Learn more about UK Treasury bills

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Important information: Rate is indicative of what you might get, based on the annualised yield to maturity of 5.18%* that was achieved on 19/01/2024. This forecast is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The rate changes at every weekly tender. Fixed term investment of 1 month**.

Freetrade does not give investment advice and you are responsible for making your own investment decisions. If you are unsure about what is right for you, you should seek independent advice. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns. Capital at risk.

What are UK Treasury bills?

  1. UK Treasury bills are debt instruments issued by the UK’s Debt Management Office (DMO) to finance the Government’s operations. These securities are considered to be among the safest investments available, as they are issued and backed by the UK Government. 
  2. UK Treasury bills typically have maturities of either 28 days, 91 days, or 182 days. Freetrade will be offering 28-day Treasury bills available to its customers.
  3. Unlike longer-term UK Government debt, such as gilts, which usually pay a coupon (interest) and have a maturity date of 1 year or more, UK Treasury bills are issued at a discount to their maturity value and do not pay a coupon.
  1. When you buy a UK Treasury bill, you purchase it at less than its maturity value (at a discount) and you receive back its maturity value when it matures. The maturity value is sometimes called the par value or nominal value.
  2. For example, a 28-day UK Treasury bill with a maturity value of £1,000 and a 5% annualised yield, will have a purchase price of £996.16. The difference between the maturity value and purchase price is the yield of £3.84 a customer will earn over the 28 day period. These calculations do not take into account any fees.
  3. UK Treasury bills are also called “zero-coupon” instruments.

What yield can I earn on UK Treasury bills?

  1. We will be offering UK Treasury bills with a typical 28-day maturity when we launch this product. 
  2. Customers who wish to purchase UK Treasury bills will get access through Freetrade to the weekly tender held by the DMO. You can see the yield to maturity obtained at recent tenders on the DMO website.
  3. The yield for each UK Treasury bill is set by the weekly tender process, the rate you will receive is not certain until the UK Treasury bill is issued. 
  4. This means that you will not know exactly what yield you will receive until after you have made your investment and committed your money for a month.
  5. The yield we will show you is indicative, and is based on the yield we achieved in our previous successful weekly tender. This forecast is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The actual yield you get could be different from that achieved by the previous week’s tender. This is especially the case if there is a base rate change, or other significant changes in supply and demand. 
  6. As an example assuming a 5%* annualised yield, the first 28-day period would look like:
  1. Initial investment: £1,000
  2. Annualised yield: 5%* 
  3. Period yield: £1,000 * 5% * 28 / 365 = £3.84
  4. Total amount after one 28-day period: £1,000 + £3.84 = £1,003.84
  5. Starting in April 2024, we will charge you a custody fee in relation to UK Treasury bills. We will share details of the fee in advance. We won't apply this fee before April 2024, so until then UK Treasury bills will be fee-free.
  6. We will take the fee from your yield.
  7. It is impossible to know the weekly tender rate before Friday, given that’s when the DMO issues the UK Treasury bills.

How does the weekly tender work?

The UK Debt Management Office (DMO) issues new UK Treasury bills through tenders. These are held every Friday (or the last business day of the week). 

The tender is where a group of brokers and investment banks called “primary participants” offer to the DMO to invest in UK Treasury bills at the yield they want to receive. The DMO accepts the bids with the lowest yields until all of the supply for that week is used up.

Previously, if you wanted to participate in the weekly tender process, you needed to have at least £500,000 and an account with a primary participant. 

Soon you can participate through your Freetrade app.

When you place an order for UK Treasury bills through your Freetrade account, it is added to a queue that is processed during the weekly tender. 

The cut-off time for placing orders is 4:30 pm (UK time) on Thursday. This means that if you place an order on Tuesday, your order will be submitted in Friday’s tender unless there is a bank holiday on Friday. If there is a bank holiday on Friday, the tender and the cut-off time will each be moved to the previous business day. 

If you want to cancel your order for UK Treasury bills, you can do so up until the cut-off time. After the cut-off, the order cannot be amended or cancelled. 

The Treasury bills purchase settles on the working day following the tender, usually a Monday, and they mature typically 28 days after purchase and settle on the next business day (usually a Monday).

What are the possible outcomes of the tender?

