Personal Finance 

How to Donate Old Cell Phones

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Treo 755pIf you have a really old cell phone, it has no value on the secondary market. That doesn’t mean it’s worthless. There are ways you can put a smile on someone’s face even though cell phone resellers won’t take your junk back.

I recently started having some minor problems with my Palm Treo 755p, mostly dust particles being trapped behind the screen. I’ve had the phone for several years and while reading the screen wasn’t difficult, it did start to get annoying. Fortunately a friend sent me his Palm Centro (yes, also an old phone) that I’ve been happily using ever since. The dilemma now was finding a new home for my old phone.

I knew the phone wasn’t worth anything on the market, a gently used (OK, slightly more than gently) Treo in an age of iPhones and Droids? You could probably weld two iPhones together and still be lighter than my Zach Morris cellphone-wannable. While it wasn’t worth anything to someone with an eye towards an iPhone, I knew that by donating it I could help someone in need while clearing my house of a little bit of junk.

Delete Sensitive Data

First, before you donate anything, be sure to delete all the data on the phone. We’ve all heard the horror stories of someone donating a Blackberry and then finding out they left all those sensitive company files and emails for people to find. Most donation centers wipe the phone before giving them out but it’s better to be safe and wipe it clean yourself. You can find instructions online for how to purge your phone’s data.

Donate Your Phone

If you can’t, or don’t want to deal with the hassle, sell your phone, consider donating it to an organization. Many times they’re used for their 911 capability, sometimes they can be sent to those overseas, but ultimately they represent the ability to take something that isn’t worth much to you and put it in the hands of someone who will value it more. It’s always better than throwing it, and the harmful chemical components, into the trash.

Here are a few programs of note, many of which will pay for shipping:

Also, when you donate, you get a small tax deduction (though it’ll be tricky to value if you can’t find a “fair market value”).

Recycle Your Phone

If your phone doesn’t work, it’s better to recycle the phone rather than donate it to an organization (saves them on shipping and the time it takes to discover your phone is a paperweight). You can find a place to recycle your phone by visiting Call2Recycle and searching in your zip code. A search for my area listed a Verizon Wireless, Home Depot, Staples, Apple Store, Lowes and a Radio Shack; there is no shortage of places to recycle your phone and its battery.

Donating or recycling is far better than throwing out your phone!

(Photo: globalx)

{ 22 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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22 Responses to “How to Donate Old Cell Phones”

  1. BrianC says:

    Great info–I think I have 3 old cell phones that could be donated/recycled.

    • Amanda mathews says:

      i need a free sprint phone can anyone help i take care of 6 people got hurt at work and phone broke i need to get the phone call for surgery can anyone help?

  2. Great advice. Your trash could still be of value to someone in need. We donated a few old phones to the coalition against domestic violence last year.

  3. cdiver says:

    Much needed info, now I can get rid of these things.

  4. NateUVM says:

    Costco will also take old phones from you for recycling/donation to the domestic violence initiative. Or, at least, the one that I go to does.

  5. Prasanth says:

    You can also donate the phone to any one through freecycle

  6. otipoby says:

    I think it is great to donate, but I have always wondered how they find value in these old phones. Usually, the battery is shot. Replacing a battery is expensive. I just have a hard time seeing anybody or organization buying $50 batteries to put into an old phone.
    Obviously, I must be missing something.

  7. CK says:

    It seems at some point recycling lithium will be worth it making the batteries quite valuable.

  8. ziglet19 says:

    Thanks, this is a timely post – I uncovered an old phone recently and it is sitting here on my desk while I figure out what to do with it.

  9. cubiclegeoff says:

    I have been sitting on a bunch of phones, meaning to donate them. A past company had a “leave your old cell phones” drive once and collected a ton that were donated to a women’s shelter, basically for 911 use.

  10. Shirley says:

    Thanks so much! This post reminded me that I had two old cellphones in a box that a son left here years ago. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want them anymore so I will now donate them. (And if he doesn’t take his “stuff” pretty soon, I may well donate it too.) 😉

  11. c70hokie says:

    Don’t forget to wipe your phone’s memory before donating it. You may have some valuable personal information sitting on your phone…

  12. Good tips. I recently recycled a couple of old cell phones at Best Buy.

  13. zapeta says:

    I took my old ones to best buy a couple weeks ago. I’m happy to have them out of the house!

  14. A couple of years ago I dropped off my old phone at a university “e-cycle” bin. Before that I donated my phone to a community college’s collection effort; the women’s center there was collecting them for victims of domestic violence.
    Note: If you’re a Swagbucks user, you can trade them in for points.

  15. Augiebball says:

    I have heard there is a minute quantity of gold within the electronics of a cell phone. Can anyone confirm this? I always assumed that and possible other scrap were the reasons many charities asked for used cell phones.

  16. This is great for everybody to know. There is no reason electronics including cell phones should be ending up in our landfills causing additional pollution. Also, with so many cell phones constantly changing, many phhones are in perfectly good shape that they do not need to let sit and go to waste.

  17. jsbrendog says:

    sell them on craigslist. you can definitely get $50-$75 for them. I sold an 8700c side scroll blackberry. if someone breaks or lsoes their phone and doesnt have insurance you are a life saver with an old phone

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