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Make Your Phone Work For You

Options to consider when upgrading your mobile device

When purchasing a new phone (much like buying a vehicle), there are a variety of options available from which to choose. But many are left wondering, “Which option is going to be the best deal in the long run? Which one will save you money, or even offer the potential to make you money?” (Yes, that’s an actual opportunity!) 

Culling through the options can be tough. There are a variety of factors to assess to understand what will be the best option for you. From selecting financing to wading through current promotions – there are a variety of factors to consider to determine the best option for you when upgrading your phone or making a new phone purchase. 

Let’s take a look at some of the available device options to determine what would be best for you when getting a new device. 

Phones: To Lease or Buy – That Is The Question

When it comes to the device itself, you have two primary options—buying your new phone outright or selecting a lease option. Whether you buy directly from the provider or a private seller, there are some critical factors to consider. 

Lease Your Phone 

Currently, one of the most popular options for getting a new phone is to lease it. This option is available from most of the major carriers. With a lease, you don’t directly own your cell phone—the carrier does. You pay a monthly fee to use the phone which is included in your monthly service subscription. 

It’s important to note that leasing your phone differs from an installment plan to pay for your phone. The agreed-upon monthly payment is to rent the phone from the provider, which is usually around 12 to 36 months. At the end of the agreed-upon lease, you will have the option to: 

  • Purchase the phone
  • Renew the lease with the current phone 
  • Return the phone and lease a new phone 

The main advantage of leasing a phone is that you can get access to the newest device model at an affordable price. Most carriers also offer options to rent other devices as well (think tablets, accessories, etc.). This is truly advantageous for people who like to have the most current model of any phone without having to pay increasingly cost-prohibitive upfront prices to purchase equipment outright. 

This option usually requires a small upfront payment that offsets the total cost and then you will pay the agreed-upon equipment lease as part of your monthly subscription. If you have distressed credit, this option allows you to get the newest model phone, but you might need to put down a higher upfront payment. 

One of the disadvantages of the leasing option is that you do not own the phone, which means you cannot sell to another customer, buy another phone, switch services to it, and end payments on the current product. You are still responsible for that lease term regardless of what you do with the actual device. 

It’s always recommended that you review buyout fees and other fees associated with leasing equipment prior to signing your agreement. 

Buy A Phone 

Purchasing your phone outright has a number of advantages. You own your device, you don’t have to pay any extra leasing fees, you can sell to a 3rd party if desired, and you can move to different providers who may have better service contract options available to you. 

You can purchase a phone directly from your carrier, at mobile device retail shops, or from another person without having to be locked into your provider for a monthly payment plan. Direct payment also reduces the cost of your monthly carrier service fees because you don’t need to include the leasing fees as explained above. 

However, purchasing a phone outright can be very expensive. As of the summer of 2022, the MSRP for a base-level iPhone 13+ is roughly $1000. That’s a pretty hefty investment for most people to pay out of pocket. 

Some retailers offer payment plans when you buy directly from them to help you manage the high ticket price, but that comes with complications, including needing to pay with a credit card or locking you into some payment plan with extra fees. Street Cred Capital has partnered with a number of carriers and retailers to provide fast, fair, and simple lending solutions for mobile devices.  With a single 3-minute credit application, Street Cred provides consumers access to multiple options including installment financing, revolving credit, leasing, buy now pay later, credit card installment and subscription offers.  

So why purchase a phone? As discussed above, when you remove any extra fees that may be included with leasing, you are paying for the product only – not paying interest to the lessor. You reduce the year-over-year costs and have more flexibility with carriers and service options. On top of the financial benefits to ownership, there is a certain comfort and feeling of security achieved when purchasing a phone outright if you have the means. Depending upon your plan and other factors, you also may be able to keep the phone model you love longer when you purchase your device rather than leasing one. For many, purchasing the device outright is a great option.

What Do You Do With Your Old Phone? 

Now that you have decided to buy or lease a new device, you need to consider what to do with your old phone. If you own your phone and have the ability to shop around carriers and devices, a great way to help you offset some upfront costs is to sell or trade in your old phone. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to both. 


If you are looking for an easy way to offset the cost of purchasing a new phone, a trade-in is a great way to unlock discounts with your carrier. All carriers want you as a customer and most are willing to provide some great deals to get you to sign a contract with them. They are eager to purchase your device regardless of the condition as long as it gets you to engage with them on a service contract. 

Not only that, if your current equipment is no longer available, you can easily switch to the newest version by trading in your old phone with your provider. Many providers can assist with data transfer to ensure that you keep all of the content and settings from your old device. 

In fact, trade-ins improve the odds that you are doing the right thing from an environmental standpoint. Getting another lease on life through a trade-in ensures that your device can live on and extend its usefulness. This reduces the environmental impact of your individual device drastically. Even if your trade-in is not considered viable as a used model available to be used by another individual, trade-ins are typically recycled responsibly rather than ending up in a landfill. Materials extracted from your device are then repurposed in other electronics.

Trade-ins, however, can incur extra processing fees, could include customer service time, and tend to require service plans that can lock you into your carrier for an extended period. 


If you don’t have carrier loyalty and want to get rid of your old phone, you can always sell your device to another individual. This will allow you to set the terms with which you feel comfortable and the price. This can be advantageous as you could get more selling your phone than the trade-in value. For instance, a phone could be traded-in for $100, but the actual used-market value of a good condition phone is $300. Selling your phone will get you more cash in hand. 

Unfortunately, selling your phone will require you to delete your information manually, unlock the phone, and take additional steps that could be tedious or technically challenging. You may decide this is all not worth the effort. Plus, when selling your phone, you may lose out on other offers or deals available from your service provider available as part of a trade-in package. 

In reality, the difference between trading vs. selling your phone is pretty significant. According to some reports, you can get up to 53% of the phone’s original value selling outright vs. only 41% of the value if you do a trade-in. However, these numbers don’t reflect any deals or offers that could come with a carrier trade-in. 

Overall, the decision to leverage your phone and make it work for you comes down to personal preference and needs. If you are looking for the most cash, purchasing a phone outright and eventually selling it will ensure that you get the most freedom and value from your used products. 

For someone who has a long-term commitment to a carrier, trading in your old phone and leasing a new device can afford you offers, deals, and discounts that could benefit you in the long run and get you access to the newest devices at a cheaper upfront cost. 

Regardless of whether you end up purchasing your phone or leasing, ask your retailer about financing options to ensure that you get the most out of your new device.

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