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Best U.S. Treasury Bond Investing Online Brokerage Firms


Best treasury bond online brokerage firms. Can I invest in U.S. treasuries on Fidelity, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Etrade, and Ally?



Overview of Trading U.S. Treasury Bonds


U.S. Treasury bonds are a safe haven asset that appeals to investors looking for reliability and a high credit rating. These securities are available at many brokerage firms. In particular, Fidelity, E*Trade, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, and Ally Invest all offer them. Here’s how to buy and sell U.S. government debt at these five brokers.


Investing in Treasuries on Charles Schwab


Treasury bonds are available at Schwab on both the secondary and primary markets. Maturity dates on the primary market vary from 1 month to 30 years, and on the secondary market there are bonds maturing in 9 days and some out to 3 decades.

To search through the broker’s debt offering, just go to ‘Research’ at the top menu on the Schwab website, and click on ‘Bonds & Fixed Income.’ Here, you will find a screener for all fixed-income products the broker offers. There is a drop-down menu for bond type. Clicking on the menu produces several choices. Besides Treasuries, there are zero-coupon Treasuries and other government-related bonds, including agency debt.


Charles Schwab Treasuries Investing


The secondary market screener shows more than 20,000 Treasury bonds. They can be sorted by coupon rate, yield to maturity, yield to worst, and maturity date. Several other criteria are shown, such as price, estimated total for the order, and CUSIP number. There is a convenient buy link on the left-hand side of the menu. Mixed in the search results are Inflation Protected Securities. Marked as TIPS, these bonds adjust up or down as the consumer price index changes.

The minimum order at Schwab for Treasuries is $1,000. The broker does not charge any commissions for Treasury bonds, notes, and bills on the secondary or primary market. Zero-coupon Treasuries and STRIPS are $1 each, with a $10 minimum and a $250 maximum. The broker claims not to charge markups on purchases, either. Schwab does have a disclaimer saying that it “reserves the right to act as principal on any bond transaction,” which apparently means there could be a markup or markdown on any fixed-income trade.

For a complete Charles Schwab review click here.


Open Charles Schwab Account



Investing in Treasuries on E*Trade


U.S. sovereign debt can also be bought and sold at E*Trade. The broker has a very good search engine for fixed-income products. It is located under the ‘Trading’ menu, which sits at the top of the broker’s website. Clicking on ‘Bonds’ will produce the company’s fixed-income selection. Treasury bonds, notes, and bills are all available, along with STRIPS and TIPS.


Etrade Treasuries Investing


There is a handy chart with bond types in the vertical column. These include U.S. Treasuries, corporate, and agency bonds. In the horizontal row are maturities, such as five year and three year. Each square is an interest rate, such as 2.190%, which sits at 7-year Treasuries. Clicking on this square produces 35 results showing prices, maturities, and coupon rates. Also included is the depth of book on a specific bond. This is a really nice tool because it shows all active buy and sell orders, with quantities, and bid and ask prices.

The E*Trade website hosts a Treasury auction calendar, which shows upcoming auctions of government debt. Searching this selection returns 10-year and 30-year bonds, both for sale within 2 days. The minimum purchase for 10-year debt is $1,000, while the longer-term bond has a $5,000 minimum. The maximum purchase for either is $5,000,000.

E*Trade does not charge any commissions for secondary or primary Treasury transactions that are placed on-line. Placing a trade in the secondary market over the phone with a fixed-income specialist is charged on a net yield basis, which means the broker adds a markup to purchases, and subtracts a markdown from sales. Placing a Treasury trade through a regular customer service associate costs a flat $20.

For a complete E*Trade review click here.


Open Etrade Account



Investing in Treasuries on Fidelity


Like E*Trade, Fidelity has a convenient grid with bonds on the Y-axis, and maturity dates on the X-axis. Clicking on the square that intersects with ‘U.S. Treasury Zeros’ and ‘3yr’ (1.60%) produces a page with 4 results. They have slightly different maturity rates, and their yields differ by as much as 11 basis points. There is a depth of book feature for each bond, and Fidelity also displays yield to worst and yield to maturity rates. Convenient buy and sell links are located on the far right side of the screen.


