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How to Sell Your Phone for the Most Money

by on March 21, 2016
in Phones and Mobile, Cell Phones, Tips & How-Tos, Money Savers :: 20 comments

smartphone with moneyWith cellular carriers offering attractive upgrade programs that let you get the latest model every year or two, is it still worth taking the time to sell your old smartphone? Surprisingly, it can be. Upgrade programs are basically leasing you a smartphone, and while they're appealing for their low monthly cost, that cost adds up. In fact, over the 12 to 24 months you have the phone, you may not be saving much... or anything at all. If you're not an aggressive upgrader who just has to have the latest model every year, signing up for your carrier's upgrade program probably isn't a good buy.

If you're not using an upgrade program, you're either going to be paying for your phone in full up-front or paying it off from your carrier in installments. As installment plans are zero interest, they aren't a bad deal, though they will add to your monthly bill—just read the fine print to be sure you're signing up to buy, rather than lease, your phone. Pick whichever method best fits your budget and when you decide it's time to upgrade you can sell your phone to help pay for the next one. (Though if you're paying it off in installments, be aware that you'll need to pay it off in full before you can sell.)

Selling your smartphone online is simple, often just requiring you to pick your product, answer a few questions about its condition, and ship it off with a pre-paid label to get your cash. The only difficult part is figuring out where to sell it and what it's worth. To help you out, we've rounded up the major retailers and checked the price of a 16GB iPhone 5 and a 32GB Galaxy S6. When estimating costs, we said both phones were on AT&T, in good condition, and were able to powered up without problem. But before we dive into what each retailer offered, here are some general rules of thumb on what buyers will—and won't—pay for:

  • After a new model phone is released, the previous generation's model will fall drastically. If you're looking forward to the next big smartphone announcement, it's best to lock in a trade-in price for your current smartphone beforehand.
  • Phones on different networks may be worth different amounts. Unlocked phones or phones on AT&T or tend to be worth the most.
  • Your phone's current condition has a big impact on its value. Phones in like-new condition earn a premium. Cracked, or otherwise damaged phones, won't be worth as much. Phones that don't work at all may not be worth anything. Though some companies will be interested in buying them for parts, most trade-in programs will say no. Anyone who accepts broken phones will be noted below.
  • The older your phone is, the less it will be worth. Gear that's more than a couple of years old may not be worth anything at all, but you may be able to recycle it for free.
  • Different color items may sell for different values, so be sure to select the right color.
  • Personalization counts against you—a phone with personalized engraving will be worth less.
  • Many trade-in programs want the power cable and sometimes other original accessories. If you don't have these, the phone will be worth less.

Now that you know what to expect, let's look at the trade-in programs available and what they'll pay.

In-store trade-in programs: Immediate credit

In-store programs are the easiest way to quickly get cash for your device. All you have to do is take your phone to the local store and hand it over. You'll get a gift card for the phone's value immediately—or if you don’t agree with their assessment, you can take your phone back and walk away.

The trade-off for convenience is price. These programs typically don't pay top dollar, and all of them pay you via a gift card, meaning you have to spend your money where you traded it in.

In-Store Trade-in Services

  How it works What they'll take What they'll pay for a 16GB iPhone 5 What they'll pay for a 32GB Samsung Galaxy S6 When they'll pay*
Apple Store Take your smartphone to an Apple Store and talk to a representative to evaluate your trade-in. iPhones, iPads, certain other smartphones $100 towards a new purchase $370 towards a new purchase Immediately, towards the purchase of a new device
Best Buy Take your smartphone—along with all accessories, manuals, and packaging—to your local Best Buy and talk to a representative. Trade-in isn't available at all locations and some locations may only allow you to trade in items purchased at Best Buy, with an original receipt. Smartphones, tablets, ereaders, MP3 players, video games, game consoles, computers, cameras, camcorders, and wearables $67 as a Best Buy gift card $176 as a Best Buy gift card Immediately
Walmart Take your smartphone to Walmart and talk to a representative to evaluate your trade-in. Walmart also accepts some broken electronics. Smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, video games, game consoles, cameras, camcorders, car tech, calculators $77.51 as a Walmart gift card $151 as a Walmart gift card Immediately
AT&T Take your smartphone to an AT&T Store and talk to a representative to evaluate your trade-in. Smartphones and tablets $65 as AT&T promotion credit Up to $180 as AT&T promotion credit Immediately, towards the purchase of a new device
Sprint Take your smartphone to a Sprint Store and talk to a representative to evaluate your trade-in. Smartphones and tablets Up to $45 Sprint account credit Up to $200 Sprint account credit Immediately
Verizon Take your smartphone to a Verizon Store and talk to a representative to evaluate your trade-in. Smartphones and tablets as Verizon account credit for existing customers or a Verizon gift card for others as Verizon account credit for existing customers or a Verizon gift card for others Within one to two billing cycles
*Prices as of 3/18/2016

