There’s no doubt that when it comes to smartphones, progress moves at the speed of light. With each new year and product launch, big names like Apple and Samsung set tech lovers’ tongues wagging thanks to a slew of next-level features. Lightning-fast processors! Eye-popping displays! Insanely good cameras! Included chargers! Ooooh, sorry Apple fans – that last one probably stung.
The point is, the whole thing is enough to make you want to give your old phone back and get a new one. And fortunately (or unfortunately?) for you, there are tons of different trade-in programs out there to choose from that allow you to do just that.
With an overabundance of options, how’s a smart shopper to decide? If you’re an existing AT&T customer or are thinking about becoming one, the decision might seem obvious. After all, what’s more convenient than swapping out your old phone for a new one with your mobile carrier?
Read on as we break down the ins and outs of the AT&T trade-in program, from the process and payment options to trade-in values and accepted devices.
What Is the AT&T Trade-In Program?
How Does Trade-In Work at AT&T?
What Phones and Other Devices Qualify for AT&T Trade-In?
Does AT&T Accept Cracked Phones?
How Do You Get Paid With AT&T Trade-In?
AT&T Trade-In Values
Maximize Your Money With AT&T’s Trade-In Deals
Pros and Cons: AT&T Trade-In vs. GadgetGone
Similar to the trade-in programs offered by Apple, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Best Buy, AT&T’s device trade-in offering – not to be confused with the AT&T Next Up upgrade program – allows you to exchange your old gadget for store credit.
From there, you can use what you earned to offset the price of an upgraded device, buy that waterproof phone case you’ve had your eye on, or help pay for your phone bill. If you’re feeling especially giving, you even have the option of donating the proceeds from your trade-in to the nonprofit Cell Phones for Soldiers.
As with basically every other trade-in program, trading in with AT&T begins on the company’s trade-in portal.
1. To begin, you’ll first need to get your initial quote. Start by identifying which device(s) you’d like to trade in and specifying its storage capacity.
• Please note that with AT&T, you’re only allowed to trade in five items a year.
2. If you’re trading in a phone, you will now be asked to answer some basic questions about your item’s condition including any functional issues or damage the device might have. If you’re trading in anything else, skip to the next step.
• Be sure to be as honest as possible while answering any condition-related questions as this will help ensure that your quote is as accurate as possible.
3. Next, you’ll need to enter in your device’s IMEI or serial number. If applicable, you’ll also need to include your mobile number.
4. Once you’ve finished answering all the required questions, you’ll receive your item’s estimated trade-in value.
• Keep in mind that this is only a quote and not your final offer. As such, the device’s trade-in value is subject to change depending on how its condition is assessed by AT&T.
5. If you like what you see and wish to proceed with the trade, you’ll now have a choice: trading in your item in-store or finishing the process online.
What distinguishes most carrier trade-in programs from platforms like GadgetGone is the ability to go beyond the online store. If you’re the type of person who breaks out in hives at the thought of sending your used tech to a bunch of well-meaning strangers in hopes that they’ll pay you, then this might be the choice for you.
To finish your trade in-store, simply take your item to your nearest AT&T location. Once there, an AT&T team member will look over your device to confirm its specifications and assess it for any cosmetic and functionality issues.
If all goes according to plan (and if you did a good job evaluating your device online), the AT&T representative will confirm your item’s trade-in value. From there, all that’s left to do is accept the offer and spend your money. Yup, that’s right: Another perk of trading in in-store is instant trade-in credit. Win!
If going into a store to trade in isn’t an option, or if you’re simply more high tech than low tech, completing the process online is simple. After getting your quote online, all that’s left to do is fill out your contact details and send your device packing.
Mailing your item to AT&T is free. All you need to do is print out the prepaid shipping label that is provided or request a trade-in kit be sent to you. Keep in mind that if you choose the latter option, you will need to wait five to seven days for the kit to arrive.
Devices must be sent to AT&T within 30 days of starting the trade-in process. Once you ship your item out, you can stay updated on your trade-in by checking its status here. After your device is received by AT&T, their evaluators will look over your item to confirm that the condition and specifications match what was originally indicated when starting the trade-in process online.
If they do, your item’s trade-in value will be confirmed and your credit will be sent to you within two weeks. If they don’t, its value will be adjusted accordingly (i.e. you might be offered less money than was originally estimated). As you can imagine, the thought of getting less money than you were originally quoted can be quite frustrating for people.
Fortunately, most trade-in programs will allow you to cancel your trade and request to have your device sent back to you if you don’t like your final offer. Unfortunately, we were unable to open the link to AT&T’s terms and conditions while researching for this blog, so we don’t actually know what the company’s policy is. In other words, if the thought of possibly being locked into an offer you’d rather not take makes you itchy, you might want to think about trading in elsewhere just in case.
Whichever option you choose, always be sure to prepare your phone properly before handing it over to AT&T. That means disabling your device’s activation lock, unpairing it from other active devices and/or your iCloud account, taking out your SIM card, and restoring it to factory settings.
PRO TIP: To maximize your cell phone’s trade-in value, consider unlocking it so it is able to be used on a variety of networks. Learn how to unlock your device here.
For a mobile carrier, AT&T accepts an impressive array of devices for trade-in. In fact, they have one of the largest lineups of qualifying items that we’ve ever seen, with more niche brands and even non-smartphones being accepted. Aside from phones, AT&T also takes a wide variety of other devices including tablets, smartwatches, MP3 players, netbooks, and a slew of other gadgets.
