Treasury to end paper savings bonds

Wednesday - 12/28/2011, 6:47pm EST

By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio
@jmooreWFED

It's the end of an era for the Treasury Department.

Beginning Jan. 1, the department will discontinue paper U.S. savings bonds in favor of an all-electronic format.

The move has been planned for a number of months, but Treasury "reiterated" the move this week with an announcement on its website and a timeline presenting the 76-year history of the bonds.

The Treasury Department announced the move to paperless in July. Before that, in July 2010, Treasury ended the payroll plan for paper savings bonds. Altogether, Treasury aims to save $120 million over five years by switching to digital.

Created in 1935, Treasury bonds helped buttress the United States' involvement in World War II. The bonds have since become a part of popular culture, hyped during the war by celebrities, such as Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and featured in television shows from "Lassie" to "Cheers."

"As we transition our savings bond program online — a move that will produce significant taxpayer savings — we wanted to step back and remember how savings bonds came to symbolize the events, people and places that shaped our nation through good times and difficult periods over the past 76 years," said Rosie Rios, Treasurer of the United States.

Beginning next year, bonds will only be available on the TreasuryDirect.gov website. The Bureau of the Public Debt, a small agency within Treasury, administers the website, which first launched in 2004. Treasury first sold savings bonds online in 2002.

On the Treasury Direct website, users — who must create an account — can buy and redeem Series EE and I electronic savings bonds, convert those bonds in paper format to electronic versions and enroll in a payroll savings plan.

Users can also purchase electronic savings bonds as gifts.

While savings bonds will no longer be available for purchase at banks and credit unions, most will continue redeeming paper versions.

While an online system could be more convenient for users, the San Francisco Chronicle financial blog notes that users sometimes found the website "frustrating," in part because access to the site was only granted after entering in a string of numbers and letters from a "secret decoder card."

However, in November, the bureau implemented an online authentication system similar to those used by banks, and Treausury officials aim to make the site more user-friendly.

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