Beating the Buying Limit on Savings Bonds

Dear Dr. Don,Have the savings bond purchase limits changed for 2011? My bank has refused my request to purchase a $5,000 I bond because they say I already have purchased the maximum in electronic I bonds via TreasuryDirect.

-- Kenneth Constrained

Dear Kenneth,

The savings bond purchase limit changed as of Jan. 1, 2008. The Treasury press release on the annual purchase limit for savings bonds being set at $5,000, explains it in greater detail, and it explains how you can finesse the issue to buy more Series I bonds as excerpted below.

The limit applies separately to Series EE and Series I savings bonds, and separately to bonds issued in paper or electronic form. Under the new rules, an individual can buy a maximum of $5,000 worth of electronic and paper bonds of each series in a single calendar year, or a total of $20,000, in single ownership form. If paper bonds are issued in co-ownership form, the limit applies to the first-named co-owner. All limits are based on the issue price of the securities.

Also, check out an earlier column on getting around the Series I-bond limit. It points out that you can convert the paper bonds you purchase to electronic form without violating the annual purchase limits and how Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS, are a way to gain inflation-protected yields without the purchase limitations placed on savings bonds.

The Treasury just announced the yields currently available on Series I and Series EE savings bonds. Series I savings bonds purchased over the next six months will earn a fixed rate of zero percent over the bond's 30-year life and an inflation component of 4.6% over the first six months. The inflation component yield changes every six months based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.