We don’t know about you, but for us, one of the great joys of owning a smartphone is getting to upgrade it to something shiny and new every once in a while. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as organizing your apps, picking the perfect wallpaper, and making a new device your own. However, the question then becomes, what should you do with your old phone?
You, being the smart and frugal person you are, figure you might as well make the most of your old investment. How? Well, by trading your used cell phone in, of course! But with options like ecoATM, Apple Trade In, and more to choose from (including yours truly), how do you pick a buyback option that’s worth your while?
For many people, the easiest solution is to stick with what they know best: their current (or prospective) mobile provider. If you’re already a T-Mobile customer or are thinking of becoming one, that’s where T-Mobile’s Device Trade-In Program comes in. For years, T-Mobile has made a name for itself as the “un-carrier” of cellular providers, keeping customers at the heart of everything they do. But, does this commitment to customer satisfaction carry over to their trade-in program? Let’s take a look.
How Does T-Mobile Trade-In Work?
Online vs. In-Store Trade-In
Can You Trade In a Cracked Phone to T-Mobile?
T-Mobile Device Trade-In Credit Options
T-Mobile Trade-In Values
T-Mobile Trade-In Deals and Promotions
Pros & Cons of T-Mobile’s Device Trade-In Program
In order to be eligible for T-Mobile’s Device Trade-In Program (also known as its Device Recovery Program, and not to be confused with the JUMP! Upgrades Program), you must both:
|•||Be either a current or future T-Mobile subscriber|
|•||Be completing a qualifying transaction such as activating a new device, adding on an additional line, or upgrading to and purchasing a new device|
Should you be eligible, you are only allowed to trade in one device per active line per month when completing your qualifying transaction.
Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, you’ll have the option of trading in either online or in-store.
Trading in your device online is as easy logging in to My T-Mobile, answering a few questions about your old phone (such as make, model, carrier, and condition) to get your trade-in quote, completing your online order, and shipping in your used device. Once your new device has shipped, you’ll have 30 days to send in your old smartphone. Please note that with the online trade-in option, you are responsible for printing out the shipping label and boxing up and mailing out your used device safely.
Once you’ve shipped your device, you can check on your T-Mobile trade-in status by either going here (for existing customers) or here (for new customers). After your trade-in has been received, it will be evaluated to ensure that the condition of the device matches that which was stated when getting the initial trade-in value estimate. If your item’s appraised condition is different from what was reported, or if the device was damaged during shipment, your trade-in offer will be adjusted accordingly. But, what happens if you’re unhappy with your updated trade-in value?
As far as we can tell from T-Mobile’s website, you should be able to decline the offer and request to have your old phone returned to you (unlike with Verizon). Hypothetically, anyway. T-Mobile’s website does say “You may accept the assessed value of the device or request to have your device returned to you.” In the latter case, you can then choose to either keep the new phone or return it. However, their website also says “Device trade-in transactions are final. After you accept the trade-in credit and send us your phone, you cannot get it back.” Our advice? Double-check with a T-Mobile representative before shipping your device.
To avoid all this potential hassle and ensure you get the correct value from the start, we recommend going into a T-Mobile store to trade in. During your qualifying transaction, a T-Mobile representative will appraise your phone and give your trade-in quote. Then, you can either choose to decline the offer, accept the offer and immediately surrender your device, or accept the offer and ship the device later. Should you choose to mail in your phone later, however, your device will once again be appraised upon receipt by T-Mobile. As a result, your trade-in offer could be decreased.
Can you? Certainly. Should you? Probably not. Yes, T-Mobile does accept phones with damage for trade-in. However, they will understandably be assessed at a lower value than a device in good condition. It’s also important to note that phones with screen damage are not able to participate in trade-in promotions (more on those late4).
Our problem with trading in a damaged phone to T-Mobile is that T-Mobile is pretty hazy when it comes to their buyback values for damaged devices. Unlike most other trade-in options, the quote you’ll receive from T-Mobile’s online trade-in estimator is only for phones in good condition. That means that you’ll be flying a bit blind until you either go into a store or formally begin the trade-in process online.
