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How to claim war bonds

War bonds, U.S. government-issued bonds offered during World War II to support the cost of the war, stopped earning interest over 30 years ago. Millions of Americans bought war bonds during these years. Most of these bonds have long since been redeemed, but for those that have not, it is still possible to redeem and receive payment for a war bond. Cashing in these bonds today may or may not be a simple procedure.

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  1. Decide where to cash your bonds. If you are the original owner and purchaser of the bonds, redeeming them is a matter of going to your bank or financial institution with documentation of identity, and the bank will process the bond redemption. You also can contact the U.S. Bureau of Public Debt or the nearest Federal Reserve Bank.

  2. Prove that you are the person listed as beneficiary on the bonds if they were inherited. If you are not the original owner of the bonds, you must prove that you are now the rightful owner of them. You may already be listed as a beneficiary on the bonds; if that is the case, you may need to provide identification for yourself and a death certificate of the deceased bond owner.

  3. Prove that you are the original bond owner's heir. If you are not listed on the bond as the beneficiary, you may need to provide, in addition to the death certificate of the original owner, proof that you represent the deceased's estate, are next of kin or are otherwise an heir.

  4. Provide identity of the purchaser. If the bonds were purchased as a gift, it is possible that the purchaser's social security number might be required as proof of legal ownership. Unlike savings bonds that are issued today, these old bonds are not contained in a computerised database. Determining the legal owner may require some paperwork.

  5. Tip

    Note that when redeeming an old war bond, the federal taxes on the interest will be the responsibility of the person claiming ownership of that bond, whether or not that person was the original owner.


    War bonds were issued as paper bonds, often one at a time in small amounts, and sometimes without requiring the purchaser's social security number. Buying war bonds at that time was made easy and convenient. However, that convenient practice of requiring little documentation for purchase is precisely what might make cashing in your war bonds today a bit more complicated. Securing the proper documents will make the process easier.

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Things You'll Need

  • U.S. war bonds in paper form or a list of serial numbers
  • Proof of your identity
  • Proof of your relationship to the original owner if you have inherited the bonds
  • Death certificate of the original owner if you have inherited the bonds

About the Author

Jacqueline Lynch has published articles and photographs in national and regional magazines on history, including "Civil War Times," "Blue and Gray" and Suite101.com; and is a published playwright whose plays have been performed around the United States, Canada, and Europe. A former magazine assistant editor and newspaper columnist, she currently freelances.

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