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Amazon will pay you in gift cards for recycling old electronics. How it works

Amazon's Trade-In Program turns your unwanted electronics into gift cards. The service comes in handy with Black Friday and the holiday shopping season in full force.
Written by June Wan, Technology Editor on
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Person holding an Amazon gift card.
Amazon

Black Friday is right around the corner, and if you plan on doing most of your holiday shopping on Amazon, then here's a gem of a service that will assist you just as well. 

Amazon's own Trade-in Program is a fast and simple way to convert your old, unwanted tech into Amazon gift cards and discounts. Unless you're saving them as memorabilia -- or in hopes that something will spike in extrinsic value -- you're better off trading in those dust-collecting electronics for recycling while earning some money back in return. 

It's also a satisfying, hassle-free way to get rid of old electronics at no cost, just in time for the new gear to arrive. 

Also: Best early Black Friday deals on Amazon

How to use Amazon's Trade-In Program

Let me set things straight: There are plenty of other trade-in services out there, many of which will probably yield higher rates of return and accept a greater variety of products and brands than Amazon's. But the advantages of using Amazon's program are the hassle-free shipping process, in-store discounts, and electronic gift cards that process directly into your account.

If that sounds good to you, here's a step-by-step walkthrough of the service. 

1. Select the item(s) to trade in

You'll want to start from Amazon's Trade-In portal. You can either choose from a range of Amazon-owned product categories, like Kindles, tablets, streaming media players, and Echo speakers, or search from the "Other Trade-In Categories" section, which includes cell phones and gaming.

Opening a category tab presents you with a manual search bar and a list of products currently registered to your Amazon account. Select the item or items that you'd like to trade in. 

The potential trade-in value (and discount) will be listed beside each product name and model. 

Amazon Trade In Program Kindle Search
Screenshot by June Wan/ZDNET

2. Answer the qualifying questions

Once you've selected your item to trade in, a qualifying questionnaire will appear for you to complete. 

The questions revolve around the condition and status of your trade-in item, including whether or not it's cracked or damaged, whether it can hold a charge, and more depending on the type of device. Your answers will be evaluated during the inspection process, so you'll want to be as honest and accurate as possible. 

If there is an inaccuracy detected, you can choose between taking a lower estimated trade-in value for the electronic or having Amazon send it back to your shipping address. The latter is typically not offered with trade-in programs, so it's good to see. 

Also: You can now use Venmo to make purchases on Amazon

Amazon trade in program questionnaire
Screenshot by June Wan/ZDNET

3. Shipping the items

Once you've completed the questionnaire, you'll be provided with a UPS shipping label to pack and deliver your item(s). The prepaid label comes at no cost -- for you, at least -- and you'll have 45 days to ship the package out to Amazon. Make sure you're using the provided label and not your own as the tracking information is designated for your specific trade-in.  

Tip: If you're shipping out a smartphone, tablet, or device that contains personal information, ensure that it's factory-reset and wiped out clean before handing it off. Also, record and take pictures of its condition. This helps in the event of shipping damage or if Amazon claims that what you described was inaccurate.

Also: Trading in your old phone? Here's how to factory-reset it

4. Wait for your appraised value and/or discount to process

Once the package is shipped and received, Amazon says it will take 10 days, at most, to evaluate the item or items and process the trade-in offer -- whether that's in the form of an Amazon gift card or a discount on select products. If there are any issues, you can visit the Trade-In page for more information or contact an online representative for assistance.

FAQ

How long will it take to receive my trade-in credit? 

According to Amazon's Trade-In Program website, you should receive your trade-in credit within 10 days after your items arrive at the sorting facility. 

What condition do my items need to be in? 

Amazon's Trade-In Program accepts items that range from non-functional to good condition. Depending on how damaged or pristine the electronic is, you'll receive less or more credit in return. 

How long do I have to ship my device?  

You have 45 days after the prepaid shipping label is provided to ship your device or devices. The best action is to drop off the shipment at a local UPS store and ask for a drop-off receipt to confirm its delivery.

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