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Dr. Don Taylor, CFA, Bankrate.com advice columnistThings to know about savings bonds

Dear Dr. Don,
I cannot find a bank where I can buy Series I savings bonds. Where are they?
-- Joyce Journey

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Dear Joyce,
The Treasury doesn't maintain a list of financial institutions that sell (physical) paper, Series I U.S. savings bonds, but you can set up an account with Treasury Direct that uses your current banking relationship to buy these savings bonds and hold them in electronic form in your Treasury Direct account.

If you want to hold the bonds in physical form and can't find a bank in your area that sells them, I suggest that you contact the Federal Reserve bank that services savings bonds for your area of the country and ask about buying the bonds. This Bureau of the Public Debt's Web page will provide you with that contact information.

Dear Dr. Don,
What options are available to anyone who has lost their savings bonds?
-- Lost Lou

Dear Lou,
Here's what the Bureau of the Public Debt has to say about lost savings bonds:

    Bonds that are lost, stolen, mutilated or destroyed can be replaced free of charge as long as we (the Bureau of the Public Debt) can establish that the bonds haven't been cashed. To assure that the bonds can be traced, owners should keep records of bond serial numbers, issue dates, registration and Social Security or taxpayer identification numbers in a safe place separate from the bonds. (The Savings Bond Wizard is a great way to do this!)

    To get your bond replaced, complete Form PDF 1048. On this form, provide the approximate issue date along with the complete names, addresses, Social Security number that appeared on the bond and the bond serial number. If you don't know the serial number or denomination, just write "unknown" in the space provided. If the bond owner is a minor, the form should be signed by both parents and the minor's age and Social Security number should be included. Mail the completed form to: Bureau of the Public Debt, Parkersburg, WV 26106-7012. Replacement bonds will still show the original issue date.

Lou's problem should serve as a reminder to keep a notebook with a listing of your financial assets. That's tip No. 4 from last year's Dr. Don's top10 list.

Dr. Don,
I have saving bonds that I wish to redeem. Is there an online financial institute that will redeem savings bonds? We live in a rural area and do our banking with a credit union that does not deal with savings bonds. The few banks in our area want you to have an account with them and will redeem only a few at a time.
Thanks,
-- Debbie Deposit

Dear Debbie,
The limit on cashing in bonds stems from a government requirement that you either have to have an account relationship with the financial institution for the past six months or present documentary identification, like your driver's license. If you use documentary identification and don't have an account relationship, you're limited to redeeming $1,000 worth of savings bonds at a time.

You can contact the Federal Reserve bank that services your area and arrange to redeem the bonds via mail. This option makes the most sense if you just want to cash out all of your bonds.

Alternatively, you can open a Treasury Direct account and wait for an invitation to convert your paper U.S. savings bonds to electronic securities through Treasury Direct's Smart Exchange program. Converting the securities would allow you to manage redemptions and have the proceeds placed in your bank account. The FAQ page that deals with the Smart Exchange program explains why you have to wait to be invited to convert your bonds and other aspects of that program. This option makes sense if you're not going to cash out all of your savings bonds at one time, are not in a rush to redeem the bonds, or might be buying additional savings bonds or other U.S. government securities through Treasury Direct.

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select one of these topics: "financing a home," "saving & investing" or "money."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Feb. 17, 2006
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