If, however, your phone has some easily fixable damage (we’re talking a cracked screen or glass back) and if you made the smart choice and opted for <Protection 360>, we’d recommend taking care of the damage before you trade in. With the protection plan, fixing a cracked screen is only $29 for iPhones or $99 for other devices or damage. In the end, you’ll wind up spending a little money upfront but making more money on your trade-in overall.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of T-Mobile’s trade-in values, let’s talk about how you’ll receive your buyback payment. If you’re like most people, you’d probably prefer to get the most money possible in cold, hard cash. Unfortunately, if that sounds a lot like you, trading your old phone in with T-Mobile may not be your best bet.
Like many other carrier buyback programs, T-Mobile Device Trade-In earns you credit for your next T-Mobile purchase—”credit” being the operative word. With T-Mobile, your primary options are either an instant store credit or a bill credit.
Instant store credit: Only available when trading in at a brick-and-mortar location; should any amount be left remaining after completing your qualifying purchase, it will be applied to your account as a bill credit
Bill credit: Available for online trade-ins or if you get your buyback value estimate in-store but ship in your device separately; credit will be applied within three billing cycles
Now that you know how to trade in at T-Mobile, it’s time to see how the carrier’s buyback values stack up to the competition. The easiest way to check your device’s trade-in value is by using the trade-in estimator on T-Mobile’s website.
Keep in mind that while getting your estimated trade-in value online is completely obligation-free, you will need to be prepared to make a purchase (or complete another qualifying transaction) when actually submitting your device for trade-in.
For our comparison, we decided to look at the iPhone 7 and iPhone 11 across a variety of trade-in options. Each of the values listed below is for a device with 256GB in good condition on the T-Mobile network.
|iPhone 7 – 256GB, T-Mobile, good condition||iPhone 11 – 256GB, T-Mobile, good condition|
|T-Mobile: $55 (credit)||T-Mobile: $315 (credit)|
|Apple: $80 (credit)||Apple: not available for trade-in yet|
|ecoATM: $30 (cash)||ecoATM: $190 (cash)|
|Gazelle: $72 (cash)||Gazelle: $342 (cash)|
|GadgetGone: $83 (cash)||GadgetGone: $480 (cash)|
As you can see from the quotes above, although T-Mobile is a great deal when compared to ecoATM, it doesn’t come close to the trade-in values offered by other popular trade-in options like Apple, Gazelle, and GadgetGone (especially for more recent models). In fact, for both devices, you can get an average of 51% more money by trading in with the good folks here at GadgetGone.
From time to time, T-Mobile offers special deals and promotions that help to maximize your trade-in credit. Utilizing these promos can help get you extra money off of a specific device or even get a new phone for free when you trade in an eligible device. Keep in mind that these promotions may also require you to switch from a different carrier or add on an additional line to qualify.
As long as you fit the requirements, these deals can go a long way in helping to make up for T-Mobile’s lower trade-in values. If you don’t, however, you’re probably off saving your trade-in for a different company.
When it comes to cell phone trade-in methods, we’re lucky to have an overabundance of options. And for current T-Mobile customers ready for an upgrade or new customers just making the switch, the T-Mobile Device Trade-In Program does have its benefits, namely convenience. But if you’re looking to make the most money possible for your device, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.
When compared to GadgetGone, the choice is obvious: Unlike T-Mobile’s trade-in program, trading in with GadgetGone will net you substantially more money (in cash!), and the process is just as simple.
|GadgetGone Pros:||GadgetGone Cons:|
|•||Cash payouts are quick and consistently among the best in the business||•||Can’t automatically apply your credit to a bill or upgraded device|
|•||PriceMatch+ Guarantee will beat any competitor’s offer by $5||•||Can’t go into a store to trade in – need to mail your device in|
|•||Fast, simple online process with complimentary shipping||•||Infrequent trade-in deals|
|•||If you don’t like your updated trade-in offer, your device is returned to you for free|
|•||Transparent pricing and top dollar offers for damaged devices with multiple condition options|
|•||Tons of positive reviews|
Whichever option you decide, selling or trading in old devices you’re no longer using adds up to a little extra cash in your pocket or a nice deposit towards your new phone. From where we’re sitting, that’s a win-win situation!
For our money (and yours), trade in with GadgetGone.
Our no-obligation quotes are simple, fast, hassle-free.