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Portfolio > Economy & Markets > Fixed Income

With I Bond Deadline Hours Away, Locked-Out Users Fume

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What You Need to Know

  • TreasuryDirect outages and customer complaints continued on Friday.
  • One blogger called on TreasuryDirect to honor all orders placed before midnight tonight.

Investors trying to beat a Friday night deadline to lock in a 9.62% interest rate on Series I savings bonds continued to encounter trouble buying them on the website today.

A site that monitors website status, IsItDownRightNow?, reported midmorning that the Treasury Department website was down, and again showed the message: “It is not just you. The server is not responding.”

TreasuryDirect has been up and down for days. A message posted Wednesday afternoon to the site’s login page said:

“We are currently experiencing unprecedented requests for new accounts and purchases of I Bonds. Due to these volumes, we cannot guarantee customers will be able to complete a purchase by the October 28th deadline for the current rate. Our agents are working to help customers who need assistance as quickly as possible.”

That message appeared when the site was reachable Friday.

IsItDownRightNow? had gathered more than 200 comments as of Friday, most from this week, most from people discussing difficulties in trying to buy the bonds before the inflation-adjusted interest rate is reset — likely to a lower level — next week.

“Got through the registration of new account but website sent an email saying it couldn’t verify me and I needed to mail in a form to them. What a joke,” commenter Daniel Larson posted.

“All data entered including questions and password and site went down after the final submit,” reported another poster (Gail J. Worth).

Some users did have luck getting through and buying I bonds, however, even if they had to do so in the wee hours.

“Got up at 2:30 a.m. EST and it worked fine. 5 minutes and going back to bed,” commenter Phil Amend reported early Friday.

Some people cited issues with the site’s virtual keyboard required to enter a password.

“Finally I was able to get it done. It is 3:16 EST,” commenter Osvaldo H Vilomar wrote. “If you don’t see the virtual keyboard in Chrome browser use another browser such as Firefox or clean the Chrome browser cache. You will get another One Time Passcode (OTP) everytime you login.”

Twitter also fielded complaints about the situation. But one user, @akashayy, tweeted, punctuated by a laughing emoji: “Glad I bought my @TreasuryDirect I Bonds earlier this month.”

Customers have experienced hours-long hold times on the Treasury Department’s customer service phone line this week, and a message Friday estimated the wait would be at least two hours.

“I held for 5 hours…and was disconnected,” one poster (Kelli Sewell Brasher) wrote Thursday on IsItDownRightNow? “Account is locked for no valid reason and THEY have to unlock it. I had the patience (or insanity) to stay on the phone 5 hours to get nothing?”

Those hoping to secure the 9.62% rate, which will apply for six months from the purchase date, must buy their I bonds and receive a confirmation email by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern time, Oct. 28, according to TreasuryDirect.

The Treasury Department adjusts the rate every six months based on inflation data. Bonds purchased on Oct. 29 or later will receive the new interest rate covering Nov. 1, 2022, through April 30, 2023, which the Treasury Department plans to announce on Nov. 1.

The new rate is expected to be set around 6.47%, unless the government boosts the fixed rate — currently 0% — that also figures into I bond interest calculations, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

David Enna, journalist and I bonds and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities blogger, called TreasuryDirect’s performance this week unacceptable, noting on his TIPSWatch website Friday that he’s been a longtime defender.

“Thousands of potential Treasury customers are furious, and some of them weren’t even looking to buy I Bonds. I’ve heard from people trying to place an order for a 4-week Treasury auction yesterday, but were locked out,” Enna wrote.

Noting TreasuryDirect’s “cryptic” warning that customers might not be able complete I bond purchases before the cutoff because of heavy volume, he called on the agency to:

  • “Commit that all I bond orders placed by midnight today will be recognized as October-issued I bonds. … You need to honor your statement that Oct. 28 orders would be completed before Nov. 1.”
  • “Have Treasury staff work this weekend to continue helping customers set up accounts and complete orders. Make sure communications are going out to customers who have completed orders. Extend that Oct. 28 deadline for all people who have made good-faith attempts to complete the purchase by Oct. 28.”

And he said Treasury must “repair your website so that this sort of problem never happens again. TreasuryDirect is the only place an investor can buy an I bond. It needs to work, no matter the demand.”

During a year with soaring inflation, I bonds offer a way to get a very appealing guaranteed interest rate that would be difficult for investors to find elsewhere.

Individuals may buy up to $10,000 in electronic I bonds per calendar year through TreasuryDirect and $5,000 in paper bonds per year through income tax refunds. I bonds earn interest for 30 years or until cashed. Holders may redeem bonds after 12 months, but forfeit the last three month’s interest if they cash them in before five years.


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