Did you miss buying Treasury I bonds in October before the rate reset? You might get a better deal buying them between now and May 2023.
The U.S. Treasury announced there were almost $7 billion in new Series I savings bond purchases in October 2022. There was a record $979 million purchased on the last day as people rushed to lock in the 9.62% interest rate before the rate adjusted for the next six months.
So many people were trying to buy I bonds that the TreasuryDirect website was crashing under the load. People expected the new rates in November were going to be less as the Fed fights to lower inflation.
This prediction turned out to be the case. The new annualized I bond rate is now 6.89% for new I bonds purchased between November 2022 and April 2023.
Compare that to the annual percentage yield offered by online savings accounts. CIT Bank’s Savings Connect account is offering 4.20% for deposits in the latest rate increase announced on March 15. It’s no wonder why the Treasury I bonds were selling like crazy.
Why Buying I Bonds Now Is a Better Deal
So you missed out on buying from May 2022 to October 2022 when the I bonds rates were a record 9.62%. Procrastination may not have been such a bad thing.
Buying I bonds between now and April 2023 could get you higher returns even though the new rate is 6.89%.
The 6.89% composite rate is comprised of a fixed rate and a semiannual inflation rate:
Composite rate = Fixed rate + (2 x Semiannual Inflation Rate) + (Fixed Rate x Semiannual Inflation Rate)
From May 2020 through October 2022, the fixed rate portion of the I bond composite rate was 0.00%.
I bonds purchased now have a fixed rate of 0.40% annually for the life of the savings bond. The longer you hold onto your new I bonds, the greater your returns over people who had purchased I bonds with a fixed rate of 0%.
How Long Until New I Bond Buyers Come Out Ahead
Someone who purchased the bonds during the last period will receive the 9.62% I bond rate for the first six months. Current bond buyers earn 6.89%.
Subtracting the two rates, we get a difference of 2.73%.
Due to the rates resetting every six months, the buyer in the last period earned 2.73% divided by 2 or 1.37% more interest than someone buying I bonds in the current period.
Divide 1.37 by .40 and in about four years, current buyers will come out ahead of the people who purchased the bonds in October without the fixed rate.
Should You Buy I Bonds Now
Think of I bonds as variable-rate CDs that you must hold for at least a year. You can sell them after the 12 months, but you will forfeit the last 3 months of interest if you sell before five years.
You can buy electronic I bonds for $25 minimum and up to a maximum of $10,000 each year at TreasuryDirect.gov.
The next buying opportunity for someone who had already purchased the maximum amount of $10,000 earlier in 2022 will be in January.
With I bond rates expected to continue to fall in future rate adjustments, the best time to buy will be mid-April 2023. You will still get the full 6.89% interest rate for the next 6 months. You will also have an idea of what the new inflation rate will be for May. You just won’t know the new fixed rate.
Right now you can find 1 year CDs from Capital One with a $0 minimum deposit offering 4.15% APY.
Someone who is chasing rates for short-term interest will come out ahead buying I bonds if the composite I bond rate at the next reset is higher than 1.41% using the following calculation:
(6.89% + x) / 2 = 4.15%
6.89% + x = 4.15% * 2
6.89% + x = 8.30%
x = 8.30% – 6.89%
x = 1.41%
Regarding the 3-month penalty for selling before five years – as I bond rates continue to drop, the amount of interest lost for selling early also decreases.
Be sure to read more about how I bonds work and how you can purchase them if they are something you are interested in owning.
As the Fed continues to raise the fed funds rate to combat inflation, the inflation rate will continue to drop. The rates offered for I bonds will decrease with the rate of inflation.
Locking in a fixed rate, even if it is a small one at 0.40% will still benefit most savers over the long run if you intend to hold onto your I bonds.
Looking at the historical fixed rates for I bonds, people who had purchased I bonds between September 1998 and November 2000 have been getting a fixed rate of over 3% for the past two decades. This is in addition to the semi-annual rate adjustments for inflation.
With interest rates increasing, the rates offered by banks for online savings accounts and CDs will continue to increase and will compete with I bonds for savers’ funds.
Did you buy any I bonds when the interest rates were at a record high? Will you continue to buy I bonds in the future?