However, and this is a big however, just because AT&T will accept them does not mean that they will pay you for them. Regardless, we think it’s pretty cool, and very convenient if you’re looking for a responsible way to offload your old tech. Given the unwieldy list, finding your item online can be a bit of a pain, so we highly recommend using their search function to help save your sanity.
Yes, if your old phone is cracked but you’d still like to trade it in, AT&T will accept it. However, as with most other trade-in options, it will drop your device’s trade-in value considerably.
PRO TIP: If your phone is still covered by cell phone insurance, such as AppleCare+, you may want to consider having the cracked screen or back fixed first before selling it to help maximize your item’s value.
To give you some idea of the difference a crack could make in your iPhone’s trade-in value, we compared what an iPhone 11 with 256GB on the Verizon network would be worth with both AT&T and GadgetGone. Needless to say, the difference is stark.
Normally, as you’ll see below, an iPhone 11 in good condition would fetch you $300 with AT&T. With a crack, however, the trade-in value plummets to a meager $114. In contrast, GadgetGone would offer $300 for the same cracked iPhone 11 (or $405 in good condition). That’s right – we offer for a cracked phone what AT&T offers for one with normal wear and tear. If that isn’t enough to convince you to look outside your carrier when trading in, we don’t know what is.
As with most carrier trade-in programs, AT&T doesn’t pay cash for trade-in devices, only store credit. For in-store trade-ins, the credit is able to be used immediately. For online trade-ins, AT&T will mail you a Promotion Card within two weeks once your device is evaluated.
Whichever trade-in method you choose, you’ll be able to use your store credit to either purchase a new device or accessories or to help pay for your monthly bill or AT&T Next installment.
If you’d rather receive cash, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. And by “elsewhere,” we really mean that we hope you choose GadgetGone.
Now that you know how to trade in with AT&T, it’s time to see how the carrier’s buyback values stack up against the competition. To see how much your device could be worth, use AT&T’s online trade-in calculator.
For our comparison, we decided to look at two of the most popular iPhones to trade in right now: the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 7. Keep in mind that each item’s trade-in value will vary based on its specifications, cosmetic condition, and overall functionality.
|iPhone 7 – 256GB, Verizon, good condition||iPhone 11 – 256GB, Verizon, good condition|
|AT&T: $55 (credit)||AT&T: $300 (credit)|
|GadgetGone: $101 (cash)||GadgetGone: $405 (cash)|
|T-Mobile: $55 (credit)||T-Mobile: $301 (credit)|
|Verizon: $60 (credit)||Verizon: $310 (credit)|
|Apple: $75 (credit)||Apple: $350 (credit)|
|Best Buy: $85 (credit)||Best Buy: $390 (credit)|
|ecoATM: Up to $45 (cash)||ecoATM: Up to $225 (cash)|
|Gazelle: $67 (cash)||Gazelle: $327 (cash)|
As you can see, while AT&T’s trade-in values are competitive when it comes to other carrier trade-in values, they can’t hold a candle to what is offered by GadgetGone, Apple, and even Best Buy. In other words, if convenience is your priority, choosing AT&T for your trade is great. However, if, like most people, you’re looking for the most money possible, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Similar to other trade-in programs offered through carriers, AT&T typically offers a few promotions that can be used in conjunction with a trade-in and the purchase of a new device to further maximize your device’s trade-in value (which is especially clutch considering their lower payouts).
In general, these deals will nab you a bill credit. The actual promotional value of the deal will depend on which smartphone you buy as well as your device’s trade-in value.
Current trade-in promotions with AT&T can be seen here.
For new and existing AT&T customers, there’s no question that their trade-in program is a worthy option to consider if they don’t mind getting store credit instead of cash, as long as their device isn’t cracked, and if they’re ok with settling for less trade-in value than some other buyback options.
Fortunately, for folks looking for cash and top dollar trade-in values, there are plenty of alternatives. Our personal favorite, for obvious reasons, is GadgetGone.
We dug into the pros and cons of each to see how they stacked up.
|AT&T Pros:||AT&T Cons:|
|•||Able to get a quote quickly and easily online||•||Middle-of-the-road trade-in values|
|•||Shipping your device is free||•||Very low trade-in values for cracked phones|
|•||Trade-ins accepted both online and in-store||•||Only offer store or bill credit, not cash|
|•||Tons of accepted brands and devices types||•||Many devices are accepted for recycling only|
|•||Deals and promos can maximize your trade-in credit||•||Doesn’t price match competitors (as far as we can tell)|
|•||Convenient for new and existing AT&T customers||•||Not clear on whether your phone will be returned to you if you don’t like your new trade-in offer|
When compared to GadgetGone, the choice is obvious: Unlike AT&T’s trade-in program, trading in with GadgetGone will net you substantially more money (in cash!) no matter which device you’re trading in. Plus, the process is just as simple.
|GadgetGone Pros:||GadgetGone Cons:|
|•||Some of the highest trade-in values in the industry, including cracked devices||•||Unable to trade in in-store – device(s) must be mailed in to be evaluated|
|•||PriceMatch+ Guarantee will beat any competitor’s offer by $5||•||Unable to automatically apply your credit to a bill or upgraded device|
|•||Quick and easy online quote||•||Infrequent trade-in deals|
|•||Many accepted devices|
|•||Shipping your device is free|
|•||Tons of positive reviews|
|•||If you don’t like your updated trade-in offer, your device is returned to you for free|
Whichever option you decide, trading in or recycling old devices you’re no longer using adds up to a little extra cash in your pocket, a nice deposit towards your new phone, or maybe just some warm, fuzzy, eco-friendly feelings. From where we’re sitting, that’s a win-win situation!
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