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Reference Question of the Week – 11/13/11

   November 19th, 2011

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
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
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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9 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 11/13/11”

  1. Kathy Says:

    While I understand the necessity for all that information, it’s really unfortunate that the process was made difficult enough that it caused you, and most likely, other potential gift givers to walk away from it. I received savings bonds as gifts when I was a small child and greatly appreciated them when I was older and they came due. A pity for the recipients as well as for the government.

  2. Rosemary Says:

    Thanks for sharing what you found. It’s a real shame that they’re completely eliminating the paper bonds in favor of electronic. My Grandma has been buying savings bonds for birthdays and Christmas for my niece, but at 91 years old, she will likely stop doing it rather than try to figure this out. (Not to mention that my slightly paranoid/anti-government brother won’t want to set up an account for himself and his daughter.)

  3. Nelson Dent Says:

    I tried this two years back and it was a nightmare. Buying a Series EE online was an awful experience. The passcode setup alone took me over an hour with very detailed survey questions. Customer service is based out of West Virginia providing they answer the phone. Then, they froze my account for 360 days and wouldn’t allow me to add money or make a larger purchase. Mind you we’re facing the largest debt meltdown in history. Buying a C.D. from my credit union? 10 minutes…

  4. Holly Hibner Says:

    You beat me to this post by a few days! I was just starting to put together a draft about helping a patron do this very thing. She actually saw it through and decided it was “their problem” (the person she was giving the savings bond to) about getting their own account at TreasuryDirect and receiving the gifted savings bond.

    You’re right – it’s ridiculously difficult. I made two separate one-on-one appointments with this patron to get it to go through. What a nightmare.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    I’m kind of glad the process is actually this difficult, and that it’s not just me. But no, that’s just sad.

    @Holly: I’m sorry about scooping you, but I’m glad you persevered with your patron. But ultimately, @Nelson is probably right: there’s got to be something better right now, anyway.

  6. laura Says:

    Planet Money did a story recently about the changes to savings bonds and why they’re disappearing.

  7. Alex Zealand Says:

    Thanks for writing about this – I just shared it with my Reference team.

  8. Brian Herzog Says:

    @laura: Thanks for the link – I actually thought about calling them to ask about alternatives, so I shouldn’t be surprised they’ve already done it.

  9. Anthony Paz Says:

    Wow, I can’t believe all of these comments. Add me to the list. I don’t understand why they would make investing in America so difficult. Like a few others, as a child I received savings bonds as birthday and Christmas gifts. When my Grandson came along 11 months ago I wanted to provide him with the same opportunities that US savings bonds provided me. His first bond in December was no problem. The bank took care of it and my grandson was on his way to a helpful financial future. The bank did inform me that all future bonds would have to be purchased on-line but felt it would be no problem. Most of my purchases, banking and updating all of my Department of Motor Vehicle items are done on-line. As stated previously by another, I hit a few bumps in the road while setting up the account but mustered through it. The real headache came while trying to purchase a bond for my grandson. I read all of the FAQ’s and still no way! As another stated maybe a bank CD is the way to go.
    What a shame it appears government has just gotten so much more complicated with red tape. Somebody please fix this problem!