BBB Tip: Get the Most Value from Trading in Your Old Cell Phone



If you are shopping for a new cell phone, trading it in with your carrier is an easy and enticing option. You get rid of your old phone and receive a significant discount on the latest model. Sounds like a perfect solution!

But carrier trade-ins aren’t your only option for getting value out of your old phone. There are many ways to get cash or gift cards for your much-loved old smartphone. Here is BBB’s advice for evaluating trade in offers and finding the best deal for your old phone.   

Tips for getting the most value for your old cell phone 

  • Decide whether you want cash, credit, or trade-in value. Cell phone carriers will typically take your current phone and deduct its value from the purchase of your new phone. However, that’s 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 at their stores. This option is appealing if you frequently shop at these retailers. You can also get cash for selling your phone on a website that specializes in used electronics. The most established option in this space is Gazelle, but new competitors have appeared in the past few years.
  • Shop around. Most retailers and websites that take cell phone trade-ins will give you a quote after you complete a short online survey about the model and condition of your phone. This makes it easy to compare offers. Quotes can different greatly, so be sure to compare offers.
  • Going with a carrier’s trade-in deal? Wait for special offers and read the fine print. Cell phone carriers often have special trade-in offers for popular new phone models. These are enticing, but be sure you understand the terms. For example, most carriers will spread out the discount over the course of several years to keep you on the network. If you switch carriers, you’ll be responsible for the remaining balance on the phone.
  • Take care of your phone. Unsurprisingly, phones in good condition are worth more. If your phone has a cracked screen, broken camera, or other issue, it will have limited value. Some experts suggest getting any free or low-cost repairs completed through your phone’s insurance plan before trading in your phone.
  • Prep your phone for a trade in. First, back up your phone. Even if your phone automatically syncs to an online service like iCloud or your Google account, it never hurts to do a manual back up of your data. Then, do a “factory reset,” which will delete your personal data and any apps. Check out these instructions for more details.
  • What about old, damaged phones? Many trade-in programs don’t accept old or damaged phones. If this 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 trash an old phone. Recycle it. It can be tempting to toss an old, non-functional phone in the trash. But electronics are full of toxins, like arsenic, lead, and cadmium. Keep your out phone out the landfill by check your local government website for nearby places to recycle old phones.  Also, Best Buy has an electronics recycling program, and this list from techrepublic.com includes charities that will take old phones.

For more information

Learn about downloading apps safely and avoiding cell phone porting scams. Read up more about selling your used items online.