How I Got a $460 Amazon Gift Card for $4

Mon, Jun 4, 2012

decluttering, goals, income

Last week I was browsing books on Amazon (but not buying since I’ve already given them enough money!) and I noticed a little box on the right side of my screen. It said, “Do you own this book? Trade it in for $24!”

Seeing that triggered a memory from several months ago, when I was going through my Amazon spending history and cringing at how much I’ve spent over the years. At the time, Amazon had recently introduced its trade-in store, where you can send in books, DVDs, and video games (they’ve since added electronics) for a set price.

I was one of those people who kept every single college textbook related to my major, thinking I’d use them all the time in my career. And in case you’re wondering, I haven’t touched any of them since I finished grad school. I wonder if I could get any money for those old textbooks, I thought.

How Amazon’s Trade-In Store Works

Amazon’s trade-in store is an awesome service. You enter the name of your textbook, compare ISBNs to make sure it’s the same edition, and add it to a running list of items to send in. Textbooks need to be in “good” condition, which means no water damage, no name written inside the front cover, and no missing pages. I pulled all my old college books off my bookshelves and started searching to see how much money I could get.

Since I’ve been out of college for 7 years, many of my books were outdated and ineligible for trade. Surprisingly, though, 22 of them were still current enough to get a decent trade-in price. I got $460 for the 22 books, or an average of about $21 each.

Once you’ve added all your trade-in items to the list on Amazon’s site, you get a prepaid shipping label and packing list to print out. The quoted prices are only good for a week, so you have to get the items shipped out within that timeframe. If for some reason the books aren’t in good enough condition to be accepted, you can ask that they be sent back to you.

I took my books to the closest UPS store - I wanted to make sure they were boxed up correctly and that the weight didn’t exceed the UPS limits. It cost $4 for the box and tape, which (for me) was worth it because I knew there wouldn’t be any problems in transit.

The box shipped out last Tuesday, and I got an email from Amazon on Friday saying my books were all accepted and my account had been credited with $460. SWEET!

Is the Trade-In Store Worth the Effort?

Personally, I LOVE the Amazon trade-in store and had a great experience. The good things:

  • You can go through your items quickly to find out whether or not you’ll get a good price.
  • Amazon pays the shipping.
  • You don’t have to post the items for sale and wait for a buyer/ship them separately.
  • Rates are comparable to other sites (for textbooks, anyway).
  • The gift card is credited to your account quickly.
  • They aren’t too strict on their definition of “good” condition.

The negatives (because there are always a few!):

  • You get Amazon credit instead of cash.
  • Some of my books were ineligible, leaving my bookshelves as overcrowded as ever.
  • I’m addicted and I want to send in all my other books (non-textbooks) now.

Have you ever used a service like Amazon’s trade-in store? What did you like or dislike about the experience? Any suggestions for better or easier ways to profit from unwanted stuff?

Every time you read one of these posts, a unicorn is born:

  1. I Have Too Much Stuff - Do You?
  2. What Evidence Are You Leaving Behind?

25 Responses to “How I Got a $460 Amazon Gift Card for $4”

  1. mysti1031 says:

    OOOOOHHH…I might have to try this. I am almost positive that my books won't be worth anything, but even if I got $50….it would be $50 more than I had.

  2. Michelle says:

    I've thought about doing this! Sounds like a good deal.

  3. Jackie says:

    Totally going to try this. I have a ton of books from grad school that I thought I would use in my future career… and I might have, but then my career path took a complete left turn. So now I've lugged all these books through 2 moves so far, and will probably never need most of them… but I can *always* use Amazon credit (especially since the town I just moved to doesn't have any used book stores). :)

  4. socarr says:

    oh wow! I know what I'm doing next weekend - going through my entire book, dvd and electronic collection!

  5. Jess @JessCantCook says:

    I didn't know about this either! I usually sell me textbooks, etc. on Half.com but sometimes they're more trouble to take to the post office than they're worth.

  6. Beating Broke says:

    Sounds like enough to pick up a Kindle Fire! Might have to look into that. I rarely read a book twice, but insist on keeping all the books I buy, so maybe it's time to do some clearing out.

