-- Q: How can investors use Treasury Direct to buy U.S. government securities?
A: If you're paying commissions to buy U.S government securities it's time to stop. You're paying money for nothing.
All investors are able to buy U.S. government securities for no commissions using a variety of methods. The best known way, the one you mention in your question, is directly from the U.S. government on Treasury Direct, or www.treasurydirect.gov.
This is the Web site that steps investors through the process of buying U.S. Treasuries. All you need to use the site and invest is Internet access and money to invest. You don't need a brokerage account.
To start using the site, you just need to open an account. You'll need a taxpayer identification number, which will likely be your Social Security number, plus a U.S. address, checking or savings account and e-mail address.
Once you fill out the online application form, you'll get a username and password. You use this information to sign into your account and start buying Treasuries or manage your holdings.
For most beginning investors, the Purchase Express feature will be sufficient. Here you designate what kind of Treasury you wish to buy, for instance a 13-week bill, and the amount you will to invest. You just click the "Buy Now" button, and the securities are bought, your checking account is debited and the holdings are updated in your Treasury Direct account.
You can follow a similar procedure to buy other U.S. Treasury securities, including savings bonds and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities.
While Treasury Direct is free and easy to use, there might be other options. Nearly all the major online discount brokerage firms including Charles Schwab and T.D. Ameritrade allow customers to buy U.S. Treasuries through their sites for $0 commissions.
If you already have an account with a broker, you might ask if you can buy Treasuries through the brokerage firm for no trading costs.
Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies and Fundamental Analysis for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at email@example.com. Follow Matt on Twitter at: twitter.com/mattkrantz