The FiscalGeek Cell Phone Trade In Program: Free Cell Phones for Life


in How To...,Savings

Photo Courtesy JonJon2k8 @

Photo Courtesy JonJon2k8 @

I’m going to let you in on a secret that the Cellular Carriers don’t want you to know. I’m going to drone on for about 8 pages explaining that you can unlock the hidden riches of the Cellular World. I’m also going to go into excruciating detail how I’m the foremost expert in selling, buying, trading in and collecting Cellular Phones. Ok no I’m not I’ll leave that for me upcoming E-book (list price $19.99, patent non-pending), for now I’ll leave you with this exhaustive guide that might keep you from ever paying for a new cell phone again. Yes you heard me right….free cell phones.

The Cell Phone Trade In Secret

That’s right you want to know what it is.  I’ll give you a hint, it’s probably near you right now.  You probably use it 85 times a day.  It’s that block of technology attached to your Hello Kitty, Bedazzled lanyard.  That’s right it’s your current used cell phone!  What’s that you say?   Yes I know, here’s the secret.  Sell your current cell phone and buy a new one.  Thanks for the tip FiscalGeek, I’ll be returning to The Simple Dollar now.  No wait a minute stay with me.  As you may or may not know cell phones are heavily subsidized by the carriers you remember when you got that sexy little Nokia number for only $49 and a 2 year contract?  That’s right, but that phone unsubsidized and on the free market may go for $300 without the strings of a contract.  So don’t think just because you aren’t eligible for an upgrade you can’t…upgrade, or use that money to pay down debt and use your old ghetto Nokia 8125 that you have laying around, you choose.

List your Cell Phone on Ebay

Ebay’s the place for getting top dollar for your used cell phone.  This is not the time to deal with those clowns on Craigslist.  They are only going to waste your time and offer you $10 after you deliver it to them in the next county.  No go with the big guy you’ll reach a much wider audience.

General Ebay Selling Advice

We’re focusing specifically on cell phone sales but this could equally apply to most anything you sell on ebay, especially smaller consumer electronics.

Ebay Feedback

You need to have an ebay account with some feedback.  This is not the time to be selling your HTC Shadow througy your LadiesMan217 Ebay account with a feedback count of 0.  Buyers want to trust you, especially in the cell phone world.  If you have low feedback, either do what you can to start building that or ask one of your friends who’s been buying and selling Hummel’s for years to list it for you.  The difference is going to be real money.

Ebay Pictures

Don’t just put stock photos of your phone in the listing.  The buyers want to know what they are getting and if there is even a shadow of doubt with regard to the quality of your cell phone they’ll just pick one of the countless others.  Take some good photo’s of your phone, front, back and sideways.  Use the macro mode of your digital camera and really get in there.

What to Include with your Phone?

List every item that you still have that came with the phone and any extras.  Once it’s gone it’s probably not going to do you any good, but it will certainly bolster the price of your phone.  Be sure to take a picture as well.  If you have the original box and manuals (which I always suggest you keep for any small electronic device) list that as well.

Writing the Listing

Start your listing off describing what they will get when they purchase your item.  Contents, condition, and even why you are selling if you feel it’s appropriate.  Then find the product details for your phone.  Don’t just rely on the stock ebay info, go out to the phone manufacturers website and cut and paste all the details of the phone.  You’d be surprised at how few of the people that buy these phones really know about that particular phone make.  Don’t assume they already know about it, you’re selling them Your phone.

Buy it Now or standard Auction?

This is up to you how you want to go, but I find that I always get potentially more with the standard auction format.  Take advantage of that bidding frenzy to drive the price of your item up.

Cell Phone Details what’s a GSM?

 It pays to know the details of your cell phone and other carriers that it could work on.  In this case it’s mostly GSM.  GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communications, it just means that your phone takes a SIM card and odds are the next user can just put their SIM card in and viola they’re up and running.  What you do need to know about your phone is the frequency band or bands that it communicates on and share that with your potential buyers.  In Canada and the US most GSM phones operate on the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands.  Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia and a good part of Asia operate on the GSM-900 and GSM-1800 bands.  If you have a so-called quad-band phone or world phone be sure to advertise that prominently.

How to Get your Cell Phone Unlocked

If you have a GSM phone that’s in the appropriate Band’s to be used in other networks, it’s in your best interest to get it unlocked.  Getting it unlocked means that you can put a SIM card in from another cellular carrier and use it footloose and fancy free.  It also means that if you have a phone thats tri or quad band you most likely can use it most places globally and by prepaid sim card in that location for much cheaper calling then your standard international roaming.  The bottom line is buyer’s will pay more for this flexibility.
Getting it unlocked can be surprisingly easy, try asking your carrier.  I know earth shattering but use this script and give your customer service a call.

Customer Service: Thank you for calling AC&D how can I help you.
You: Yes I’d like to unlock my cell phone for international use.
Customer Service: Oh we have great coverage internationally.
You: Actually I would like to get it unlocked so that when I go traveling internationally I can use a local provider and have a local phone number.
Customer Service: All quiet why they pretend like they are looking something up.
Customer Service: Okay your unlock code is %[email protected]!953.
You: And how do I enter that into my phone.
Customer Service: You type blkdkjfk…………..

The key is to be firm, you just want options when you are traveling internationally. You said nothing about actually traveling internationally but you want the option. So does everyone else. They may just outright deny you, unfortunately there’s not much you can do about that other than calling back later and talking to someone else. You can also go the slightly more sketchy route and pay to have it unlocked. This is shyster town for sure, if you were unsuccessful in getting it unlocked you might just want to move on and deal with a slightly lower price. You could easily waste more money getting it unlocked then it would be worth in resale value.  Now if you do get it unlocked be sure that’s all over your listing and in the title of your listing.

How Much Money can I Really Get for My Old Cell Phone?

You’ll be surprised but not that surprised if you login to your ebay account do a search for your specific model of cell phone and click the filter on the left hand side that shows completed listings only.  Now you can go through the list and see what has sold recently and for how much.

Selling Caveats

One thing that’s important to know is that Ebay has been constantly revising their cell phone selling policy to combat fraudulent sales and so depending on your feedback rating and the amount of the sale they may hold your payment until the item is confirmed recived by the purchaser or they provide feedback on the sale.  If neither of those conditions are met they’ll wait a predetermined amount of time like 4 weeks to sending your money.  Go check ebays latest updates to know more about that policy.

Buying a New Cell Phone

I don’t think you need my help here, but I will recommend this. When you go get that new phone keep every swinging manual, part, baggie, earpiece and box that comes with it, to maximize your revenue the next time you go to trade up. People love to get things in the original box with all the trimmings. Again maximize that revenue. In regards to actually buying a new phone, keep in mind that the mobile market is constantly evolving. If it’s been a while since you shopped for one, get the lay of the land ““ carefully check out all the available cell phone plans and make sure you pick the one that suits you best. 

Good luck and let us know of your success stories.

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