Get the most out of trading in your old cell phone

If you’re buying a new cell phone, trading it in with your carrier is an easy and attractive option. You get rid of your old phone and get a big discount on the latest model. Sounds like a perfect solution!

But carrier swaps aren’t your only option for getting the most out of your old phone. There are many ways to get cash or gift cards for your beloved old smartphone. Here are BBB’s tips for evaluating trade-in offers and finding the best deal for your old phone.

tips for get the most out of your old cell phone

  • Decide if you want cash, credit, or trade-in. Mobile carriers will usually take your current phone and deduct its value from your new phone purchase. However, this is not your only option. Many major retailers, such as Best Buy, Amazon, Target and Apple, will also take old phones in exchange for gift cards to use in their stores. This option is attractive if you frequently shop at these retailers. You can also get cash to sell your phone on a website that specializes in used electronics. The most established option in this space is Gazelle, but new competitors have emerged in recent years.
  • Compare the prices. Most retailers and websites that accept cell phone trade-ins will give you a quote after you complete a short online survey about your phone’s model and condition. This makes it easier to compare offers. Quotes can vary widely, so be sure to compare offers.
  • Go with a carrier’s interchange deal? Wait for special offers and read the fine print. Cell phone carriers often offer special trade-in deals for popular new phone models. These are attractive, but make sure you understand the terms. For example, most carriers will spread the discount over several years to keep you on the network. If you change carriers, you will be responsible for the remaining balance on the phone.
  • Take care of your phone. Without surprise, phones in good condition are worth more. If your phone has a cracked screen, broken camera, or other problem, its value will be limited. Some experts suggest Get free or low-cost repairs through your phone’s insurance plan before you trade in your phone.
  • Prepare your phone for a trade-in. First, back up your phone. Even if your phone automatically syncs with an online service like iCloud or your Google account, it never hurts to do a manual backup of your data. Then perform a “factory reset”, which will delete your personal data and all apps. See these instructions for more details.
  • What about old damaged phones? Many trade-in programs do not accept old or damaged phones. If that describes your phone, you still have a few options. Eco ATM is an automated kiosk that collects your unwanted cell phones and tablets and gives you cash.
  • Don’t just throw away an old phone. Recycle it. It can be tempting to throw an old, non-working phone in the trash. But electronics are full of toxins, like arsenic, lead, and cadmium. Keep your phone out of the landfill by checking your local government’s website for nearby places to recycle old phones. Additionally, Best Buy has an electronics recycling program, and this list from techrepublic.com includes charities that will take old phones.

For more information


Find out how to download apps safely and avoid cell phone porting scams. Learn more about selling your used items online.

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