Buying Savings Bonds? Outdated Methods Could Hinder Your Success

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Few securities are more old-school economy than U.S. savings bonds — or more comforting in times of inflation and economic distress. As the current inflation rate soars to highs not seen since the early 1980s, a growing number of Americans have gravitated toward inflation-indexed savings bonds.

Just be warned: You might run into headaches using the federal government’s TreasuryDirect website, which is where you buy savings bonds and other government securities.

That’s especially true if you want to change or update bank accounts linked to your TreasuryDirect account, The New York Times reported. You need a personal checking or savings account to pay for bond purchases as well as to accept funds when you redeem the securities.

The problem is that while users can submit their bank information online when they sign up for TreasuryDirect, they still need to use paper forms to change their bank accounts later. This is where things get tricky.

As the NYT noted, the U.S. Treasury Department provides a short video directing users to log on to TreasuryDirect and find a tab to “add or edit” their bank accounts. Users can’t make the change on the website, however. Instead, they must print out a form and take it to a bank or credit union to sign it and have it certified by a bank officer. After that, they must mail it to a Treasury post office box in Minneapolis.

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In a world where people are used to doing just about everything online, having to fill out a paper form and send it via snail mail strikes some folks as a little 20th century.

Or, as Monica Beisel, a nurse practitioner in Texas, told the NYT:  It’s “ridiculous.”

“Who would have thought in this day and age that updating personal bank account information would be a hassle?” Beisel said. “It’s as if the government doesn’t want regular citizens to purchase savings bonds.”

The TreasuryDirect website was created in 2002 as part of larger effort to move from paper to digital bonds. But the basic system hasn’t changed much in 20 years. Treasury Department spokesman John Rizzo told the NYT in an email that paper forms are a security step “aimed at preventing unauthorized transactions.”

The department is developing a new TreasuryDirect system that will include security protocols that allow account changes without paper forms, Rizzo said. No timeline was given, but Rizzo said the upgrade was “a priority.”

For now, you can expect your TreasuryDirect account to be updated within 10 business days after the paper form is received. If you want to use an online bank, you better add it when you set up a TreasuryDirect account. Adding one later can be problematic because online banks don’t have physical branches where you can have the paper forms certified.

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