Whether you got them as a birthday gift from Grandma or bought them through a payroll deduction on your first job, you may own U.S. Savings Bonds that have stopped earning interest.

Series EE Bonds, the common variety first issued in 1980, were designed to pay interest for up to 30 years. So any bonds dated 1984 or earlier will have stopped paying by the end of 2014. At that point, their value is frozen, so there is no reason other than nostalgia to hang onto them. Instead, you can cash them in and put the money to more productive use.

Before the advent of Series EE Bonds, Grandma might have bought you a Series E Savings Bond. Those were issued from 1941 to 1980, and all of them have stopped earning interest.

The more recent Series I Bonds, the kind that pays a combined fixed and inflation-adjusted rate of interest, were first issued in 1998. They’re good for 30 years, so the earliest of them will stop gaining value in 2028.

How much unclaimed money is out there in the form of savings bonds that have stopped earning interest but have yet to be redeemed? The U.S. Treasury Department estimates that it’s in the billions of dollars.

What Your Bonds Are Worth

To determine the value of your old bonds, you can use the Savings Bond Calculator on the TreasuryDirect website. You’ll just need the type of bond, its denomination, and the date it was issued. There’s also a place to type in your bond’s serial number, but you don’t need that in order to get a value.

The calculator’s answer may pleasantly surprise you. For example, a $50 bond issued in August 1982, for which Grandma would have paid $25, is now worth $146.90. A $100 bond from February 1984 is good for $230.64.

If you believe you own some old savings bonds, but have lost track of them, you may be able to find out by using another official online tool, Treasury Hunt. It has information on Series E bonds issued in 1974 and later – and EE Bonds issued in 1980 and later – that have reached their final maturity. It also has information on how to file a claim for lost bonds.

How to Cash Them In

You can redeem your old paper bonds at many banks and other financial institutions. The TreasuryDirect website doesn’t maintain a list, but suggests you call around.

Bear in mind that savings bond interest is subject to federal income tax, though not to state or local tax. You can either report it and pay tax every year that you hold the bond or wait until the end and pay the tax all at once, as most people do. After redeeming your bonds, you’ll receive an IRS Form 1099-INT, reflecting your taxable gain.

An exception, in certain cases, is if you use the proceeds from bonds issued in 1990 or later to pay qualified higher-education expenses for yourself or your child. Those rules, which include income limits, are explained in the Education Planning section of the TreasuryDirect site.

The Bottom Line

Don't sit on cash that's coming to you. But before you cash in your bonds, it’s a good idea to record what the Savings Bond Calculator says they’re worth, just to be sure you get every dollar you're owed.

Grandma wouldn’t want it any other way.

Related Articles
  1. Bonds & Fixed Income

    Savings Bonds For Income And Safety

    Bonds offer undeniable benefits to investors, including safety and tax advantages.
  2. Investing

    2 Common Ways to Misuse Target Date Funds

    The world of asset classes is just as complicated as taking vitamins. How much should you take of small caps? Intermediate bonds? Emerging market stocks?
  3. Economics

    Keep an Eye on These Emerging Economies

    Emerging markets have been hammered lately, but these three countries (and their large and young populations) are worth monitoring.
  4. Investing

    The ABCs of Bond ETF Distributions

    How do bond exchange traded fund (ETF) distributions work? It’s a question I get a lot. First, let’s explain what we mean by distributions.
  5. Investing Basics

    Are ETFs the Best Way to Diversify with Bonds?

    Are bonds safe or risky right now? It depends on the type of bond and how you invest in them.
  6. Budgeting

    How To Save Money When Moving

    Moving doesn't have to be as expensive as you think. Here are some great ways to save money on moving costs.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 4 Best Buy-and-Hold ETFs

    Explore detailed analyses of the top buy-and-hold exchange traded funds, and learn about their characteristics, statistics and suitability.
  8. Investing

    10 Ways to Effectively Save for the Future

    Savings is as crucial as ever, as we deal with life changes and our needs for the future. Here are some essential steps to get started, now.
  9. Investing Basics

    Investing $100 a Month in Stocks for 30 Years

    Find out how you could potentially earn hundreds of thousands of dollars by just investing $100 a month in stocks during your working years.
  10. Budgeting

    Key Questions to Ask Before Moving in Together

    Moving in together is a big step. Here are some key financial questions to ask your partner before you make the move.
  1. Besides a savings account, where is the safest place to keep my money?

    Savings accounts are safe because investors' deposits are guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the risks of annuities in a recession?

    Annuities come in several forms, the two most common being fixed annuities and variable annuities. During a recession, variable ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Are high yield bonds a good investment?

    Bonds are rated according to their risk of default by independent credit rating agencies such as Moody's, Standard & ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Do mutual funds invest only in stocks?

    Mutual funds invest in stocks, but certain types also invest in government and corporate bonds. Stocks are subject to the ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What is the relationship between the current yield and risk?

    The general relationship between current yield and risk is that they increase in correlation to one another. A higher current ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does the bond market react to changes in the Federal Funds Rate?

    The bond market is highly sensitive to changes in the federal funds rate. When the Federal Reserve increases the federal ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!