Costco's Trade-Up Program: 15 Important Things You Need to Know About

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Swap your old tech devices for Costco gift cards.
Updated Nov. 27, 2023
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The average American household has 22 devices in their home. If some of yours are languishing from lack of use, you can use Costco’s Trade-Up program to convert your unused electronics to gift cards.

This is an environmentally conscious way to declutter and make some extra cash for groceries or holiday gifts. However, to get the most buck for your junk, you’ll need to know a few particulars about Coscto’s electronic trade-in program.

Here are the basics about how to evaluate, ship, and get a gift card in exchange for your old tech items.

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Get gift cards in exchange for old tech

Andrey Popov/Adobe person hand giving gift card

Costco’s program allows you to trade in your old tech devices for Costco gift cards. Use these cards for groceries, tires, gas, or whatever else Costco sells. 

Gift cards work in person and online at Costco.com. You can’t redeem gift cards for cash, though.

Use your device’s serial number or IMEI to get an instant quote

Samuel B./Adobe young woman speaking on mobile phone

Not sure how much you can get for your device? 

Find your device’s serial number or IMEI and type it into partner Phobio’s website to get an instant quote. (Look for these numbers on a sticker on the back of your device, go to your device settings, or dial *#06# for cell phones.)

Costco sends a prepaid box and shipping label

fizkes/Adobe customer open parcel box

No box? No printer? No problem. When you trade in your laptop or other device, Costco sends you the appropriate-sized box, packing materials, and a shipping label to your doorstep. The box arrives in three to five business days.

Once you get your materials, carefully pack up your device and ship it back within three to five business days of receipt via courier drop-off. When Phobio receives the device, it will test it to verify its condition and value.

Windows and iOS devices are accepted

Angelov/Adobe microsoft windows 10 logo

Costco doesn’t just accept Apple devices. It accepts laptops that run on iOS or Windows. Most qualifying devices are laptop computers, but they take tablets, cell phones, and Apple watches as well.

No Chromebooks or desktops

Konstantin Savusia/Adobe asus Chromebook in hand

Unfortunately, Google Chromebooks and desktop computers don’t qualify for Costco’s Trade-Up program. (Shipping a desktop computer would be a pain anyway.)

Devices must power on

aijiro/Adobe woman using laptop

To qualify as a trade-in, your tech device must still work in that it must power on. You must also include the power cord so the tester can verify this, as the battery will likely drain during shipping.

If your laptop is completely dead, take it to an e-waste facility for recycling instead.

Devices can’t be damaged

boophuket/Adobe woman charging  smartphone with a wireless charging dock

If your kid stepped on your computer and broke the screen, it’s probably headed for the recycling center rather than the Costco Trade-Up program. Devices must be undamaged to be traded in. However, reasonable wear and tear is acceptable.

Devices must be no more than five years old

Drobot Dean/Adobe attractive young man relaxing

Laptops and other tech in the Costco Trade-Up program get refurbished and resold, and your 1990-something iPod doesn’t have much resale value these days. For this reason, Costco only accepts devices that are five years old and newer.

Erase your data first

ifeelstock/Adobe Apple iPhone Xs

This is a good cybersecurity best practice before sending your device off to someone you don’t know.

If you’re unsure how to wipe the data from your laptop, Costco’s website gives you detailed instructions on how to do this for both Windows and iOS devices.

There is some risk involved

rocketclips/Adobe girl checking package

While Costco’s program is a relatively quick and convenient way to turn computers you don’t need into gift cards you can use, it’s not without its drawbacks. 

When shipping your tech, you risk it being damaged in transit or the tester not valuing your device for as much as you thought.

If you’re willing to swap the convenience of a trade-in program for more certainty in getting a top price for your tech, you can sell the device to a third party on your own.

You can get a plastic card or a digital one

Prostock-studio/Adobe woman using laptop and credit card

Once your trade-in is valued and processed (within 10 business days of receiving it), Costco will send your gift card. 

You can choose to get a physical gift card (which takes about seven to 10 business days to arrive by mail) or a digital gift card via email (which arrives in one to two business days).

Costco doesn’t have the only tech trade-in program

Jelena Stanojkovic/Adobe businessman using laptop at home

Other retailers including Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, and more, offer similar programs to give you gift cards in exchange for old tech. 

Each program has different stipulations on what types of devices qualify, so if Costco won’t take your tech, you can see if another retailer will.

You may make more by selling your electronics to a third party

lordn/Adobe senior woman using digital tablet

Costco’s Trade-Up program is a convenient way to cash in your old tech, but if you’re looking for top dollar and your device is in good shape, you may make more money if you spruce it up and sell it on your own.

Like used cars, laptops often sell for more to third parties via eBay or Facebook Marketplace than the trade-in value that retailers offer. So if you’re set on getting top dollar for your electronic device, Costco’s program might not be your best bet.

You’ll help the environment

Goffkein/Adobe young man freelancer traveler

Many tech devices require rare earth elements to operate. Finding, extracting, and processing these substances is taxing on the environment. 

By refurbishing and recycling old laptops and other devices, you reduce the demand for these metals and your carbon footprint.

You don’t need to be a Costco member to use the program

dennizn/Adobe receipt and executive membership card

If you’re not a Costco member, you can still trade in your tech for gift cards. And you don’t need to be a member to use the cards either. 

If you’re using a gift card, you can shop in Costco stores and at Costco.com without a membership. It’s one of the greatest Costco hacks you can use at the popular warehouse club.

Bottom line

simona/Adobe cheerful woman using phone

Costco’s tech Trade-Up program is a quick, easy way to convert old laptops and other tech to gift cards. If you’re looking to declutter your office, boost your grocery budget, or both, see if your old device qualifies for Costco’s program.

If it’s not the right type of device, don’t worry — many retailers offer a similar program, so it’s worth checking if other stores will exchange your tech for a gift card.

Costco’s program has the dual benefit of putting a gift card in your wallet while keeping electronic waste out of landfills.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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