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ecoATM Review: Instant Cash or Instant Dud?

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The ecoATM is an ATM that gives you cash for your cell phones and tablets.  Yes, it’s like the one at your bank, but instead of dispersing cash and that’s it, the machine will take your electronics and give you cash on the spot as long as it’s a device it’s accepting at the time.  It’s a great way to get money fast for your electronics, and I have mentioned the company a few times, such as in my how to sell a broken iPhone post.

If you have any cell phones or tablets lying around the house, let’s see if this ATM is worth the visit.

What is the ecoATM?

ecoATM is considered to be an e-waste recycling company/instant cash kiosk of sorts.  Its machines will evaluate your devices on the spot, mostly phones and tablets, and then disperse either cash or store credit, depending on the option you choose.  The entire transaction is completed in store, without the need to interact with a human and you can get money in as little as a few minutes.  If it’s unable to buy your electronics, then you can choose the option to recycle if you choose to do so.

The company was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in San Diego, California.  As I write this, they have bought back more than 25 million devices!

Price Your Device

Before you even head to an ecoATM, make sure you price your device on the official website to say yourself some trouble.  The last thing that you will want to do is head to the location and waste your time to find out the price quote wasn’t worth your time.

To do this, it can easily be done via the official website.  Just look for the “price your device” and follow the prompts to figure out what your device is worth.  In some cases, they may not even want it.  Nonetheless, just make sure you quote it to be safe.

Later on, I will compare this option to the many other opportunities out there to show you if it’s worth your time.

Finding an ecoATM

If you’re interested in selling your cellphone or tablet, the process is relatively easy.

First, you will want to head to the official website and find a kiosk near you.  Generally, they are located inside of a big-box store, such as Walmart or Kroger.  Near me, for instance, there were more than 20+ locations within 10 miles.  Granted, I live in a more popular area (Phoenix, AZ), but I was able to find a ton of locations.

Generally, as long as there’s a Walmart nearby, there’s a good chance there’s an ATM inside.

When you do find a location, just make sure it’s in working order as well as see what it’s opened until.  Just click on the link and it will tell you exactly where to go within that store.  For instance, if I wanted to go to that Fry’s location, it states it will be on the “front wall” and it’s opened until 11 p.m.

Prepare Your Phone Before Selling

If you price your device and do decide the visit is worth it, the company asks that you reset your phone before selling.  While it isn’t required, it’s a safe bet since it protects your personal information and makes the selling process much easier.

You will need to know the following before selling:

  • the phone type (Samsung, Apple, etc)
  • the model
  • capacity
  • carrier (AT&T, etc)
  • its condition (does it light up? does it power on?  are there any cracks?)

And, don’t worry.  Resetting your phone, whether you have an iPhone or Android device is very easy.  They even created a very simple guide on the website, showing you how it’s done.

At the ecoATM

Once you’re at the ATM, you will need to confirm that you’re at least 18 years old and have a valid state ID.  You will have to insert your state ID in order to proceed with your transaction.  If you don’t have an ID, then you won’t be able to proceed.

After you insert your ID, the machine will validate your ID and then print out a sticker that you will place on the back of your device.  This sticker is used so that it can be tracked once it’s sent to one of their collection warehouses.

Once the sticker is slapped on the back of your device, you will place it inside of the ATM, as shown below and wait for it to scan your device.

In just a few seconds, the ecoATM will scan your device and ask you to plug in your device with a cord attached to the machine.

You will then place the device back into the kiosk and wait for it to scan your phone.  This is done to make sure the phone is working properly and will not scan any personal information.

Next, you will then be asked to place your thumb on the fingerprint sensor so that it can take a digital fingerprint.  This will be considered your “e-signature.”  This is done to prevent any fraud.  As you can imagine, fraud is rampant everywhere, so the company is taking an extra step to ensure they can track anyone who chooses to commit fraud while using the machine.

Once you use your thumb as a signature, the machine will disperse cash and you’re on your way.

The entire process only takes minutes and can be one of the best ways to get money almost instantly for your electronics, but is it worth it.  Yes, the machine does pay instantly!

Does the ecoATM Pay Good?

In my review, I figured I would see what the ecoATM will offer me for my 64GB Samsung Galaxy S9 by AT&T.  I wanted to see what I could get for it as well as how it compared to the other instant buyback companies.  My phone was in great shape and worked 100%.

In using the price estimator, they said they would give me $60.

So, how does that compare to other companies that will buy back your phone almost instantly?

Here’s what I found…

WebsitePrice Quoted
Gadget Traders$140
It's Worth More$140

As you can see, the ecoATM is way at the bottom of the list.

And, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I tried another phone, a 64GB iPhone 8 by AT&T.  Sadly, the results were the same.  They were willing to offer me $65, whereas other competitors were willing to offer more than $195!  Granted, you won’t get your money instantly, but you could have it in as little as one to two weeks.

Final Thoughts

2/10In the end, I do not recommend the ecoATM at all.  Unless you want your money today and are very impatient, you’re losing out on a lot of cash.  You’re taking a lot less money to get it faster than you could with other sites.  In most cases, you could easily make $100+ with another company that works in a similar way.  The only difference is that you would have to mail in your phone rather than go to a local kiosk.

Unless things change, make sure you get a quote from the many competitors online that will buy your phone back from you.  Websites like SellCell make it very easy to show you what other companies are willing to offer you.  Play around with this estimator as well as the ecoATM option to see what you can get.  You may be surprised by the results.

Now, I leave it up to you.

Have you ever used ecoATM?

What did you think?

As always, feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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Tom Nathaniel

Hi! My name is Tom Nathaniel, and I created LushDollar to help share my honest thoughts on everything money. You won't find gimmicks here. It's the Internet's most honest money site after all. I graduated from Arizona State University, and I have worked in the finance industry since 2006, consulting with multiple Fortune 5000 companies.

1 comment

  • I used the ecoATM machine in Alma,MI. It took my IPHONE 12 device then the machine broke down when it was time to dispense my money. I couldn’t get my phone back bc the machine was locked. That was a $500 phone that I now no longer have. I’ve sent emails, and spent hrs on the phone trying to get this resolved. Unless you want to spend endless hours and 0 customer support I seriously recommend you find another way to dispose of your phone!!!