This paper decomposes issue spreads on US dollar-denominated bonds issued by LIBOR panel banks into credit risk and liquidity premium components. We attribute the recent increase in issue spreads to the investor perception that banks are less creditworthy than in the past. Although the behaviour of the credit risk component is well-explained by a structural model of default, this mechanism is nullified by the introduction of government guarantees. The behaviour of the liquidity premium component is partially explained by the bid/ask spread in the secondary market and issue size. Government guarantees also reduce the liquidity component of the issue spread. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.