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What to do with old cell phones

By Mint Fox

Originally published February 16, 2022


Last Updated March 3, 2023

Mint Fox holding a box of old cell phones that reads Donate

So you’ve upgraded to a new phone. Congrats. Whether you’ve completely switched wireless carriers and are looking to start fresh, or you just upgraded to a next gen device, you now have an old phone you don’t know what to do with. We get it, electronics disposal can be tricky. And while breaking it in half and throwing it in a public trash can might make you feel like a cool spy or something, that option is absolutely not recommended. When all is said and done, there are essentially four things you can do with an old cell phone: donate it, give it to a friend, sell it or recycle it. 

Donate your old phone

If there’s still some life in that old phone yet, consider donating it. Organizations like Medic, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Secure the Call, the Womens Resource Center and Cell Phones for Soldiers will find a new home for that used phone. You can also check with a local shelter to see if they’d be willing to accept your donated device.

Mint Fox giving his old cell phone to his beaver friend

Give your old phone to a friend

Old phones make perfect starter phones for kids, or if you have a teen in your life who won’t stop complaining about their much older phone, your used phone might be a welcome upgrade. And if you’re a Mint Mobile user, you know we believe in sharing the love. If it’s an unlocked phone you’re getting rid of, consider giving it to a friend so they can try Mint Mobile for themselves. Don’t worry, it’s not a completely selfless gesture. With our Refer a Friend program, they get a discount but you’ll get credit toward your next plan purchase, too.

Mint Fox holding a smartphone with a sign that reads For Sale

Sell your old phone

We could all use some extra scratch, right? If your old phone is still in good working order, there’s likely someone out there who wouldn’t mind taking it off your hands for the right price. There are multiple sites & apps like Gazelle, eBay, OfferUp, Swappa, Mercari, LetGo, and Craigslist that make it easy to sell your old phone from the comfort of your new phone. Just make sure to fully reset everything so you’re not also selling someone access to your banking app.

Mint Fox placing old cell phone in recycle bin

Recycle your old phone

If that old phone is a bit too old for anyone else to use, you can always recycle it. That would be good for the environment, thus making a lot of foxes (and other animals) very happy. This can include repurposing it yourself (like turning it into a really cool belt buckle) or giving it to an authorized electronics recycler. We recommend visiting EPA’s Electronics Donation and Recycling page to see what cell phone recycling options are available near you.

Know before you throw (your old phone away)

Hopefully you didn’t stop reading this halfway through and get rid of your old phone already without backing up all your data and giving it a full reset. Make sure you’ve successfully transferred your contacts and account info to your new phone (along with your SIM card, of course) and saved any photos, videos, audio files, etc that you want to keep elsewhere. You may be able to save them to a memory card, or you can upload them to a cloud storage option like Dropbox or Google Drive. Then be sure to give your old phone a full factory reset, wiping any important data of yours off the device. You don’t want one of the first emails you receive on your new phone to be an update about your recent identity theft. 

So now you know what to do with your old phone. And if you haven’t gotten a new one yet, maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Hint: if your phone still has a retractable antenna, it’s definitely time for an upgrade. And wouldn’t you know it, Mint Mobile has some shiny new phones to choose from when you’re ready.

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