  7. moneyaftergrad says:

    interesting! I actually didn't know about the trade-in store. I only have 2 textbooks left over from grad school and none from my undergrad… and novels I sold to a used bookstore here.. but maybe those used textbooks will go for something. I was just going to put them on consignment at the bookstore at the university.

  8. Amanda L Grossman says:

    Nice job! You could do all of your Christmas shopping with that (and more!)

  9. ImpulseSave says:

    I've been wondering how to do this! Thank for the walk-thru Andrea. Sounds like a deal!

  10. Kim says:

    Just traded in some dvd's. I now have $25 that I would not have had without reading this post. Thanks!

  11. Asliceofpandulce says:

    what a great idea! we held a garage sale several months ago and got rid of a few books.. all at the price of 1.00 or less ( when I had paid well over 25.00 for some of them.. I will defiantly have to check this out!

  12. Jordann says:

    Wow this post has totally gotten my attention. I'm moving apartments this week and consequently I'm taking my books out of storage (finally!) I'm definitely going to go through them and see what I can come up with, can you buy a kindle with the gift card? I've been eyeing one for the past few weeks but it's way out of my discretionary budget.

  13. shopping2saving says:

    That's awesome! I try to sell all of my old textbooks right after a class is finished so that I can get the most money back.. especially during beginning of each semester, but I'll have to go through all of my old books and see if I can trade em in. Nice!

  14. myjampackedlife says:

    I'm so interested in seeing I'd this works with amazon.ca. I have tons of books that I would love to pass on but would love to find an alternative to just donating to library. Thanks as usual for some great insight. Now go find us more!!

  15. Budget & the Beach says:

    That's awesome! I might have to look around my apt and see what I come up with!

  16. Lance@MoneyLife&More says:

    I used to do a similar thing with my textbooks selling to website when I was in college. They all seem to be out of business now. That's great that Amazon offers this service and it seems pretty easy. The downside is you could probably get more if you tried to sell them yourself. In the end I'd probably use Amazon because it would take too much time to sell them all individually.

  17. Catseye says:

    Thanks for a really great tip, Andrea!

  18. M @ PFN says:

    This is so great! Thanks for the info I will definitely be looking into this tonight!

  19. Revanche says:

    Yep, I used to weed through all my textbooks and use a variety of services to make sure I was getting the best price before Amazon started offering their trade in service, so I was also getting checks instead of credit.

    It wasn't ever a lot of money as an absolute value but since I always bought used from the cheapest stores in town whenever I could, I didn't lose a ton in the transactions at the end. It was when I sat on the books for too long so that new editions came out before I sold them that I lost a lot of money. THAT was a pain.

  20. Careful Cents says:

    Now this the kind of creative stuff I like reading about! I didn't realize Amazon bought used textbooks and it sounds like they offer pretty decent prices. I think I have a couple textbooks lying around…maybe I need to check this out. Trading them into Amazon sounds way less time consuming than selling them individually - even if I might get a little extra doing it that way.

  21. Scooby says:

    Brilliant, I had no idea about this service! I know what my hubby and I are doing tonight…

  22. seedebtrun says:

    Great idea, oh wise Ms. Andrea.

    I will give it a try as well, but am not expecting much.
    I got my computer science degree 12 years ago and the technology has changed a bit since then :)

  23. Crystal @ PET says:

    I was thinking of using a similar system on Half.com (Instant Sell) but I like Amazon way better, so thanks! I'll try this first and then move on to Half.com. I sold the super easy ones on Craigslist over the last couple of years, but I'd love to get the rest of my husband's masters' text books out of the house…

  24. femmefrugality says:

    Holy moly that's awesome! I looked at Half.com's program, but I actually made more money by just selling my book. I don't save them long enough to have a mass trade-in like this (I like to sell them as soon as I'm done so there's hopefully still a market for them.) I wonder how much they'd give you for novels, though…

  25. Tammy says:

    I used it to and got $65 for one book! I was excited! Great job on clearing the clutter and making some Amazon$$$ while you were at it!

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