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updated: 7/13/2011 12:49 PM

US Treasury: Savings bonds go digital in January

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- U.S. savings bonds, available as paper documents since 1935, are joining the digital age. They will no longer be sold as paper beginning Jan. 1, Treasury officials said on Wednesday.

"Savings bonds are very much a part of this country's history and culture, and will remain a part of America's future -- but in electronic form," Public Debt Commissioner Van Zeck said in a statement. "It's time for us to take a 1935 model and make it a 21st century investment tool."

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Savings bonds will become electronic transactions, the Treasury's Bureau of the Public Debt said. The government said the change will save taxpayers $70 million over the first five years. It is part of the Treasury's goal to increase the number of electronic transactions with individuals and businesses.

Electronic savings bonds in Series EE will remain available through purchase at TreasuryDirect, a website at www.treasurydirect.gov . Savings bond purchases have been available at the site since 2002.

The Treasury began an all-electronic initiative in April 2010. It stopped the sale of paper bonds through traditional payroll plans last December. Officials estimated that ending the sales of paper payroll and new issues of over-the-counter bonds will save a total of $120 million over the next five years in areas such as printing, mailing, storing bond stock and fees paid to financial institutions for processing bond applications.

Investors interested in government savings bonds must set up a TreasuryDirect account on the website. Once the free account is set up, they can buy and redeem Series EE and I electronic savings bonds. They also can convert paper bonds to electronic versions. Electronic bonds also may be purchased as gifts there. Investors can enroll in a payroll savings plan for purchasing electronic bonds through the website and invest in other Treasury securities such as bills, notes, bonds, and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities.

Investors holding paper savings bonds can continue to redeem them at financial institutions. Bonds, which have not matured, but were lost, stolen or destroyed, can be reissued in paper or electronic form.

Series I paper savings bonds remain available for purchase using part or all of a tax refund. Details are available at www.irs.gov .

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