U.S. savings bonds

TreasuryDirect Site Hits Snags; New Rate Set for I Bonds

The website faced intermittent problems as the government posted a new, lower I bond interest rate.

The U.S. government’s TreasuryDirect.gov website appeared to experience problems for at least a short while Friday morning, social media posts and website-monitoring services indicated.

Difficulties with the Treasury Department-operated website, which allows investors to purchase U.S. savings bonds and other government-backed investments, happened around the same time the agency posted the new, lower interest rate for inflation-linked Series I Savings Bonds — 4.3% for bonds issued from May 1 through Nov. 30 this year.

The government announced the new I bond rate days earlier than expected, according to a journalist who has written about Treasury bonds for decades.

To receive the 6.89% rate for I bonds issued from Nov. 1, 2022, through April 30, investors had to complete their purchases by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday.

Site Sputters

The Downdetector website on Friday stated that user reports indicated possible problems with TreasuryDirect. A graph there showed reports starting to rise shortly after 7 a.m., peaking at 94 after 9 a.m., then dropping within the hour. Outage reports began to climb again after 11 a.m. and slowed to a trickle after 1:15 p.m.

Downdetector also indicated about 20 problem reports Thursday night around 10 p.m., two hours before the cutoff to buy I bonds at the 6.89% rate.

IsItDownRightNow/?, another status-monitoring site, showed the site down shortly before noon, then up again, and a few individuals commented on its message board about their troubles accessing TreasuryDirect Friday. “Cant access the site from my home PC or my cell phone,” one user identified as Aaron Michael posted around 9 a.m.

A ThinkAdvisor reporter at one point saw a message on the Treasury site that said, “TreasuryDirect is unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience and ask that you try again later,” but soon found the site to be available again.

A few Twitter users reported problems as well, including a self-described stock speculator who tweeted at 9:19 a.m. that the site appeared to be down.

Another Twitter account complained at 11:35 p.m. Thursday: “Your email system is clogged we haven’t received account number emails to Register and buy bonds and now we’re going to miss the cut off!”

A Treasury Department spokesperson sent a brief comment about the site problems: “The Bureau of the Fiscal Service is aware some users are experiencing intermittent access with the Treasury Direct system on Friday, April 28th. We are monitoring the situation closely and working to address any issues.”

Whatever issues TreasuryDirect may have encountered Friday, they appeared to have paled in comparison to the repeated site crashes and long phone wait times that investors experienced over many days in October as they rushed to buy I bonds before the attractive 9.62% interest rate in effect at the time was reset on Nov. 1.

A department spokesman told ThinkAdvisor earlier this month that the agency had added enhancements to avoid the crashes and slowdowns that consumers faced in October. These include adding self-service for password reset and bank account changes, adding staff to service centers to reduce call wait times during high-volume periods, increasing site capacity and adding a “waiting room” function to support larger volumes of users if needed leading up to the rate change.

New I Bond Interest Rate

The new 4.30% I bond interest rate, which reflects softening inflation, includes a 0.90% fixed rate that won’t change for those bonds. The inflation-linked element of the rate will last for six months from the purchase date, then update with the Treasury Department’s next inflation adjustment.

The Treasury Department sets new rates every six months, with the inflation portion linked to government consumer price data. The government often set the fixed rate at 0%, but when the department adjusted the I bond interest rate in November to reflect cooler inflation, it boosted the fixed-rate component to 0.40%.

Early Announcement

Journalist David Enna, whose Tipswatch website covers I bonds and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, posted Friday that the 0.90% fixed rate — the highest I bond fixed rate since November 2007 — is “great news.”

He was surprised that the department posted the rate Friday rather than the expected 10 a.m. ET Monday, saying it was the first time the new rate was posted early in the 12 years he has covered I bonds.

“A few minutes later, the TreasuryDirect site went down, possibly because of the ‘what the hell?’ factor driving traffic. But I was able to return to the site a bit later and it loaded, with the same information,” he wrote, noting that the new inflation-linked rate comes to 3.38%. The fixed rate makes the bonds “very attractive,” he said.

(Image: Shutterstock)

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