Savings bonds are a "set it and forget it" type of investment. Whether you've held your savings bonds for one year or 20, there may come a time when you want to check how your investment is doing.
Learn more about savings bonds and how to find their value online.
What Are Savings Bonds?
Savings bonds are a way for average Americans to buy U.S. government debt. U.S. savings bonds are considered one of the safest investments that you can buy because they are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government, and most have a face value between $50 and $10,000.
Bonds stop earning interest after 30 years, and they must be owned for at least one year before they can be redeemed. Bonds must be owned for at least five years to be redeemed without any penalty. The penalties are usually small, but if you want to get your full money’s worth, you need to make sure you hold the bond for at least five years.
Bonds are considered to be low-risk investments. That's because you can guarantee that you'll make your money back, plus a little bit of interest, without the potential of losing money.
Different Types of Savings Bonds
The two main types of savings bonds are I Bonds and Series EE Savings Bonds. Depending on which type you buy, there are a few key differences.
While both types of bonds are bought at face value, you can no longer purchase paper EE Bonds. However, you can still buy paper I Bonds with your IRS tax refund.
For EE Bonds, the interest rate depends on when the bond was issued. EE Bonds issued between May 1997 and April 2005 earn variable interest; those purchased after May 2005 earn fixed interest.
I Bonds, on the other hand, earn an interest rate derived from a fixed rate when the bond is purchased and an inflation rate calculated each year.
Calculating the Value of Your Savings Bonds
When you're ready to calculate the value of your savings bond, there's some information you'll need to know, including your bond's:
- Serial number
- Issue date
Once you have this information, you can use a savings bond calculator to find out how much your bond is worth right now. The primary site to do this is TreasuryDirect.gov, which is run by the U.S. government.
Along with the calculator, you can find detailed instructions on determining your bond's future value, how to build and save an inventory of bonds (if you have more than one), and how to find the interest to report to the IRS.
When it comes to reporting interest on your bonds to the IRS, you can do it either as you go or when the bonds are fully matured.
How To Get the Most From Your Savings Bonds
Savings bonds traditionally have low interest rates. However, the Treasury has made a promise to double your investments in EE savings bonds in no less than 20 years.
So, if you buy bonds, it’s a good idea to have a plan to hold them for a full 20-year time frame. If you redeem them early, you only get the interest rate that was guaranteed up until that point, which will be significantly less than if you wait the full term. Incorporate savings bonds as part of a long-term investment strategy.
Many investment professionals consider U.S. Treasury savings bonds one of the safest ways to invest your money. The high reliability of these returns is balanced by the generally lower potential returns than other asset classes.
As a result, these investments appeal to those who desire a predictable return over a given period of time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you buy savings bonds?
You can purchase electronic Series I and Series EE bonds online through the U.S. Treasury at TreasuryDirect. If you wish to purchase a paper Series I bond, you can designate your tax return for purchasing the bond with Form 8888.
How do you cash in savings bonds?
Redeem your savings bonds electronically through TreasuryDirect. If you have paper bonds, you can redeem them at most financial institutions.
How long does it take savings bonds to mature?
All bonds currently issued by the U.S. Treasury have an original maturity period of 20 years. They continue earning interest for another 10 years, for a total maturity period of 30 years.