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Best Time to Trade In Your iPhone For Cash? Right Now

In this final week before the high holy day for Apple fans, savvy traders can typically lock in trade-in prices that will hold for a few weeks.

It's all-but-confirmed that Apple will unveil a new iPhone -- the iPhone 6S? -- at a splashy event in San Francisco on September 9. If you're thinking about trading in your "old" phone for money toward a new one, there's no better time than right now.

IPhones hold their values quite well, and would-be traders have a lot of options to score cash or gift cards for their devices. But if you wait until you have the new model in your hands, you'll find your "old" iPhone has already lost a chunk of its value.

Instead, in this final week before the high holy day for Apple fans, savvy traders can typically lock in prices that will hold for a few weeks. So, you can get your trade-in value guaranteed, and still keep your old phone while waiting for the new one.

That typically requires filling out a quick survey about your device. Most programs appraise your device's value based on a few factors: the condition (cracked screens dent the value, of course), the network (Verizon phones tend to be more valuable than those from other carriers) and sometimes even the color.

Before you agree to trade in your valuable old iPhone, it's important to shop around. A slew of third-party companies hand over cash for the devices (which they recycle, refurbish and resell). Apple and the major wireless carriers offer credits and possible further incentives, while big-box retailers offer gift cards.

Here are a few of your major options:

Gazelle and other third-party recyclers

This year Gazelle, likely the best-known gadget trade-in company, is offering a "best price guarantee." The promotion runs from September 2 to 9, and it's valid for the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus. As of Wednesday morning, Gazelle was offering $441 for a good-condition 16GB iPhone 6 Plus on Verizon's network.

It's a good deal, but keep in mind the parameters: Gazelle is guaranteeing it will pay at least $1 more in cash than Apple or your wireless carrier will give in trade-in value for your iPhone, assuming you're a customer of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. If you're a Sprint customer, for example, Gazelle will beat Sprint's price for you -- but not, say, Verizon's. Also note that Gazelle's guarantee applies only to the trade-in value of the phone -- not additional incentives that carriers may offer, like payment of early-termination fees.

Gazelle's best-price deal doesn't apply to offers from its competitors in the phone-recycling space, so shop around to see if another site might fetch you more for your specific model. Other third-party services include Glyde, NextWorth, Wirefly, uSell and Recellular.

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Big-box retailers

Several big retailers have teamed up with third-party recyclers to let customers trade in devices via mail or at the store. They offer trade-in value in the form of store gift cards, not cash. If you're OK with that, the trade-in values can be high.

Target, for example -- which uses the third-party service NextWorth to run its trade-in program -- was offering a $435 gift card on Wednesday for a 16GB iPhone 6 Plus on Verizon. Compare values at similar programs through BestBuy, Walmart and Amazon.

Wireless carriers

The four major wireless carriers offer trade-in value for old phones, and some of them throw in incentives like bill credits, too. Note that these are credits toward a new device, not cold hard cash.

At Verizon, customers who trade in an old phone and buy a new one get a $200 gift card toward the cost of the device, plus a $100 bill credit. You'll receive the $300 as long as your old device is in good condition.

AT&T's Buyback Program could net you a higher credit than Verizon -- its site listed a 16 GB Verizon iPhone 6 Plus as worth $325 as of Wednesday morning -- but this service assesses the value of your individual phone model versus Verizon's flat $300.

Sprint Buyback offers up to $350 in account credit for old phones or tablets, and like AT&T's program, the actual credit amount depends on the individual phone model and condition.

T-Mobile is going the Gazelle route and offering to beat the other guys: If customers find a better trade-in value from the other three major carriers, T-Mobile will beat the offer and throw in another $50 toward the cost of a new device.

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Apple itself

Apple's own Reuse and Recycling program lets customers bring in iPhones and iPads to Apple Stores for instant credit toward the purchase of a new device. Or, fill out a quick survey about your device's condition and receive an Apple gift card after you send it in.

But the online program, run through Brightstar, is quite limited: As of Wednesday morning, Apple wasn't letting customers make trades or check prices for either the iPhone 6 or 6S. A 5S on Verizon was estimated to get $165 as of Wednesday morning.