Best Buy launches Buyback program; trade-in your old tech for gift cards [video]

Best Buy officially launched the Buyback program that we first heard about back in early January. To recap, this is a program you purchase along with a new gadget or device and it guarantees that Best Buy will buy back that product at a percentage of the original cost you paid for it. How much you get depends on how long you keep it.

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So the deal is, you bring your laptop, netbook, TV, mobile phone or tablet (though not, it seems, iPads) back within 6 months and you get up to 50% back. Sounds great except for that "up to" clause. Bring it back in 6-12 months and get up to 40% back, and so on. Best Buy says you'll "Always know your buyback price, no guessing" but how that fits in with "up to" a percentage of the price isn't clear. In the Buyback program FAQ it says "But at Best Buy, we will always give you the higher of the Buy Back price or our own trade-in program's value when your product is returned in good condition with all of its originally included parts." It further offers a chart of refund percentage vs item condition. Good or Fair means you get the full refund, Poor means you get half the scheduled refund and if it's Substantially Impaired they won't accept it at all. It's probably worth talking to a Best Buy salesperson to nail down the details of all this before you spend money on the Buyback program, but see below. It should be noted that the device has to be in good working order and all accessories have to be included. Also the timer starts after the 31-day return policy period, so really you have 7 months from date of purchase to get "up to 50%" back. Also in the case of cell phones, you get a percentage of the full retail price, not the subsidized price you might pay with a 2-year contract. The Buyback program ends after 2 years for most products; for TVs it goes to 4 years (up to 10% back from between 24-48 months). Now whether or not his is a good deal all hinges on how much the Buyback service costs. Here's the good news. For a limited time, it's free. Best Buy isn't indicating when that deal ends [Update: now they are: February 12th] but if you're in the market for an item that would be covered by this Buyback service, now might be a good time to buy. You can find out more about the Buyback program on Best Buy's website. [Update: In the comments someone asked what Best Buy is going to do with all this used gear. Once more according to the FAQ, some of it will be resold as used/refurbished merchandise at Dealtree or Best Buy outlets. Some of it will be used for parts at Geek Squad, and the rest will be recycled.]

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

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