When you're ready for a new smartphone, don't just stash your old one in a drawer. There are plenty of places to go to recycle your phone and get cash back, or at least donate it to a worthy cause.
Keep in mind that newer phones and well-known manufacturers—Apple and Samsung are the most popular—will mean more money for your device.
Also, make sure to shop around. Prices vary among companies, depending on their current stock and expected demand. For comparison's sake, at the time of publication I checked on what each company was offering for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon service.
SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)
Gazelle is big. The company's Louisville, KY warehouse covers 67,500 square feet and has more than 300 employees sifting through phones to buy and resell online.
It's easy to sell your device at Gazelle. Start the process online by describing your phone and its condition. You'll be offered an estimated price for your phone, and Gazelle will send you a bright orange box with padding in which to ship your mobile device to its facility. I used this method to sell an older iPhone, and within a few days, I received an email confirmation that my phone had been received, and that its condition was slightly better than I'd described it, so Gazelle upped its offer by a few bucks. You'll receive your payment via a check or PayPal, whichever you prefer. If you allow Gazelle to send you an Amazon gift certificate instead of a check or PayPal, you'll get an additional 3% for your phone.
Be forewarned: If your phone isn't in the condition that you described, Gazelle will send an email to let you know that the phone is worth less than originally anticipated. You can choose to accept the new offer, or have your phone returned to you.
Gazelle offered me $370 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
EcoATM is owned by the same parent company as Gazelle. Instead of sending your phone through the mail and waiting for a check, as with Gazelle, you can take it to an EcoATM kiosk and drop it off for instant cash. You can plug in the details about your phone online to get an estimate of its value. You'll get a little less than if you take the time to mail it to Gazelle.
EcoATM offered me $310 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
Opt for Trademore if you want to sell your phone on the spot. You'll be given an estimated price, and then Trademore will send you pre-paid packaging to ship your smartphone to its warehouse. If the phone lives up to your description, you'll get the full amount; otherwise, as with Gazelle, you'll be offered less. You can either choose to accept a range before you send in your phone, or specify that you'll only accept the original offer. Payment is via a virtual Mastercard gift card or through PayPal.
Trademore offered me $478 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
At BuyBackWorld, the process is similar to the other companies that buy used phones. You plug in your phone's description online, and you're given an estimated value for the device. With BuyBackWorld, you can opt to take one of two payments—a regularly processed payment, or a quicker payment that is less, but will arrive sooner. The quick payment will be sent the next business day after the company receives your used phone, as opposed to up to a week of processing for the regular method. You can receive payment via check, direct deposit, PayPal, a prepaid debit card, or as a BuyBackWorld store credit. The store credit provides a 5% bonus to your payment.
BuyBackWorld offered me $380 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier, and $342 as a quick payment.
Swappa is an online consignment store, where you list your phone for sale at a specific price, and wait for a buyer. Swappa gives you advice on how to prepare your phone for sale, and how to complete the deal and properly ship the phone. You'll generally get more here than through a company that buys your phone for resale. You can see data on recent sale prices on Swappa to get a good idea of how to price your phone.
Swappa charges a flat fee for each sale, and it's paid by the buyer. For a $550 phone, for instance, Swappa charges $20. Sellers are required to pay shipping to the buyer. Once your phone sells, Swappa deposits the money into your PayPal account—you don't have to wait for the buyer to receive the phone before you're paid.
You'll find trade-in pricing for many things, including smartphones, at the Amazon Trade-In store. You'll only be paid in Amazon gift cards, but for many frequent Amazon customers that works the same as having cash. Log onto Amazon and get a quote for your used phone, and then ship it to Amazon. You'll be paid in about 10 business days.
Only some devices are available for trade-in. The iPhone 8 Plus that I was shopping around on other sites wasn't available for trade-in on Amazon, although the retailer is accepting the iPhone 7 Plus.
