How to Upgrade Your Phone—Cash In

Selling old phones is easier than ever. Here’s how to get the most cash or credit for your upgrade.

If you have old phones sitting around, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity. Outdated and unused devices can help you finance your next big tech purchase (like that shiny new iPhone XS, or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy 10).

Which trade-in option is right for you? It all depends on how much time you want to invest, how you’d like to spend your trade-in proceeds, and what you’re looking for. Either way, make sure you never sell a device that you owe payments on, and settle your plan or work with your carrier when you upgrade.

Here’s a breakdown of your best options.

Online Resellers

Time: ⚡️
Return: $$$

  • Ebay
  • Gazelle
  • Craigslist
  • Glyde
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • MyPhonesUnlimited
  • Next Worth
  • Swappa
  • TechWalla
  • uSell

If you’re willing to spend time learning about the online market and vetting buyers, you can bank on selling your device for a great deal.

Ebay reigns supreme in terms of high-value returns, but it’s a do-it-yourself process: You’ll need to take high-quality photos of your device, write a compelling item description, and communicate with interested buyers.

For a hands-off approach, try Gazelle. Simply enter your phone’s make, model, and any flaws, and you’ll receive a price quote and prepaid shipping box. The faster you send in your phone, the sooner you’ll get paid. (A phone like mine—a 64GB iPhone 8 with a cracked screen—was listed for $500 on eBay, and quoted for $84 on Gazelle.)

Whether or not you choose the DIY route, there’s no shortage of online reseller platforms and users in the market to buy and sell devices. Spend time browsing websites and comparing offers for a device like yours.

Tip: For the highest possible return, list your device before a new version hits the shelves—and before retailers announce their own discounts on older models.

Cash Sales

Time: ⚡️⚡️⚡️
Return: $

  • EcoATM
  • GameStop
  • In-person direct sales

Looking for a fast exchange? EcoATM kiosks, typically located in supermarkets and shopping malls, offer cash incentives for recycling used smartphones—as well as e-readers, tablets, and flip phones.

GameStop stores offer cash or credit for phones, tablets, video games, smart home devices, and accessories. But remember, the convenience of a direct sale isn’t free; you’ll nearly always make more money in an online reseller market.

An in-person transaction is another fast way to get cash for your old phone, especially if you’ve got a knack for negotiating deals. Local electronics repair shops may pay in exchange for your outdated items. You can also spread the word among your friends and family, if you’re comfortable holding them to your asking price.

Gift Cards

Time: ⚡️⚡️
Return: $$

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Best Buy
  • GameStop
  • Google
  • Samsung

If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper or planning a big purchase from one of these retailers, consider trading in your old phone for store credit. As always, shop around to compare prices. You may get lucky and score a better deal than you’d get in a cash exchange.

Carrier Trade-In

Time: ⚡️⚡️
Return: $$

  • AT&T
  • Sprint
  • Verizon
  • MetroPCS
  • T-Mobile
  • Cricket Wireless
  • Boost
  • Virgin

If you’re sticking with your current phone carrier or sometimes, even if you’re switching to a new one, you may be able to use credit from your old device to help finance your new one. Carrier buyback prices may be comparable to reseller markets, so be sure to shop around before making a decision.

No matter what you decide, before you let go of your phone for good, remember to:

  • Back up your data and settings.
  • Sign out of your accounts.
  • Forget all Bluetooth connections.
  • Fully reset your device.
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