  1. Every week, the UK Debt Management Office (DMO) offers a limited number of UK Treasury bills for auction. During this tender process, primary participants, including Freetrade via its broker, submit bids. These bids specify the yield at which they are willing to buy a UK Treasury bill and the amount they intend to purchase. The bids are “sealed”, which means that none of the bidders knows how much the other bids are for. 
  2. Once all bids are submitted, the tender closes and the DMO allocates the offer to the bidders in an order of priority, starting by filling those bids with the lowest yield offered (also known as the lowest accepted yield), and then the next lowest and so on.
  3. The point at which the total demand from primary participants exceeds the total value of UK Treasury bills on offer by the DMO is called the “highest accepted yield”.
  4. Any bids in excess of the highest accepted yield will be unsuccessful and will not be filled. Any bids exactly at the highest accepted yield will be allocated to primary participants (and our customers) on a partial and pro rata basis.
  5. This means that when we bid we need to balance the desired return with the chance of our bid being accepted. Higher bids have a lower chance of being accepted but offer a higher return, while lower bids have a higher chance of being accepted but offer a lower return.
  6. As a worked example, assume there are three bids at the DMO:
  1. Bidder 1 - 5.10% for £76M
  2. Freetrade - 5.12% for £52M
  3. Bidder 3 - 5.15% for £12M
  4. Total amount on offer by the DMO is £100M
  5. In this example, Bid 1 would get a full fill at 5.10%, Freetrade would get a partial fill (£24M out of the £52M it bid) at 5.12%, and Bidder 3 would not get any UK Treasury bills.
  6. Freetrade will aim to minimise the risk of a no fill or partial fill scenario in the tender process. It is important to note, however, that since the other bids are not known until the tender is closed, there remains a risk that Freetrade may not be successful or only partially successful in the tender. 
  7. In the event that Freetrade receives a partial fill, we will allocate the available UK Treasury bills to our customers on a pro-rata basis.
  8. In the event your order is not filled, Freetrade will cancel your order and return any cash that has been placed on hold.
  9. This applies to both new orders and orders that are set to reinvest on maturity. If an order is unsuccessful, you will need to submit a new order.
  10. We will also notify you if your order has been cancelled, and you will have the option to resubmit your order.

    What happens on maturity?

    1. When your UK Treasury bill matures, you will receive the amount you invested plus the yield, as cash. 
    2. Each Treasury bill that you buy will be set up to automatically reinvest the full amount you invested plus the yield. This means that the cash we receive for the maturing UK Treasury bill is used to buy a new Treasury bill in the next tender, and your cash will be locked up for another month. 
    3. If your UK Treasury bill is set to auto reinvest, we'll send timely reminders to keep you informed of upcoming maturity dates.
    4. If you don’t want to reinvest, you can turn off auto reinvesting in the app, or set it to auto reinvest a different amount. If you choose not to reinvest, the cash received on maturity will be paid into your Freetrade account.

    Can I be sure that I will get my UK Treasury bills?

    1. Because of the tender process, we cannot guarantee that you will receive your full allocation.
    2. We take reasonable care to ensure that customer orders will be fulfilled, while also seeking to achieve a good yield.

    When will the yield on a UK Treasury bill be set?

    1. UK Treasury bills are issued every week at a different yield. The yield is determined by market conditions and demand, and the Bank of England base rate.
    2. The actual yield you will receive is not known until the UK Treasury Bills are issued.
    3. The app will show you the yield that was achieved in our most recent successful tender. This forecast is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The yield you receive on your UK Treasury bills may be different from what is displayed at the time you place your order. 
    4. This means that you will not know exactly what yield you will receive until after you have made your investment and committed your money until maturity. 
    5. Once a UK Treasury bill is issued, the yield on that UK Treasury bill is fixed for 28 days.

    Can I cash out of a UK Treasury bill before its maturity?

    1. No, you cannot sell or cash out of your UK Treasuries, you will need to wait until after they mature to get your cash back. 
    2. Each UK Treasury bill is a fixed term investment for around a month, typically 28 days. However, your money will be tied up for a little longer. It will cease to be available for you to withdraw from the cut-off date (usually a Thursday) on the day before we purchase the UK Treasury bill (usually a Friday). On maturity, your money will become available once we receive the maturity value one business day later. Usually the maturity date is on a Friday and you receive the money on the following Monday, so your money may be tied up for 31 days or more. 
    3. You need to be certain before you invest that you will not need your money back sooner than this. The maturity date for each UK Treasury bill will be shown in the app, and the app will also show you when your cash settles and becomes available for you to withdraw. 
    4. To receive your money back after the 28-day period, you will need to ensure that you have turned off automatic reinvestment before maturity.
    5. If you find yourself in financial difficulties, such as needing your money back before your UK Treasury bill matures, please contact customer service and we will do our best to help you.

    What are the recent yields for UK Treasury bills?

    1. The UK Debt Management Office (DMO) publishes the results of its weekly tenders on its website. 
    2. Read here for more information. 
    3. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

    Is there a minimum investment amount for UK Treasury bills?

    1. Yes.
    2. You can start investing in UK Treasury bills with as little as £50.

    Can I hold multiple UK Treasury bills with Freetrade?

