Bearer Bond

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 12, 2023

Get Any Financial Question Answered

What Is a Bearer Bond?

A bearer bond is a debt security that is not registered to a specific owner, allowing anyone in possession of the bond to claim ownership and receive interest payments.

Bearer bonds have been used since the 1800s as a convenient way to raise capital by governments and corporations. Their popularity declined in the late 20th century due to concerns about tax evasion and money laundering.

Bearer bonds offer anonymity and easy transferability, making them attractive to some investors. However, they carry increased risks, such as loss or theft, and are subject to stricter regulatory scrutiny.

Features of Bearer Bonds


Bearer bonds do not have a registered owner, which allows for anonymous ownership and transactions, offering privacy to bondholders.


The transfer of ownership for bearer bonds is easy, as it only requires the physical delivery of the bond, simplifying the process for buyers and sellers.

Physical Possession

The physical bond certificate is crucial for bearer bonds, as it represents proof of ownership and the right to claim interest payments.

Loss or theft of a bearer bond certificate can lead to permanent loss of ownership, as there is no record of the original owner or a way to recover the lost bond.

Coupon Payments

Bearer bonds pay interest periodically, typically semiannually, which provides bondholders with a steady income stream.

Bearer bond certificates often include detachable coupons that must be presented to claim interest payments, serving as proof of entitlement to the interest.

To claim interest on a bearer bond, the bondholder must submit the appropriate coupon to the issuer or its agent, usually a bank or financial institution.


Types of Bearer Bonds

Government Bonds

Treasury Bonds

Some governments, such as the United States, have issued bearer treasury bonds in the past, though they are no longer issued due to regulatory changes.

Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds are debt securities issued by local governments or their agencies, and some of these bonds were once issued in bearer form.

Corporate Bonds

Investment-Grade Bonds

Investment-grade bonds are issued by corporations with strong credit ratings, offering relatively lower risks to investors. Bearer bonds of this type have been less common in recent years.

High-Yield Bonds

High-yield bonds, also known as "junk bonds," are issued by corporations with lower credit ratings and carry higher risks. These bonds are more likely to be issued in bearer form due to the higher yields and anonymity they offer.

Zero-Coupon Bonds

Zero-coupon bonds are debt securities that do not pay periodic interest but are instead issued at a discount to their face value and redeemed at maturity for the full face value.

Bearer zero-coupon bonds are similar to other bearer bonds in terms of anonymity and transferability, but they differ in that they do not require the submission of coupons to claim interest payments.

Types of Bearer Bonds

Legal and Regulatory Issues

Bearer Bond Restrictions

United States

In the United States, the issuance of bearer bonds has been restricted since 1982 due to tax evasion and money laundering concerns, and they are no longer issued by the U.S. Treasury.

European Union

The European Union has also implemented measures to limit the use of bearer bonds, with many member countries either prohibiting their issuance or applying strict regulatory requirements.

Money Laundering and Tax Evasion Concerns

Illicit Use of Bearer Bonds

Bearer bonds have been associated with money laundering and tax evasion due to their anonymous nature, making it difficult to trace the origin and flow of funds.

Efforts to Combat Illegal Activities

Governments and international organizations have taken steps to combat the illicit use of bearer bonds by implementing stricter regulations, anti-money laundering measures, and tax reporting requirements.

Compliance and Reporting Requirements

Issuers and holders of bearer bonds must comply with various regulations and reporting requirements, including those related to anti-money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing.

Investment Considerations

Portfolio Diversification

Bearer bonds can offer portfolio diversification by providing exposure to different issuers, sectors, and geographical regions, potentially reducing overall portfolio risk.

Risk and Return Profile

Credit Risk

Credit risk is a concern for all bond investors, but it can be particularly significant for bearer bondholders due to the anonymous nature of the securities and the potential for default by issuers.

Interest Rate Risk

Bearer bonds, like other fixed-income securities, are subject to interest rate risk, as changes in interest rates can negatively impact their market value.

Liquidity Risk

Liquidity risk is higher for bearer bonds than registered bonds, as they are less frequently traded and may be more difficult to sell at a favorable price.

Tax Implications

Investors in bearer bonds must be aware of the tax implications, including the potential for higher taxes and penalties due to non-compliance with tax reporting requirements.

Bearer Bond Alternatives


Registered Bonds

Definition and Features

Registered bonds are debt securities that have a registered owner, with transactions and ownership changes recorded by the issuer or its agent, providing more security and traceability than bearer bonds.

Comparison With Bearer Bonds

Compared to bearer bonds, registered bonds offer increased security, transparency, and liquidity, but they lack the anonymity and ease of transfer associated with bearer bonds.

Electronic Bonds


Dematerialization refers to the process of converting physical bond certificates into electronic records, eliminating the need for physical possession and reducing the risks associated with loss or theft.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Electronic bonds offer greater security, ease of trading, and reduced administrative burdens compared to physical bearer bonds, but they do not provide the same level of anonymity and transferability.

Final Thoughts

Bearer bonds are debt securities that offer anonymity and easy transferability but carry increased risks and face stricter regulatory scrutiny.

They provide bondholders with the advantages of privacy and simplified ownership transfer through physical possession.

Bearer bonds come in various types, including government bonds, municipal bonds, corporate investment-grade bonds, high-yield bonds, and zero-coupon bonds.

However, they have faced restrictions and regulatory changes in many countries due to concerns about tax evasion and money laundering.

Investors should consider factors such as portfolio diversification, credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk, and tax implications when investing in bearer bonds.

Alternatives to bearer bonds include registered bonds, which offer increased security and traceability but lack anonymity, and electronic bonds, which provide greater security and ease of trading but have reduced anonymity.

Bearer Bond FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

Discover Wealth Management Solutions Near You