The time it takes a savings bond to reach face (par) value depends on the series of bond and the value at which it was sold. There are presently three different series of U.S. savings bonds. Series EE and Series I are intended to be savings bonds, and Series HH is intended to be an investment bond.

In general, though, a savings bond is sold as a zero-coupon bond at a discount, and will reach its full value at its maturity. Therefore, savings bonds mature to their full face value.

Key Takeaways

  • Savings bonds are sold by governments to their citizens to help fund federal spending, and provide savers with a risk-free return.
  • Savings bonds are sold at a discount and do not pay regular interest. Instead, as they mature, they increase in value until they reach full face value at maturity.
  • The time to maturity for savings bonds will depend on which series issue is owned.

A Brief History of U.S. Savings Bonds

In 1935, during the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation that allowed the U.S. Department of the Treasury to issue federally backed savings bonds, Series A. In 1941, the Series E bond was first issued to help finance World War II and were called Defensive Bonds. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were called War Savings Bonds, and the money invested in them went directly toward the war effort.

After the war ended, Americans were encouraged to purchase savings bonds, which provided a way for individuals and families to earn returns on their investments while enjoying the absolute guarantee of the United States government. 

Series EE Bonds

Series EE bonds mature after 20 years, meaning they can earn interest for that period of time. EE bonds are sold for half of the face value, and the U.S. Treasury Department guarantees that they will reach face value after 20 years. If the interest payments don't cause the bond to reach full face value at the end of 20 years, the government will do a one-time adjustment to bring the bond's value to equal face value.

It's important to keep in mind, however, that EE bonds must be owned for at least one year before redemption. If they are redeemed before five years, the last three months' worth of interest is forfeited, but after five years, they can be redeemed with no penalty. The annual interest rate for EE bonds issued from Nov. 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019, is 0.10%.

Series EE savings bonds originated as Series E war bonds during the WWII era to help fund the war effort.

Series I Bonds

Series I bonds are sold at face value and mature after 30 years. Redemption rules are the same with Series I bonds as Series EE bonds. The composite rate for Series I bonds issued from Nov. 1, 2019, through April 30, 2020, is 2.22%. This rate applies for the first six months that you own the bond.

Series HH Bonds

Series HH bonds are also sold at face value, with bondholders receiving interest payments through direct deposit every six months for the 20-year life of the bond. As of Jan. 2003, HH bonds have earned an interest rate of 1.5%. HH bonds have not been available for purchase since Aug. 2004, but bondholders will continue to receive interest payments until the bonds' maturity.