If you don't want to pay up front for a buyback program, trading in your used item is still an option at many retailers. A trade-in program doesn't cost you anything up front and usually accepts used items from other stores—two important advantages over a buyback program. But where buyback programs accept virtually any undamaged item, retailers reserve the right to refuse trade-ins on a whim, even when your item is in good condition and normally a type that the store accepts. Also, a trade-in program usually pays less for items than a buyback program, although that varies widely by store and device.
Each program assumes you're bringing the device back in good or better condition, with all accessories and original packaging. Bring an item in that has significant wear and tear or minor functional damage, and you won't get nearly as much for it—if the store takes it at all.
Through the NextWorth electronics trade-in program, you can bring back used iPods, iPhones, video games, GPS devices, cameras, and DVDs and Blu-ray discs for credit on a Target gift card. Target mails you the card, which you'll get within 14 days.
On the NextWorth site, you look up the value of actual models and answer questions about the item's condition and some common issues (dead spots on an iPad display, personalized engravings that may be undesirable to a new owner, and so on) in order to fine-tune the item's value. You then get a quoted trade-in price. As is typical with regular trade-in programs, Target reserves the right to turn down anything you bring in.
As of mid-April, Target was offering $200 for a first-generation 16GB Wi-Fi Apple iPad and $43.87 for a fifth-generation 30GB iPod with video.
This big-box retailer's program applies to laptops, cell phones, LCD monitors, digital cameras, MP3 players, Blu-ray players, and game consoles. On the website, you put in the exact model name and other specifics to generate a probable trade-in value. Unlike some other retailers, Costco doesn't accept TVs.
The Shack's program is similar to Target's, in that you can take in a wide variety of used gadgets that you might not have originally purchased from Radio Shack. The downside is that, as with Target, Radio Shack reserves the right to turn down anything you bring in, even when it matches the company's requirements. Radio Shack is offering $16.33 to $27.21 for that same fifth-generation Apple iPod with video, depending on condition but just $2.72 if the screen is cracked.
Amazon.com recently extended its trade-in program to include electronics products. The online retailer now accepts digital cameras, smart phones, and tablets (including the Apple iPad), among other devices. The program carries no fee and is not limited to products bought on Amazon.com. You need an Amazon.com account to participate.
It's easy to trade in a product: After you find your device's name on the site and determine its condition (like new, good, or acceptable), you print out a shipping label and mail the item to Amazon.com, free of charge. If the retailer agrees with your assessment of the product's condition, you'll get an Amazon.com gift card deposited into your account. If it doesn't, you can choose to have your gadget returned or to receive a gift card at the value Amazon.com selects.
If a trade-in program isn't right for you, sell the item yourself.