    1. Yes. 
    2. Each UK Treasury bill that we offer will typically mature in 28 days, but there is a new issue of UK Treasury bills every week. This means that if you buy a new UK Treasury bill each week, you could hold multiple UK Treasury bills at any given time.
    3. For example, if you purchase a UK Treasury bill in the first week of January (which matures in the first week of February), you are also able to participate in the tender in the second week of January. If successful, you will receive a second UK Treasury bill (with a maturity date in the second week of February). So from the second week of January until the first week of February, you would hold two different UK Treasury bills at the same time. 

    When can I withdraw my cash?

    1. Each UK Treasury bill is a fixed term investment for around a month, typically 28 days. However, your money will be tied up for a little longer. It will cease to be available for you to withdraw from the cut-off date (usually a Thursday) on the day before we purchase the UK Treasury bill (usually a Friday). On maturity, your money will become available once we receive the maturity value one business day later. Usually the maturity date is on a Friday and you receive the money on the following Monday, so your money may be tied up for 31 days or more. 
    2. You need to be certain before you invest that you will not need your money back sooner than this. The maturity date for each UK Treasury bill will be shown in the app, and the app will also show you when your cash settles and becomes available for you to withdraw. 
    3. To receive your money back after the 28-day period, you will need to ensure that you have turned off automatic reinvestment before maturity.
    4. If you find yourself in financial difficulties, such as needing your money back before your UK Treasury bill matures, please contact customer service and we will do our best to help you.

    Does Freetrade charge a fee for UK Treasury bills?

    1. Yes, we will charge a fee. However, this fee will not apply for a limited period from when we launch UK Treasury bills until 6 April 2024.
    2. After 6 April 2024 there will be a fee for UK Treasury bills. We will give you further information about the fee well in advance of this date. 
    3. We will take the fee from your yield.

    How is income from UK Treasury bills taxed?

    1. The income earned from UK Treasury bills are taxed as income, distinct from capital gains. UK Treasury bills are considered deeply discounted securities (DDS). DDS are securities where the amount paid on redemption is higher than the price at which the security was issued. 
    2. Taxation of these securities are subject to the rules as published on HMRC’s website and we direct you there for your perusal.
    3. We will include the total income you earn from UK Treasury bills on your annual Consolidated Tax Certificate. 
    4. Read more here.
    5. Tax rules are subject to change. We do not provide tax advice and your tax position will depend on your personal circumstances. If you need to understand your own tax position you should speak to a financial or tax adviser. 

    Can Basic customers buy UK Treasury bills?

    1. Yes.
    2. Freetrade customers of all memberships will be able to use the app to buy UK Treasury bills.

    What are the risks associated with UK Treasury bills?

    1. While UK Treasury bills are considered to be a very low risk investment, they are not without risks. 
    2. Some of the risks associated with UK Treasury bills, as explained further throughout this document, are: 
    3. The yield is not known until your order is executed. To learn more read the section: How does the weekly tender work?
    4. You cannot sell or cash out of your UK Treasury bills until after they mature. To learn more read the section: Can I cash out of a UK Treasury bill before its 28-day maturity?
    5. Each UK Treasury bill that you buy will be set up to automatically reinvest the full amount you invested plus the yield. To learn more read the section:  What happens on maturity?

    What happens when the Bank of England changes the base rate?

    1. When the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) announces a base rate change, this is likely to impact on the yields achieved at the subsequent weekly tenders. If this happens, you may want to consider whether any orders you have already placed or that will auto reinvest are still the right decision for you. 
    2. For example, if you place your order on a Tuesday, and the MPC lowers the base rate on the following day, the yield associated with the upcoming tenders is likely to decrease.
    3. In this scenario, you may want to cancel any pending orders or auto reinvestment. You can do this in the normal way before the cut off date.
    4. The rate on any of your existing UK Treasury bills is not affected by a change in the base rate.
    5. We will monitor the base rate changes announced by the MPC, and will inform customers with queued or reinvesting orders.

    Other resources

    1. United Kingdom Debt Management Office
    2. The UK Debt Management Office (DMO) is an executive agency of His Majesty's Treasury responsible for managing the UK Government's debt and cash flows. It aims to minimise the long-term financing costs of Government debt while taking into account risk and ensuring that the Government's net cash flows are offset at the lowest possible cost. The DMO also lends to local authorities and manages certain public sector funds.
    3. Bank of England explanation on UK Treasury Bills
    4. The Bank of England (BoE) is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694 to act as the English Government's banker, it is the world's eighth-oldest bank. It is responsible for issuing banknotes and coinage, monitoring and regulating the financial system, and setting the official interest rate for the UK. The BoE also acts as the Government's banker and is responsible for managing the nation's gold and foreign exchange reserves.

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