Fidelity Treasuries Investing


Besides the chart, Fidelity also has a sophisticated bond screener. It can be located by going to the ‘News & Research’ tab at the top of the broker’s site, and then selecting ‘Fixed Income, Bonds, & CD’s.’ Clicking on the tab that says “Individual Bonds’ produces the screener. There is a second tab for U.S. Treasury securities. There is also a drop-down menu for Treasury type: bill, note, or bond.

The screener shows 4,559 Treasury bonds currently for sale. Of these, 533 are on the secondary market, and 36 TIPS are also available for secondary trading. The remaining bonds are on the primary market. Clicking on the auction link shows what specific Treasury bonds will be available for purchase in the coming week. There’s also an economic calendar that shows the exact time when trading will begin.

Treasury bonds traded on Fidelity’s website are commission free. The broker does impose a $19.95 charge on U.S. government debt if it is traded with the assistance of a representative. The broker requires a $2,500 account balance to trade any type of fixed income.

For a complete Fidelity review click here.


Open Fidelity Account



Investing in Treasuries on TD Ameritrade


Clicking on the ‘Trade’ tab at the top of TD Ameritrade’s website produces a large drop-down menu where many choices are shown. One of them is ‘Bonds & CD’s.’ Clicking on this link produces a chart with Treasuries and more. Yields are shown in rows. The highest maturity is ‘20+yr.’ This link for U.S. Treasuries is 2.93%. Clicking on it produces 233 bonds. The results can be sorted by coupon, price, yield to maturity, yield to worst, and quantity. CUSIP is also displayed. A buy link is shown on the right-hand side, and the screener’s results can be exported to Excel.


TD Ameritrade Treasuries Investing


TD Ameritrade also has a Bond Wizard, which is a handy tool to search for fixed-income securities. It asks for a variety of information, such as desired maturity and tax status. The tool also has selections for Treasuries and agency bonds.

After leading the user through a variety of questions and choices, the Bond Wizard displays a list of results. Ratings are shown along with payment frequency and call status. Clicking on a bond’s title in these results shows more detailed information, such as the minimum quantity that must be purchased, and the security’s accrued interest. A convenient calculator determines the total cost of a hypothetical order.

TD Ameritrade charges $25 for transactions of Treasury bonds at auction. All other fixed-income trades are priced on a markup/markdown basis. The broker has a $5,000 minimum on all bond trades.

For a complete TD Ameritrade review click here.


Open TD Ameritrade Account

Investing in Treasuries on Ally Invest


The last broker in our survey also provides access to Treasury bonds. After logging into the Ally site and going to the brokerage section, the bond area can be located by clicking on ‘Trading’ in the top menu and choosing ‘Fixed Income.’ Next, a screen will appear requesting you to open Ally Invest LIVE, the firm’s trading platform. Doing so produces a page with a variety of fixed-income choices. A yield grid shows only CD’s, agency debt, corporate bonds, and munis. Unlike the other four brokers, Ally does not show Treasury rates here.

Below the yield chart is a section for Treasury rates. Yields for a variety of maturities are shown, including rates from the previous week and month. There are no hyperlinks here, so you have to go further down the page to look for a trade.


Ally Treasuries Investing


Near the bottom of the page is a row of images with fixed-income names, such as corporate and Treasury. Clicking on the button for the U.S. government’s offerings produces a search engine where a variety of criteria can be entered. The screener has maturity and coupon fields. Specific types of Treasury securities can be searched for, including T-bills, notes, and TIPS. Coupon payment frequency can be selected as well.

The search results show the CUSIP identifier, maturity date, coupon rate, current price, and minimum purchase amount. Clicking on a bond’s title will show accrued interest, depth of market, and the date of first coupon payment.

Ally Invest charges zero commissions on Treasury bonds. Other bonds, including agencies, cost $1 each.

For a complete Ally Invest review click here.


Open Ally Invest Account



Recap


Treasuries can easily be purchased from all brokers in our survey, although commissions do vary. STRIPS, zero-coupons bonds, and TIPS are usually available as well, but may come with special pricing. Remember that while 30-year Treasury bonds will have higher yields than other government debt, they will also experience more volatility.


Updated on 7/12/2017.


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