Which site should you choose? Since all of these retailers pay in gift cards, the choice you make is really based on where you want to spend your money.

Better deals for those who can wait

If you don't need cash right now, a wide variety of online sales sites often give you better pay and, sometimes, options beyond gift cards. However, if the trade-in site disagrees with your assessment of the quality of your device, they may not pay as much as you expect—and you could be stuck with the lower rate or paying extra to get your phone back. Another thing you'll want to be aware of when you sell online is how long the price you're offered is good for: some require you to send in your phone immediately while others lock in your offer for weeks, giving you time to pick up a new smartphone before sending in the old one.

Online Trade-in Services

  How it works What they'll take What they'll pay for a 16GB AT&T iPhone 5 What they'll pay for a Samsung Galaxy S6 When they'll pay* When do you send in your item: If they don't think your device is worth the quoted value
Amazon Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your item in. Smartphones, tablets, cameras, books, video games, wearables, MP3 players, movies, music, and more $70 as an Amazon gift card $202.98 as an Amazon gift card Within 12 business days of receiving your gadget Within 7 days When you submit your trade-in, you can choose what you want to do if it’s worth less than you thought — either have it returned, free of charge, or sell it for the evaluated price.
Walmart Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid FedEx shipping label to send your item in. Walmart also accepts some broken electronics. Smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, video games, game consoles, cameras, camcorders, car tech, calculators $77.51 as a Walmart gift card $151 as a Walmart gift card 2-4 weeks after receiving your item Immediately Accept the evaluated price or have the device returned to you free of charge.
Apple Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, and Apple will ship you a prepaid shipping kit or let you print a prepaid shipping label to send your item in. iPhones, iPads, certain other smartphones, laptop and desktop computers $100 as an Apple gift card $370 as an Apple gift card 3-5 days after receiving your item Within 14 days Accept the evaluated price or have the device returned to you free of charge.
Best Buy Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid UPS shipping label to send your item in. Smartphones, tablets, ereaders, MP3 players, video games, game consoles, computers, cameras, camcorders, and wearables $67 as a Best Buy gift card $176 as a Best Buy gift card 7-9 days after receiving your item Item must be received within 14 days You'll be paid the evaluated price.
Gazelle Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then Gazelle will ship you a prepaid mailing box to send your item in. iPhones, iPads, Macs, and select other tablets and smartphones $60 by check, PayPal or as an Amazon gift card $150 by check, PayPal or as an Amazon gift card 3-5 business days after receiving your item for Amazon and PayPal or 7-10 business days for check Within 30 days Accept the evaluated price or have the device returned to you; you'll pay for shipping.
Glyde Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, and Glyde will suggest a price to sell it at auction on its website. Glyde takes 15% of the final sale price and charges a few dollars for a shipping kit (including packaging and shipping label), but the auction format will often still get you a better price.  Smartphones, MacBooks, tablets, video games. Glyde accepts some broken smartphones. $62 to your bank, by Bitcoin, or by check (for a $2 fee) $262 to your bank, by Bitcoin, or by check (for a $2 fee) 4 days after your item has arrived After you receive your shipping kit If someone buys your item and finds it isn’t in the condition they expect, they can return it to Glyde who will return it to you, free of charge, so you can relist it. If your item is repeatedly returned, you will be charged part of the cost of shipping.
NextWorth Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid UPS shipping label to send your item in Smartphones, tablets, video games, laptops, iPods, action cameras, wearables, portable audio $65 by PayPal or check $197 by PayPal or check Within a week (with an additional 3-10 days for a check) Within 30 days If the evaluated price is less than $10 or 10% of the original quote, NextWorth will pay the originally quoted amount. If the difference is more, you have the choice to accept the evaluated price or have the device returned to you free of charge.

