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Savings bonds now strictly electronic

Thought you knew how to buy a savings bond? You’ve been doing it the same way for years, right? But if you’ve tried to buy one since the first of the year, you’ve probably already discovered that you’ll need to be a little more tech-savvy with your purchase because online is the only place you’ll be able to get them.

Paper savings bonds will no longer be sold through financial institutions or by mail order. No longer can you step into your local bank and make the purchase with assistance from your friendly neighborhood teller. He or she will instantly hand you a notice explaining what you must do to make the purchase, and that involves getting on the computer and navigating your way through TreasuryDirect.

The Bureau of Public Debt announced last July that by making bonds available through electronic transactions only will save American taxpayers approximately $70 million over the first five years. In a press release from July, Public Debt Commissioner Van Zeck said that although savings bonds are very much a part of this country’s history and culture, and will remain a part of America’s future, they will only be available in electronic form from now on. “It’s time for us to take a 1935 model and make it a 21st century investment tool,” Zeck said.

TreasuryDirect is a secure, web-based system operated by Public Debt where investors have been purchasing savings bonds 24/7 since 2002. Electronic savings bonds in Series EE and I will remain available through purchase in TreasuryDirect.

Ending the over-the-counter (OTC) sales of paper savings bonds at financial institutions is a continuation of the Treasury’s all-electronic initiative announced nearly two years ago. As part of the initiative, the Treasury stopped the sale of paper bonds through traditional payroll plans in December 2010. It is estimated that ending the sales of paper payroll and new issues of OTC bonds will save a total of $120 million over the next five years in areas such as printing, mailing, storing bond stock and paying processing fees to financial institutions.

If you currently hold a savings bond and want to redeem it, any financial institution can help you, Zeck said and added that any bonds which have not matured, but were lost, stolen or destroyed, can be reissued in paper or electronic form.

Purchasing an electronic savings bond requires that you initiate an account with TreasuryDirect. (You must be 18 years old to establish an account.) The online site explains how. To give an electronic savings bond, you must know the recipient’s full name, social security number and/or taxpayer ID number and their TreasuryDirect account number. When the bond is delivered to the recipient’s TreasuryDirect account, he or she will get an e-mail announcing your gift. Children under 18 can receive gift deliveries in a “minor linked account.”

TreasuryDirect has a “frequently asked questions” page, but for the most part is fairly clear. The site does require online navigational skills, however, and if you are unfamiliar with finding information on an online site, asking someone who is, such as younger members of your family, may help you in the long run.

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