiased can connect you to an SEC-regulated financial advisor in just a few short steps. Get matched with an advisor to grow your money.   

How do treasury bills work? 

Knowing how treasury bills work is important for anyone interested in making this kind of investment.  

When you buy a T-bill, you are essentially lending the US government money in the form of this bill, and once it matures or reaches the end of its term, you get your money back plus accrued interest.  

Let’s set up an example scenario:  

A person purchases a $10,000 Treasury bill with a discount rate of 3% set for one year of maturation. The 3% discount rate means they only have to pay $9,700 upfront for the bill. After 52 weeks, the person gets back their initial investment plus an additional $300. 

There are several benefits to investing in Treasury bills. They offer a faster turnaround than other investments, such as bonds or notes, and are typically very secure in their projected outcome. In fact, they’re considered one of the only investment types that are virtually zero-risk.  

However, because US treasury bill rates are dependent on interest rate expectations, their market value can decrease during inflation. They also have a fairly low interest rate compared to other investments, placing a comfortable but limiting cap on their growth potential.  

How are Treasury bills taxed? 

Interest from US treasury securities is exempt from tax at a local state level but not at a federal level.  

At the end of each fiscal year, owners of Treasury bills receive a Form 1099-INT via the US Treasury Department. This form outlines how much interest was earned over the past year and what the owner owes in terms of tax. You can find more information about Treasury bill taxation on the official IRS website.  

How to buy Treasury bills? 

In the US, there are a few different ways of buying Treasury bills. There are both online and brick-and-mortar options when it comes to this kind of investment.  

Let’s take a look at the most popular choices:  

  • TreasuryDirect.gov – This online platform is one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to buy T-bills. All you need to open an account is a bank account, a Social Security number, and a US address. Minimum investments start at $100.  

  • At an auction – The US Treasury Department regularly hosts online auctions for treasury bills and other investments. These auctions typically happen on the TreasuryDirect.gov website.

  • Through a brokerage account – If you work for a large firm, you may be able to invest in a T-bill via its established broker account. This is sometimes easier than opening up your own account.  

  • On the secondary market – You can also purchase T-bills from the secondary market. However, it is generally considered wiser to buy them freshly issued from the primary market.  

Treasury bills vs. bonds vs. certificate of deposit account 

Treasury bills, bonds, and certificates of deposit accounts (CDs) are all safe, low-risk investments, but they all have unique strengths and disadvantages to be aware of.  

Let’s compare each of these investment types to gain a better idea of their primary differences and similarities: 

1. Treasury bills  

Treasury bills are low-risk, short-term investments backed by the US Treasury Department. Investors purchase a T-bill at a discounted rate (typically in the realm of 3-5% less than the bill’s original cost) and then wait for it to mature by that same percentage. Investors then receive the interest gained during the bill’s maturation period.  

2. Bonds  

A bond is similar to a loan. When you buy a bond, you essentially loan the government a sum of money for a set period of time in exchange for a specific amount of interest. You can also get treasury bonds that offer longer-term maturation periods than their bill counterparts.  

3. Certificate of deposit accounts  

You can think of CDs as savings accounts with higher interest rates. It is a savings product that accrues interest on a lump sum over time. When interest rates are high, a CD is likely to yield higher-paying returns than bonds or T-bills.   

Tips on investing in Treasury bills 

Knowing how to buy Treasury bills has a lot to do with understanding the processes and terminologies of the US financial system. Choose a trustworthy site like TreasuryDirect.gov or auction to ensure that your T-bills are placed into the accounts of legitimate, reliable systems that yield high interest.  

Choosing the right investment type for your budget and needs can feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. With the help of a financial advisor at Unbiased, you can access expert-level guidance and support from industry professionals you can trust. Find a trusted, SEC-regulated financial advisor here.

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.