Amazon Trade-In Program Review: 10 Things You Need to Know

Want to unload your old stuff and score extra cash with the Amazon Trade-In Program? We reviewed the program and discovered these 10 things you need to know about Amazon Trade-In.

1. How the Amazon Trade-In Program works

The program is pretty straight-forward, and is similar to other online trade-in programs. You can trade in your textbooks, phones, tablets, video games, DVDs and other items (see the full list), and Amazon will give you a gift card.

The process goes like this:

  1. Visit the Amazon Trade-In page and search or browse for the items you have to sell, then add them to your trade-in submission (you can add multiple items)
  2. Select the condition for each item (view Amazon conditions)
  3. Amazon will give you an offer for each item; accept the offer and select your shipping options
  4. Amazon will give you a free shipping label to print; package your items and send them in within seven days, and Amazon will credit your account upon receipt

You can read the full terms and conditions of the program here.

2. You can get paid (in credit) instantly…

Unlike many other online trade-in programs, Amazon lets you opt for instant credit – provided you meet their eligibility criteria, which aren’t listed but likely have to do with your purchase history. If you’re eligible, “instant payment” will be presented as a payment option when you trade in your items.

3. …but you might want to delay payment

Despite instant payment eligibility, you might want to delay payment until after Amazon has received your item. That’s because you will be charged for the amount of the instant payment if:

  • You cancel the trade
  • Your item is rejected
  • Your item’s condition and trade-in value are downgraded on inspection

4. Amazon pays in store credit, not cash

Even though Amazon states it administers payouts via gift cards, those gift cards are electronically applied to your account. That means they are not transferrable to other people, like a physical gift card would be, so you can’t sell them for cash, either.

5. Amazon Trade-In offers free shipping, but you’ll need your own packaging

Once you initiate your trade-in, Amazon will give you a free printable shipping label. However, you’ll need to provide your own packaging – and it’s important you take care to package your items right so they’re not damaged during shipping.

Here are some packaging tips:

  • Wrap the item with kraft paper, bubble wrap, or other soft filler
  • Use the double (over) method, in which you place a box within a box
  • Surround the interior box with packing peanuts or another layer of padding for extra protection
  • Use packing tape for a strong seal

UPS, FedEx, and USPS all offer special boxes for electronics if you’re trading in a phone, tablet or laptop.

6. Your item’s condition might be automatically downgraded

In a ZDNet article, Jason Perlow reports that an Amazon rep admitted that “it is more or less standard practice for them to automatically downgrade the condition of the device no matter what condition it is in.” And, since the Amazon Trade-In Program is administered by a third-party company, Perlow was told there was no way for Amazon to verify why his iPhone condition was downgraded.

7. Don’t accept the lower price

When you submit your trade-in, Amazon asks you what to do if they downgrade your item’s condition: return it for free, or accept the lower price. If you accept the price, you’re agreeing to whatever payout Amazon deems is appropriate for your device (a range will be given, so you’ll know the lowest possible payout).

The only time you should opt to accept the price is if you’re willing to sell it for the lowest payout; otherwise, you’re better off having the item returned to you for free and selling it for more elsewhere.

8. The program is fast, easy and convenient

It only takes a few minutes to initiate a trade-in, and if you opt for instant payment you can spend your store credit before you even ship your items to Amazon. Add in the free shipping label, and all you have to do is package your items and schedule a pickup with your shipping provider.

If you choose to delay your payout, the speed depends on how long you take to mail your item in. You have seven days to send it, but you can also mail it same-day. Store credit is typically applied as soon as Amazon receives and inspects your item – though their site acknowledges it could take up to 25 days in some cases.

9. There are complaints

In addition to potential automatic downgrades, users have claimed that Amazon has lowered item values for reasons like arriving in damaged boxes and failing to power on – even though they worked fine when originally shipped.

On AppAdvice, Bryan M. Wolfe recounts sending a “like new” iPad 2 to Amazon Trade-In, only to have the device rejected for “severe damage.” He figured it must have been damaged during shipping, but when his item was returned (Amazon sends rejected back items back free of charge), it was still in “like new” condition. A representative told him a mistake might have been made; however, by the time he was able to initiate a new trade-in the value of his device had dropped by $100.

After reviewing similar complaints on Amazon’s discussion boards, Wolfe goes on to say that it seems Amazon is willing to try to make things right, but “you rarely get the amount of money, or in this case, the Amazon credit, originally promised.”

10. It’s a good deal – but not the best deal

Provided you don’t run into issues similar to those experienced by Perlow and Wolfe, the Amazon Trade-In Program is a good deal as it typically offers good payouts compared to programs operated by wireless carriers and smartphone manufacturers. Still, it’s not necessarily the best deal. Using Flipsy’s free smartphone trade-in price comparison service, it’s easy to find companies that will pay more (and in cash). In addition, the private market (think Craigslist and Ebay) will pay even more than trade-in companies – if you can find a buyer.

Here’s an example using an iPhone 6 (16GB, space gray, Verizon, “like new” condition):

Amazon Trade-In $210 credit
Flipsy Vendor $245 cash
Private Market $319 cash

The bottom line? If you have your eye on making a quick Amazon purchase and are eligible for instant payment, the Amazon Trade-In Program can be a good option. However, if you’re more interested in getting a cash payment or the most money possible for your used items, you might want to consider other options.