Glyde is similar to Swappa in that you list your phone for sale and wait until a buyer purchases it. Glyde sends packing materials to the seller. You'll get specific maximum price for which you can sell your phone.
The proceeds from your sale are deposited into your Glyde account three days after the buyer receives the phone. You can withdraw the money by sending it directly to your bank account, get paid in bitcoins, or receive a paper check in the mail for an extra $2.
The fees are 15% of the selling price, plus $1-$6 for the selling kit for shipping the device to the buyer.
8. Best Buy
Best Buy has a trade-in/trade-up program that allows you to get a set amount for your used phone in the form of a Best Buy gift card. You can mail your phone in, or drop it off at a store for the agreed-upon amount.
Best Buy offered me $400 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
This longtime online auction site is still a popular place to sell used smartphones. As always on Ebay, pick your price, take a few photos of your device, and place it for sale. Most payments are made through PayPal, with the buyer directly depositing it into your PayPal account. Ebay charges the seller 10% of the final sale price of your item. Ebay also offers Quick Sale, where you get an immediate offer for your phone and sell it to Ebay for resale: however, only certain phones are accepted as part of Quick Sale. My imaginary iPhone 8 Plus was not a phone available for Quick Sale.
uSell accepts a wide range of used phones from various manufacturers from Apple and Samsung to BlackBerry, Nokia, HTC, Sony, Motorola, Google and Huawei. You'll receive a pre-paid shipping kit and you can opt for payment via PayPal or check.
uSell offered me $383.98 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
At NextWorth, you do the usual—get your quote online, ship your device, and wait for payment. It's the fastest site of all to navigate, and you can opt to be paid via PayPal or check.
NextWorth offered me $363 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
12. My Phones Unlimited
My Phones Unlimited has an easy-to-navigate site and it accepts a range of devices, including laptops, tablets and some versions of the Apple Watch.
The company offers prepaid shipping kits and you have a 14-day window quote guarantee. That's up to 7 days longer than some competitors. You'll receive your payment via check within 10 business days. They do security wipes of every device they receive, so you can be assured that your own factory reset did the trick.
My Phones Unlimited offered me $375 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
Apple offers trade-in and recycling programs for used smartphones. Apple GiveBack offers an Apple Store gift card or a refund on a new purchase if you bring in your old phone, and if it's an older model without any value, you can still drop off for proper recycling.
Apple offered me $400 for an iPhone 8 Plus with 256 GB and Verizon as the carrier.
You can recycle your Samsung mobile device through Samsung's recycling program. You'll receive no money for the device, but you'll be assured that it's been properly disposed of.
LG offers a recycling program for its old phones, with dropoffs at Best Buy, The Salvation Army, and various waste management firms.
16. Cell Phones for Soldiers
There's also the option of donating your phone to charity. Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts used phones, and the devices are sent to soldiers so that they can call their families back home. If you don't have a phone to donate, they also accept cash donations to buy airtime minutes for soldiers.Carriers
Check with your carrier. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all have various buyback and recycling programs.
17. State and local government recycling programs
Many states and local governments have electronics recycling programs so devices are disposed of properly. Check your state or local government website to see if that option is available in your area.
- How ecoATM Gazelle turns more than 4 million recycled smartphones into quick cash every year (TechRepublic)
- 5 services that will recycle your old cell phones (TechRepublic)
- Photos: Behind the scenes at Gazelle's processing plant (TechRepublic)
- Offload your old devices with ecoATM (TechRepublic)
- That used iPhone? Here's what happens before you buy it (CNET)
- Tips for buying used and unlocked phones (ZDNet)
- How to trade in your iPhone and get the best value for the Apple device (TechRepublic)
- Discover the Corning plant where Gorilla Glass was developed (TechRepublic)
- The ridiculous profit made from replacing cracked smartphone screens (TechRepublic)
- Amazon Trade-In: Fair value for your iPhone or scam? (ZDNet)
Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including People, W and Women's Wear Daily.