December 06, 2007


When I was born, some of my relatives gave me a bunch of US savings Bonds. Now that I'm 31, it's time to redeem them.

Actually, it was time last year, but I'm just getting around to now. It turns out redeeming paper saving bonds is an amazingly complicated process. It's fairly simple if you're near a branch of your local bank that will do this for you ... unfortunately, my closest branch is in Berkeley (the only bad thing about the credit union I so dearly love).

So I decided to take them back to the US Treasury Department whence they came. Here are the steps:

  1. go to
  2. provide the following information
    • social security number
    • driver's license number
    • bank routing number and account number
    • email address
  3. create a password that obeys some crazy contraints about capitals, special characters and length such that you will never remember it
  4. create security questions and answers for retrieving said confusing password
  5. get emailed an alpha-numeric account number that is not of your choosing, and that you will need to fish out of your email every time you log in
  6. wait to be mailed a special cipher card that you need to physically obtain before you can proceed
  7. once you've received your cipher card, get the account number out of your email inbox and use the security questions to remember your password
  8. enter your account number and password on the site using a click-to-enter javascript keyboard designed to prevent keystroke sniffing. note that the position of the keys on the keyboard will change every time you login
  9. select the serial number shown on your cipher card, look up and enter the letters that corresponds to the requested grid locations on the card
  10. find out that you need to convert your account to a conversion account in order to redeem paper bonds
  11. search for 2 hours on how to convert your account
  12. find out that to convert your account you need to send an "in-system" email to the treasury to have them enable this feature.

That's as far as I've gotten. I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to take a picture of myself with the bonds once my account has been enabled.

It's funny cause we've been talking a lot at work about how to simplify and streamline web-based sign-up. This is so far the opposite that I couldn't even have guessed how bad it could be.

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