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Until now, investors could buy U.S. Treasury securities directly from the government, have the securities held safely in an electronic account, and have interest payments made directly to their bank accounts, all without charge. That is about to change, however: The Treasury will begin charging a $25 fee on each account in its Treasury Direct program that holds more than $100,000 in securities, it says. The fees will help offset the cost of running the program, says Peter Hollenbach, a spokesman for the Bureau of the Public Debt.

Accounts under $100,000 will continue to be free, and those over $100,000 will be charged a flat $25, no matter how many securities are held in the account, he says. The Treasury does not have the authority to deduct the fee from accounts, so in May it will begin sending out bills to account owners. Account owners who don't pay the debt will be subject to collection procedures, Hollenbach says. Despite the fee, it will remain cheaper to purchase the securities through Treasury Direct than to hold them in most brokerage or bank accounts.

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