or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Reference Question of the Week – 11/13/11

   November 19th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Fanned savings bondsThis week's question is actually something I needed to find out for myself. And I'll tell you up front: once I found the answer, I ultimately just walked away because it's too difficult (which is something I see many real patrons doing).

When my siblings started having kids (ten years ago), I decided I'd give each child a savings bond for birthdays, Christmas, etc. I thought it was something nice to do for their future, and it wouldn't clutter up their house with more toys (although I also usually give a book or small something too).

This has been working great, until this week. When I went to the bank to get a savings bond for my niece Alexis' birthday, the bank teller told me they no longer do paper savings bonds as they are now only available online.

Well that's a pain. But lots of things are transitioning to online-only options, so I gave it a shot. The bank lady didn't know the website I had to go to, which actually made me skeptical of the whole thing, so I just searched for buy savings bond. The first two results were:

Individual - Buy EE Savings Bonds
www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/.../ebonds/res_e_bonds_eebuy.htm
Jul 12, 2011 – Buy EE Savings Bonds. As of January 1, 2012, paper savings bonds will no longer be sold at financial institutions. This action supports ...

Individual - Savings Bonds As Gifts
www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/planning/plan_gifts.htm
Jul 21, 2011 – You can give savings bonds for any occasion or purpose - like birthdays, weddings, or graduations. You can buy gift bonds in several ...

Those were both informative, and I've used TreasuryDirect.gov before. I opened them both in different tabs, but expected to use the second one to get the gift savings bond. A note on the top of each page read:

As of January 1, 2012, paper savings bonds will no longer be sold at financial institutions. This action supports Treasury’s goal to increase the number of electronic transactions with citizens and businesses. See the press release.

It seems my bank was jumping the gun with no longer providing them, but that's fine. If I want to keep giving savings bonds this is obviously something I'm going to need to do anyway, so step one of the online process was to create a TreasuryDirect.gov account.

I don't doubt the trustworthiness and reliability of TreasuryDirect.com, but I was surprised the new account form required me to enter my social security number. But then at the bottom, it also required my bank name, account number, routing number, and other account information - it was at this roadblock that I decided more research was necessary (I was doing this on a Saturday morning from the couch in my pajamas, and didn't have that info handy).

Any time I have a problem with a tech something (be it an error code, weird account creation requirements, etc), I always search for my problem online, figuring someone else had the problem too (and hopefully solved it). So this time I searched Google News for buy savings bond and found an article from the Sacramento Bee, specifically about giving the online-only savings bonds as gifts.

It did reaffirm everything I'd encountered, but this part was the last straw:

...recipients of gifts purchased through TreasuryDirect will require an account of their own to receive the gift bonds...*

*Children under age 18 must have a minor account linked to a parent or guardian's TreasuryDirect account.

This is when I decided the new process was too difficult and just walked away from the entire question. I'm going to look for a bank that still does paper savings bonds so I can get one for Alexis, and also stock up for the rest of the kids for Christmas. But after that, I'm going to look for another gift for them - I highly doubt that all my siblings will want to set up TreasuryDirect.gov accounts for all the kids.

Oh well - supporting the government was nice while it lasted.



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