investing

How to Add Treasury Bonds, Bills and Notes to an IRA

While you can't use the government's TreasuryDirect website to buy Treasury securities for your IRA, there are other ways to get the securities online.

Question: Can you purchase Treasury securities for an IRA directly from the U.S. Treasury through TreasuryDirect? How can you add them to an IRA?

Answer: TreasuryDirect.gov is intended as a way for individuals to buy securities from the Treasury and manage them through an account with the website, so you can’t use it to buy Treasuries for an IRA, says Brad Benson, public affairs specialist with the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. But with the Commercial Book-Entry System, banks and brokerage companies can offer customers marketable securities—including bills, notes, bonds, Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) and floating-rate notes—to invest in an IRA.

Check with the institution that operates your IRA to find out how you can buy Treasury securities and any fees that may be associated with it. With Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments, for example, IRA customers can buy Treasuries through their online account with no transaction fee. If a representative makes the purchase for you, you pay a $19.95 fee with Fidelity and $25 with Schwab. Vanguard charges no commission to buy Treasuries online or over the phone. You may be able to place an order to buy bonds during regularly scheduled auctions—when the Treasury offers newly issued securities—or purchase securities already circulating in the secondary market.

You can transfer securities purchased and held in a TreasuryDirect account to an IRA or other account with a broker or bank; check with your institution for details, says Benson. You can move Treasuries from TreasuryDirect into a Fidelity account, for example, but the process may require a lot of time and paperwork, says Richard Carter, vice president of fixed-income products and services for Fidelity.

With a TreasuryDirect account, you can purchase and manage marketable securities as well as savings bonds (Series EE and Series I bonds), and you won’t pay commissions. But you can’t buy or sell securities in the secondary market; you must go through a bank or broker. At TreasuryDirect, you choose the type of security you want to buy, then select the combination of maturity, auction date and issue date (the day the Treasury delivers auctioned-off securities to bidders). You can have proceeds automatically reinvested into a new Treasury of the same type when the one you purchased matures. Your financial institution may offer this option through an IRA or brokerage account, too.

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