- Minimum investment: $50,000
- Access to: Automated investment management with human advisor support
- Portfolio construction: ETFs and mutual funds
Best online bond brokers for February 2024
Find the best online brokers to buy bonds and add a predictable stream of income to your portfolio.
Our top picks for buying bonds
- Min. deposit: $0
- Uninvested cash APY: 3.83%
- No bonus
- Earn a 5.5% yield with a Public Treasury Account
- Invest in Treasuries for as little as $100 with no deposit maximums
- Treasury Bills are held in custody at The Bank of New York Mellon
Buy bonds through these trading platforms
Peek into our favorite bond brokers to find the platform that’s right for you.
3 types of bonds
Bonds are designed to provide the bond issuer with funds for investments or expenditure. Depending on who issues the bond, there are three major types: corporate, government and municipal.
1. Corporate bonds
Companies may resort to traditional loans or bonds to get funds for investments or to cover day-to-day operations. Because bonds often come with lower interest rates and more favorable terms than traditional loans — companies may prefer to choose the bonds route.
But since companies may go bankrupt or fail to pay off their debt, corporate bonds can have a higher risk than US government bonds.
Tax implications: Corporate bonds are subject to both federal and state income tax.
2. Government bonds
As the name suggests, government bonds are issued by the government. In the US, that’s the Treasury Department.
Because of that, they are often referred to as “Treasuries” or sovereign debt. And since this type of bond is backed by the US government, they are considered one of the safest investments.
Depending on the length of the bond’s maturity, government bonds have different names. For example:
- Bills are Treasuries with a maturity of one year or less.
- Notes are Treasuries with a maturity of between one and 10 years.
- Bonds are Treasuries with a maturity of 20 or 30 years.
Tax implications: Government bonds are subject to federal taxes but are often exempt from state and local taxes.
3. Municipal bonds
Municipal bonds, also known as “munis,” are issued by states, cities and counties, as well as government agencies. These are often used to fund local projects, such as schools, sewers and highways.
Tax implications: Interest income from municipal bonds is usually exempt from federal tax and may be exempt from state tax as well. However, capital gains are often taxed.
How bonds work
When a company or government entity needs money either for investments or day-to-day obligations, it can issue bonds. The bond issuer sets the terms, i.e. the bond’s face value, maturity date and interest rate.
The maturity date is the day when the bond issuer has to pay the principal back to the bondholder. The interest rate is the amount, say 5% annually, paid to the bondholder.
The face value is what the bond issuer will pay for each bond on the maturity date. It’s also the value on which the interest rate is calculated.
Here’s how that would work:
- Company X issues a bond with a face value of $1,000, a 2% interest rate and 10 years maturity. Because bonds are negotiable, meaning bond ownership can be transferred to the secondary market, the bond can be resold and bought again at a different price by other investors.
- If an investor bought the bond on the market at a discount, say $900, the bond issuer would pay back the face value of $1,000 when the bond reaches maturity, thus the investor earns an additional profit on top of the 2% annual interest rate.
- Suppose the same investor bought bonds for $9,000 in the second year after the interest was already paid, and held it until the maturity date. The investor would earn $2,716 in interest and in face value difference. That’s a total of around 30% earned in eight years.
For comparison, the same $9,000 investment in the S&P 500 index with an average annual return of 10% would earn $10,192 or 114% return on investment.
Advantages of bonds
Bonds may not be the first choice for growth investors because they often come with lower returns. But other investors may find the bond’s advantages appealing.
- Steady income. Bonds’ interest rates provide investors with steady income each year.
- Preserving capital. On the maturity date, the bond issuer pays back the entire principal to the bondholder. This can serve as a way to preserve capital.
- Less volatile than stocks. Choosing the right bonds can help you avoid volatility.
Drawbacks of bonds
Despite its advantages, there are some risks to consider.
- Bond issuers may default. The bond issuer may fail to pay the interest rates and the principal to bondholders.
- Inflation. Rising inflation may eat up the bond’s interest rates value.
- Low liquidity. Depending on the bonds, you may find it hard to sell them on the secondary markets.
- Call risk. Some bonds are callable, meaning the bond issuer can buy them back before they reach maturity.
Paid non-client promotion. Finder does not invest money with providers on this page. If a brand is a referral partner, we're paid when you click or tap through to, open an account with or provide your contact information to the provider. Partnerships are not a recommendation for you to invest with any one company. Learn more about how we make money.
Finder is not an adviser or brokerage service. Information on this page is for educational purposes only and not a recommendation to invest with any one company, trade specific stocks or fund specific investments. All editorial opinions are our own.
More guides on Finder
Roth IRA vs. savings account: Which is better?
Compare the key differences in investment options, contribution limits and tax advantages between Roth IRAs and savings accounts.
Brokerage account vs. Roth IRA
Compare the key differences in investment options, contribution limits and tax advantages between brokerage accounts and Roth IRAs.
Best broker cash sweep rates on uninvested cash
Check out our picks for the brokers with the best cash sweep rates on uninvested cash.
What is a rollover IRA and how does it work?
How to avoid taxes and penalties when you move funds from one retirement account to another.
How to choose a financial adviser
A step-by-step guide on how to choose a financial adviser.
A property management software and account designed for landlords.
How to get funding for a business
Looking to fund your business? Discover the best strategies for getting the funding you need from banks and online lenders, investors and more.
5 must-know tips to managing your money wisely
From budgeting to taking advantage of cashback rewards, use these five tips to help you manage your money.
Business taxes guide: Forms to file and when they’re due
Navigate your business taxes with these forms, deadlines and filing tips for small businesses.
Got married or divorced? 5 insurance changes to make now
What to do with your insurance when you say “I do” … or “I don’t anymore.”
Ask an Expert