You can cash electronic savings bonds in the convenience of your own home through your online Treasury Direct account, but you must cash paper EE and I bonds at a financial institution or through the mail. Except for I bonds purchased with federal tax refunds, the U.S. Treasury has sold savings bonds only in electronic form since 2012.
Basics of Bond Cashing
You normally must be the registered owner or co-owner to cash savings bonds. The bonds aren't transferable, according to the U.S. Treasury, so you can't buy them on the secondary market and cash them. In addition, the Treasury won't cash savings bonds until at least one year from the issue date.
If you cash savings bonds after one year but before five years, you'll forfeit the final three months of interest.
Redeeming Electronic Bonds
You can redeem a single electronic bond or up to 50 bonds during one transaction. You can also redeem part of an electronic bond. For partial redemption, you must redeem a minimum of $25, and you must leave at least $25 remaining.
Using Treasury Direct
To cash your electronic I or EE bonds, log on to your account at Treasury Direct. Find the "Manage Direct" tab at the top, and click "Redeem" under "Manage My Securities." Click on "Select" for the bond or bonds that you wish to cash. Then follow the directions, which vary depending on whether you're cashing one bond or several. When you finish, select your bank account and click "Submit."
Getting Your Money
You'll receive a credit for the principal and interest in your bank account within two business days, according to the Treasury Direct website. If you make a partial redemption, you'll get interest only for the portion you cashed.
Redeeming Bonds at Banks
Some, but not all, financial institutions redeem paper bonds -- typically as a service for their customers. The Treasury doesn't limit the value of paper bonds you can redeem at one time, but banks often set a limit. The Treasury recommends calling before you visit to find out whether the bank cashes bonds, what the limit is and what identification you'll need.
In general, a bank where you have been an active customer for six months or more can cash savings bonds with picture identification, such as a driver's license, passport, state identification card or employee ID card.
If you're not a customer, an active customer of the bank for at least six months can identify you. You must be more than a casual acquaintance of that person, and you'll also have to present identification.
Some banks, but not all, cash savings bonds for non-customers upon photo identification only. In this case, you're limited to $1,000 at the most. Some banks have a lower limit, according to Treasury Direct.
The Redemption Process
Sign the front of the bonds before the cashier exactly like the printed name on the front. The employee will also check your address and Social Security number, so have identification with this information available for showing to the cashier.
Within the bank's limits, you'll receive a check or cash the same day for the total value of the bonds, plus interest.
Redeeming Bonds by Mail
If you aren't a regular bank customer or if you need to cash a large dollar amount, you can redeem savings bonds through the mail. You must visit a financial institution and ask a certifying officer to verify your signature on each bond. Inquire first about what identification you'll need.
Once you signature is verified, send the bonds along with your Social Security number to the Treasury Retail Securities Site, P.O. Box 214, Minneapolis, MN 55480-0214. After processing, you'll receive your payment by return mail.