Many retailers and manufacturers have trade-in programs that give you a gift card or credit for the estimated value of the product. Usually you can determine the value of acceptable products at the company’s website, then mail items or drop them off. If your "treasure" proves to be trash, though, most companies promise to recycle it responsibly. Here’s what some retailers offer:
Best Buy lets you trade in many kinds of electronics items, including computers, cameras, tablets, Blu-ray players, games and gaming systems, TVs, audio gear, and phones—regardless of how old a product is or where you bought it. (A few items, such as CRT monitors, are excluded.) You start the process online, then drop the item off at a store or use a prepaid mailer at a UPS center. You’ll receive an electronics gift card for the value. If personal data can be stored on the device (as it can on an MP3 player or a computer), Best Buy erases your info before disposing of it.
Target runs a trade-in program in conjunction with NextWorth. You can trade in electronics items such as cell phones (including iPhones), point-and-shoot and digital SLR cameras, iPads, iPods, laptops, tablets and e-book readers, GPS units, video-game consoles, and more. You can send merchandise in with a prepaid label or drop it off at a participating Target store. You’ll get a Target gift card for the trade-in value.
Amazon.com is testing a new program for trade-ins with a list of specific models it will accept, mostly smaller items such as e-book readers, cameras, tablets, and MP3 players. You submit your trade-in request online, learn the value, then send in the merchandise. If it’s accepted, a gift card is credited to your online account. Update: As of 5/31/2012 Amazon also accepts laptops and netbooks in its trade-in program. Visit www.amazon.com/tradein to see what your electronics items are worth.
RadioShack accepts a wide variety of products, including phones, cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, games and gaming consoles, computers, TVs, e-readers, tablets, and Blu-ray players. You can trade items in at a local store and apply the value to a purchase or get a gift card. You can also check RadioShack’s website to determine the value of the product, then use a prepaid mailer to send in the item.
Some manufacturers have take-back programs too. Here are a few examples:
Apple will accept iPads, iPods, and iPhones, as well as computers of any brand. You’ll get a gift card for the value of an item that can be reused. If it’s no longer in usable condition, Apple will recycle it.
Kodak has a trade-in and recycling program for all brands of cameras, accessories, and printers. You can mail products using a prepaid label and get a check. If the item has no value, Kodak will give you recycling options.
Sony’s EcoTrade program accepts a variety of products of all brands. You can get a credit by taking the product to a Sony store or mailing it in. Unusable products are recycled.
Tip: A few retailers now offer buyback programs, through which you trade in a device for a preset percentage of its value toward a newer model. When we looked at these programs last year, though, we concluded that the programs are rarely worthwhile since they're fairly expensive and measly in what they pay.