 

USell

Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then Usell will show you the best offers on its network of professional buyers. Once you accept an offer, Usell will send you a prepaid shipping kit or let you print a prepaid shipping label to send your item in. Smartphones, iPods, iPads, textbooks, game consoles, gift cards. USell accepts some broken items. $70.68 by PayPal or check  $192.75 by PayPal or check Within 5 business days of receiving your device After you receive your shipping kit Accept the evaluated price or have the device returned to you free of charge.
AT&T Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your item in. Smartphones and tablets $65 as AT&T promotion credit $65 as AT&T promotion credit As soon as they confirm the value of your item Withing 30 days You'll be paid the evaluated price
Sprint Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your item in. Smartphones and tablets Up to $45 Sprint account credit Up to $200 Sprint account credit Within 3 Sprint billing cycles Within 45 days You'll be paid the evaluated price
T-Mobile For new customers, trade in your old phone within 14 days of receiving your new T-Mobile phone. Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then print a prepaid shipping label to send your item in. Smartphones and tablets $65 as credit for your T-Mobile bill $187 as credit for your T-Mobile bill Within 3 T-Mobile billing cycles Immediately You'll be paid the evaluated price
Verizon Select what you're trading in, answer a few questions about its condition, then Verizon will send you a prepaid shipping kit or let you print a prepaid shipping label to send your item in. Smartphones and tablets as Verizon account credit for existing customers or a Verizon gift card for others as Verizon account credit for existing customers or a Verizon gift card for others Within 2 billing cycles After you receive your shipping kit You'll be paid the evaluated price.
*Prices as of 3/18/2016

Before you sell

Before you ship your gadget off, back up your documents, photos and videos to your computer or an cloud storage service. Applications can be backed up with iCloud, if you have an iPhone, or the Helium app, for Android devices. Then, encrypt your device. Follow the step-by-step directions in our story How to Enable Encryption on Your Smartphone or Tablet. Then, disable "Find My iPhone Activation Lock" (for iPhone)  or "Reactivation Lock" (Android phones) and reset your phone to factory settings. Remove cases, screen protectors, the microSD card and your SIM card.

Whatever you choose, good luck navigating the trade-in marketplace!

Updated on 3/18/2014 with new information on services and what to do with your device when you sell.

[smartphone and money via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

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another option

From Ray Esposito on September 24, 2013 :: 11:08 am

I was a little disappointed you did not mention the option of donating your device, tablets especially to non-profits.  I manage a non-profit that could use a tablet or two for its work but in this economy cannot afford them.  Just a thought

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Another donation

From Joyce on September 25, 2013 :: 11:52 am

You can also donate old phones to your nearest women’s shelter, like Doves. The phone can be used in case of emergency, to get out of an abusive relationship. I believe you can get a tax donation receipt, as well.

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Re-read the article title!

From Larry Turner on September 08, 2014 :: 12:16 pm

While donating to a charity is worthwhile, that article name is all about selling for the most money! smile

Plus Selling the device on EBay or Craiglist may yield better results!

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I use only iPhones so

From Buster Chappell on September 08, 2014 :: 1:47 pm

I use only iPhones so I have used Gazelle on numerous occasions. Last year I sold a 4S(32gb) and they offered me $195. After they got the phone I got a message that said it was in even better shape than they thought so they kicked it up to $205. You don’t see that very often! I had originally purchased it new thru my AT&T account for $199. grin

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Microsoft???

From Deadendbill on September 08, 2014 :: 6:00 pm

No mention of Microsoft stores.  They too will take a trade in.  My Nokia 925 was only 75 but they would take that when I buy a new Windows Phone.

