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Fixed Deposits or Treasury Bills, Which Is Better?



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I have received several emails and calls from my readers asking whether to buy treasury bills or fixed deposits. Whilst, both are very good ways to invest your money there both have similarities and differences, which could work to your advantage depending on your investment preference. Let’s explore some.

Who borrows from you?

When you buy treasury bills you are basically lending money to the government (through the CBN) with a promise to pay back over 91 days, 182 days or 364 days. With Fixed deposit however, you are lending money to a bank or investment house with a promise to repay you at the expiration of the tenor (usually between one to twelve months) If you do not like to lend money to the Government then Fixed deposit is better.

What is the risk?

Treasury Bills are backed by the full faith and credit of the government and as such they are seen as almost risk free because it is very unlikely that a government can go bankrupt and not able to pay its loans. Besides the government has a tax revenue stream it can use to repay its borrowings. I am not aware that the CBN has ever defaulted.

Fixed deposits are backed by the credit rating of the bank. Unlike when you borrow from the bank, the bank does not give you any collateral when it borrows from you. However, it is obligated to pay you your interest and principal when it falls due. The bank can however default when it goes bust as we have seen in years past. When a bank fails, depositors may lose all or part of their money, including fixed depositors.

If you are weary of risk then treasury bills is best for you.

Who gives a better interest rate? 

The higher the risk the higher the reward is how financial markets play and as such one will expect Treasury bill rates to be lower than fixed deposits rates. However, other factors do come into play that makes it change. Currently, Treasury Bills rate post a better rate than average fixed deposit rates in Nigeria despite the latter being the riskier of the two. 

How do I get paid interests?

Some bank pay you interest at the end of the period along with the principal. Some also pay interest upfront depending on what you negotiate. Interests on Treasury Bills are paid upfront only and pays your principal at the end of the tenor.

Which one pays the most taxes?

Treasury bills are exempted from taxes, so taxes are not deducted from your interest payments. However, you are likely to pay a fee to the bank for rendering the service on your behalf. The fees are very small and almost negligible in my opinion. Interests on Fixed deposits attract withholding tax rate of 10% deductible at source by the banks and to be remitted to the relevant tax authority.

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If you don’t want to be taxed then Treasury Bills is it. 


Can I roll over my investments (interest and principal)?

Fixed deposits can be rolled over by banks. You simply instruct your bank to roll over the interest and principal when it matures giving you the benefit of compounding interest. It’s also a default way of saving and investing all rolled up in one. Treasury bills can’t be rolled over by default. Once the investment matures the CBN pays the money straight into your bank account.

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If you are therefore looking for an investment you can roll over with ease, I suggest you go for Fixed deposits then.

Can I get my cash anytime I want?

You can get your cash anytime you want with Fixed Deposits by liquidating your account ahead of its maturity. All you need to do is to tell your bankers or investment house that you wish to cash in on your deposits. They will however, pay you interest for the period that the money was with them instead of the full tenor if you had waited till maturity. You may also incur an early withdrawal charge.

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Treasury Bills on the other hand are not as flexible as fixed deposits. If you wish to cash in on your treasury bills ahead of its scheduled tenor, you will have to sell the rights to the treasury bills to the bank or to a willing buyer. The buyer will deduct the portion of the interest remaining for the period between when you terminated the investment and when it matures from your principal.

So basically, you can collect you cash in both instances except that it is perhaps faster and easier with banks

Can I use it as a collateral

Treasury Bills by their nature can be used as a collateral to collect a loan from a bank. This is because it is seen as a near risk free asset by lenders and is also quasi cash.


Fixed deposits can also be used as a collateral however the credit rating of the bank that is holding the deposits may affect the strength of it in the eye of another lender. Some banks may not accept fixed deposit in another bank as a full collateral because they don’t consider the bank a strong bank.

If you are looking to use your money as cash collateral, then Treasury Bills are more suitable




Nairametrics is Nigeria's top business news and financial analysis website. We focus on providing resources that help small businesses and retail investors make better investing decisions. Nairametrics is updated daily by a team of professionals. Post updated as "Nairametrics" are published by our Editorial Board.

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