How To Gift Bonds

Gifting Bonds Explained

Illustrated gif that shows two people sending different types of digital money gifts on a snowy day.

The Balance / Nusha Ashjaee

Bonds are debt instruments, representing that the owner of the bond is owed money by a borrower. Typically, bonds are sold by local and national governments, companies, or other organizations.

Bonds offer relatively safe returns and can be a good way to save for the future. If you want to give a financial gift that can grow over time, you might consider giving a bond as a gift.

Learn how to give bonds as a gift and the pitfalls you need to watch out for.

How To Get Bonds

There are a few basic types of bonds. 

  • U.S. Treasuries: Bonds issued by the U.S. federal government
  • Foreign government bonds: Bonds issued by other governments
  • Municipal bonds: Bonds issued by state and local governments
  • Corporate bonds: Bonds issued by companies

To get a bond, you’ll need to purchase it from the issuer or on the secondary market.

The U.S. government sells Treasuries and savings bonds through a website, TreasuryDirect. Savings bonds can be purchased as gifts while other marketable securities issued by the U.S. Treasury such as Treasury bonds, T-Bills, Treasury notes, and TIPS cannot be purchased as gifts. 

You can open an account with TreasuryDirect and place gift orders for savings bonds directly from the government.

Buying other types of bonds usually involves working with a brokerage. You’ll have to open an account with a broker. Once you do, you may have the option to purchase corporate and municipal bonds directly from their issuers when there is a new bond issued. You also have the option to buy bonds from other bondholders.

It may be more budget-friendly to gift savings bonds that typically require a minimum investment of $25, as opposed to corporate bonds that need a minimum $1,000 investment.

How To Gift Bonds

Giving savings bonds as a gift has long been a popular way for parents and family members to give their children a financial present that can grow over time. With paper bonds becoming a thing of the past, the government has worked to make sure that gifting bonds is still easy to do.

To give a bond as a gift, both you and the recipient must have accounts with TreasuryDirect. You also need to know the recipient’s full name, Social Security number, and TreasuryDirect account number.

If the recipient is a child, their parent or guardian must make a minor-linked custodial account for them.

The Treasury has video instructions on how to purchase and deliver bonds to someone as a gift.

If you want to give other types of bonds, such as corporate bonds or municipal bonds as a gift, you’ll need to work with your broker.

The first step is buying the bonds. Once you’ve purchased them, work with your brokerage company to transfer them to the recipient’s account. Each broker has its own process for transferring securities.

Generally, the process will be simpler if the recipient has an account with the same broker as you. Transferring the bonds to an account at another broker can take some time and may incur fees.

What To Watch Out For: Rules, Regulations & Reminders

Whenever you’re giving a financial gift, the first thing to look out for is the gift tax

In 2021, individuals can give up to $15,000 per year to someone without incurring any gift taxes. Amounts over $15,000 count against your lifetime gift exclusion, which is $11.7 million as of 2021. Gifts surpassing the exclusion will be subject to the gift tax.

Another consideration is taxes the recipient may owe. The recipient will have to pay taxes on any capital gains they receive when selling the bond, as well as on any interest payments they receive.

If the recipient is a minor, they may be subject to the “kiddie tax.” This taxes unearned income of minors at a higher rate.

“One way around the federal tax of a savings bond is to use the funds for higher education purposes,” Nick Stecklin, a CFP with North Capital in Salt Lake, noted in an email to The Balance. If you use the proceeds from redeeming a savings bond for qualified education expenses, the government won’t charge taxes on that income, he said.

Finally, you should think about the returns that the bond offers. Current interest rates are incredibly low, so any bond you give might not earn much interest.

“If you are going to gift savings bonds, look into EE bonds, which will get an interim rate of return that happens to be very low right now, but are guaranteed to double in value 20 years after you buy them (a 3.53% rate, if held the full 20 years),” Jeremy Keil, a CFP from New Berlin, Wisconsin told The Balance via email. Another alternative to consider, according to Keil, is to purchase I bonds, which are designed to keep up with inflation.

Transaction Costs To Consider

When you’re giving bonds as a gift, you have to consider the cost of both purchasing the bonds and transferring them to their new owner.

With U.S. savings bonds, the gifting process is relatively simple and there are no fees. Gifting other bonds can be more complicated.

First, you’ll have to pay any fees or commissions related to buying the bonds. Each broker sets its own fees, but you could pay anything from a few dollars to hundreds depending on the type and the value of the bonds.

You then have to pay any fees charged by your broker for transferring the bonds to a new owner. Many brokers will do internal transfers to other accounts for free but will charge if you’re sending the securities to another brokerage company. Check your broker’s fee schedule to make sure you know the fees you’ll have to pay.

Creative Gift Presentation Ideas

These days, bonds are largely digital things. Paper savings bonds have become far less common. However, it can be underwhelming to give or receive a gift without having something physical to go with it.

One creative option for gifting a bond is to give it alongside something representative of the bond you’re gifting. For example, if you’re giving someone a bond issued by a candy company, you might give them a note explaining the gift alongside a small basket of candy.

If you’re giving a savings bond, especially to a child, giving the gift alongside a book about money or investing or something like a collection of the U.S. state quarters might be a good way to give them something physical to remind them of the gift and get them more interested in the bond they’re receiving.

Benefits of Gifting Bonds

There are a few perks to gifting securities like bonds.

One is that there is an annual exclusion of $15,000 before financial gifts count toward your lifetime gift tax exclusion. If you plan to leave a large amount to your heirs, giving them smaller gifts over the course of many years can reduce the overall amount of gift tax you pay.

Gifting a bond can also help you defer or reduce taxes. Giving someone a bond instead of selling it and giving them the resulting cash means you won’t owe capital gains taxes

But more importantly, by gifting a bond you’re giving something that will grow in value over the years, aiding the recipient’s wealth creation. And who knows, it may even spark their curiosity about investing.