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Really Like

From Cathy Conrad on September 13, 2014 :: 10:46 am

Buying used or selling -the last model-to Cowboom-Best Buy’s, I believe,  online trading arm-gives a grade to what you’re buying-make’s it easy to chose. I often buy the last model when the new comes out.

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Sell Your iPhone Here On Phone Renew

From Mary Johnson on November 24, 2014 :: 3:00 am

Thanks For sharing your valuable knowledge with us, hope for your valuable post in future also. [url=“http://www.phonerenew.com/”]
Phone renew[/url] is also good place to sell your old cell phones

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Shop around and get the best quote for your iPhone

From James on December 18, 2014 :: 5:25 pm

I always sell on eBay but this year I received a pretty good quote on CellCashier. About 15% more than other websites quoted me for my AT&T iPhone 5s. Also, there are no fees and they send you a free shipping kit. Although, Craigslist may be more rewarding if you are willing to deal with spam emails and lowball offers.

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Sell your phone instead.

From Rebecka Moon on December 22, 2014 :: 3:58 pm

I love the idea of keeping old technology out of the landfills but I pay a LOT of money for my phones and giving them away doesn’t help me pay the bills. I sold my old iphone on techtwice.com for 300 bucks. It was super easy and when I had questions they had an actual person answer the phone!

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Sold my iPhone for more than I paid for it!

From Byeweak2014 on December 27, 2014 :: 6:49 pm

I sold my Apple iPhone 5S on ching4ring.com - got the best price. I mailed it to them, they wiped it for me and I got paid on PayPal the same day. Very cool!

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Check out beZilch.com

From Jon Partridge on January 09, 2015 :: 7:47 pm

You can sell your phone on beZilch.com for the most money possible!

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Buy the cheapest replacement phones on the web

From Gabriel Furget on February 07, 2015 :: 3:19 pm

Check out this site it sells the cheapest phones I could find anywhere on the internet.

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www.cellgiant.com

From Jackson Grace on February 07, 2015 :: 3:22 pm

cheapest replacement phones on the Web check out the prices.

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www.cellgiant.com

From Gabriel Furget on February 07, 2015 :: 3:21 pm

Cheapest replacement phones in great condition sorry I forgot to include the website above.

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Where is the best place to sell your old iPhone?

From James on March 04, 2015 :: 2:56 pm

eBay is probably the best place to sell your used iPhone but make sure you know that eBay will charge you 10% fee and PayPal will not release your money for at least 2-3 weeks. If you compare buyback websites like Gazelle, uSell, Glyde, NextWorth then the most quote you will receive is on CellCashier. They usually pay about -  more than their competitors. They also will ship you a free shipping kit.

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CellCashier always pays great qoutes for used iPhones

From Alex on April 13, 2016 :: 8:08 am

Agree with you about CellCashier! CellCashier.com actually featured in some articles as one of the highest paying websites for used iPhones.

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Selling old iPhone

From Zomby Poet on March 10, 2015 :: 3:38 pm

Looks like I need to find that old phone

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I have 2 Iphones

From Carrie Robinson on June 25, 2015 :: 10:58 am

Hello,I have a yellow IPhone 5C that I have been using since October that is still in very good shape and an IPHONE 6 that was purchased in October, but has hardly been used at all (it was court ordered to be given back to me), anyway, I owe a big amount to Ntelos and was wondering what I could do to sell these for a decent price because I really need the money! Will someone PLEASE help me??

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NEW 4G LTE PHONES ON A REALLY GOOD PRICE

From Hollister Palm on October 08, 2015 :: 4:33 pm

GET A $100 4G LTE phone with the first month of service and insurance everything for just $100

Reply

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Keep old phone as a collector item

From Ariffin on January 14, 2016 :: 12:42 am

Thank for sharing list of option on how to make quick and good money from the old phone.

However, I prefer to keep old phone as my personal collection. Like a phone museum, I can see the phone technologies evolve.

For some reason, in my country people started to look for old phone such as Nokia3310, Sony Ericson T28 and others. The value has now gone up.

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