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New Savings Bonds Rates - Small Improvement

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New Savings Bonds Rates - Small Improvement

The Treasury released the new I Bond and EE Bond rates today. There’s a small improvement for the I Bond. The Treasury decided to increase the I Bond fixed rate from 0% to 0.10%. As I calculated last month, the I Bond inflation rate is 1.54. Thus, the new I Bond composite rate is 1.64%. This is an increase from May when the I Bond inflation rate was negative 1.60% and the composite rate was 0%. Note, the composite rate is typically the sum of the fixed rate and the inflation rate, but it has a floor rate of 0%.

Unfortunately, the Treasury decreased the EE Bond rate from 0.30% to 0.10%. With this low rate, in my opinion, the only reason to purchase an EE Bond is if you’re planning to hold it for 20 years. In that case, the EE Bond is guaranteed to double in value. This is equivalent to an annual return of about 3.5%.

Summary:

I Bond Rates: Composite Rate: 1.64%, Fixed Rate: 0.10%, Inflation Rate: 1.54%

EE Bond Rate: 0.10%

Rates effective November 1, 2015 through April 30, 2016

I had hoped we would see a larger increase on the I Bond fixed rate, but the chance of a larger increase was small. The highest the fixed rate has been in the last five years is 0.20%. That was from November 2013 to April 2014. For most of the time in the last five years, the fixed rate has been 0%.

Those who waited for higher rates for their 2015 purchase, made a smart move. The last six months weren’t a good time for I Bond purchases with a negative inflation rate and with a fixed rate of zero.

Current I Bond Holders

If you have old I Bonds, you'll have six months of rates that range from 1.54% (for I Bonds with a fixed rate of 0%) to 5.17% (for I Bonds with a 3.60% fixed rate). Back in the good old days, the I Bond fixed rates used to be above 3.00%. The highest I Bond fixed rate was 3.60% during the period from May 2000 to October 2000. If you have any of those I Bonds, you'll want to keep them as long as you can. They will mature after 30 years from the issue date. You can see the entire history of the fixed rates in this TreasuryDirect page.

Remember that the six months with the 1.54% inflation rate may not begin this month. It depends on when you purchased the I Bond. An I Bond's new inflation rate takes effect every six months after its issue date. So if you purchased an I Bond on April 2012, the 1.54% inflation rate won't take effect on that I Bond until April 2016.

Series I Savings Bond Features

Below is a summary of the I Bond features. More information is available at this Treasury Direct I Bond page:

  • Can't be redeemed within 12 months of issue date
  • Lose 3 months interest if redeemed within 5 years
  • Interest is composed of fixed and inflation-based rate
  • Fixed rate remains for life of bond
  • Inflation-based rate changes every 6 months after issue date
  • New rates announced every six months on November and May 1st
  • Federal tax can be deferred on interest until bond is redeemed
  • Interest is exempt from state and local tax
  • Some or all interest is tax exempt when used for educational expenses
  • Maximum purchases per year and per social security number is $10,000 in TreasuryDirect and $5,000 in paper bonds purchased with IRS tax refunds (This excludes trust/business purchases) - total was $60,000 before 2008 (Treasury's press release).

For more details about the purchase limit, please refer to the Treasury's press release on the new annual purchase limit and the Treasury Direct's purchase limit FAQs.

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Comments
scottj
scottj   |     |   Comment #1
And this part has me totally baffled? 

"Remember that the six months with the 1.54% inflation rate may not begin this month. It depends on when you purchased the I Bond. An I Bond's new inflation rate takes effect every six months after its issue date. So if you purchased an I Bond on April 2012, the 1.54% inflation rate won't take effect on that I Bond until April 2016."

My purchases were each done in January, 2012, 2013 and 2014. When will they see this new rate?
Ken Tumin
Ken Tumin   |     |   Comment #2
The new rate will take effect for your I Bonds on January 2016. The chart at TreasuryDirect titled "When does my bond change rates?" is a useful reference.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #3
Ken, any forecast of the anticipated Ibond rate commencing May 1?  Thanks
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #4
The link below based on CPI inflation numbers projects that an I Bond purchased in April will have an average rate of 0.95% for the first year.  An I Bond purchased in May will earn 0.16% plus whatever the new fixed rate is.

If you're planning to purchase I Bonds it looks better to do it now or perhaps wait until November.  But even ones purchased in April aren't a clear win over other alternatives.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #7
Thought today, I might cash in and swap some I-Bonds that are 5 years old that only have a 0% fixed rate for new issues with .1% fixed rate (April is last month to do this before fixed rates change to probably 0% in May).  After doing a rough estimate on the income tax consequence versus the very small amount of earnings gained on the .1% fixed rate, I have decided not to do this.  Instead the better strategy may be just to continue to compare the current rate (1.54%)  I am earning on the existing 5 year old 0% fixed rate IBonds versus cashing out to earn a higher rate CD.  For now, that is not looking as a move to take either based on the low rates CD's are currently offering.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #8
Too late.  The next business day for purchase/redemption is Monday. 

 I usually try to buy when the rate is "reasonable," and then in 6 months, if then new rates goes south, consider redeeming at the end of one year from issue and thus the 9 months of interest is reasonable.  And, then go through the cycle again...if appropriate.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #9
Why is it too late?  If you made the online purchase today on Friday (today) would that not qualify as a business day purchase for the month of April issue date? 
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #10
The transaction will be completed the next business day...try it!  There is always a day lag
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #11
Glad I decided not to do it anyway, but I suppose I would have been in for a surprise if I had planned to do this today.

Thanks for the info.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #12
I suspect the rate for Nov. 1 will be a lot better than Monday's new rate...b/c the price of oil only has one way to go.  Then again, the Treasury could increase the fixed interest amount for Monday's announcement