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One of the most disappointing things during my time as a store manager for the country's largest video game retailer was constantly seeing customers receive depressingly small amounts of credit for the games they traded in. I understand that the company has a right to make money, but we as consumers don't have to automatically accept whatever price the clerk behind the counter quotes us. There are ways to increase the amount you get for your games.
Now, I'm not talking about anything illegal or unscrupulous. I'm merely saying that there are perfectly acceptable ways to manipulate the system to ensure you get the highest possible value for your trade ins. I used these methods to ensure that I always had enough credit to pick up those hot upcoming games, and in the interest of improving the lives of gamers everywhere, I'm passing on a few of my favorites.
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Trade Your Games in Quickly
This one may seem fairly obvious, but there are those who don't realize that the trade in value of a game drops quickly as the store accumulates more copies and the demand falls off a month or two after release. The first secret to maximizing the trade in value you receive for your games is to turn them around as quickly as possible after you have finished with them.
If you can beat a hot new game within a month of release, there's a good chance you can get somewhere close to thirty dollars if you trade it in immediately while demand is still high.
It can be difficult to get rid of a brand new game, even after you've beaten it, especially when you're losing around 50% of what you paid. If you're like me, though, you'll discover that you don't end up playing most games more than a few times after you've finished it.
Even if you're determined to go back and unlock every secret or play through a second time, chances are you're not going to end up doing so (some games are obvious exceptions, such as those with a strong multiplayer component, ala Call of Duty), and while you're sitting on a game you'll never end up playing again, the price is steadily dropping.
If you do decide you want to play again somewhere down the road, you will probably be able to pick up a used copy pretty cheaply.
Page two has more ways to increase your trade in profits, including utilizing trade-in promotions and store bonus cards.
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Most major video game retailers (Game Crazy, Gamestop, etc...) offer some type of MVP/Edge value card. You pay a small fee upfront and get a 10% bonus in trade in credit, as well as a 10% discount on any used product you buy. This bonus can really add up over the cost of a year, easily covering the initial cost.
At Gamestop, this card also combines with other promotions, including coupons. You can use the Edge Card in conjunction with a buy 2 get 1 free sale, for example, to sweeten the deal.
These cards are an absolute must have for gamers who do a lot of trading.
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Trade In Promotions
Gamestop and their competitors are almost always running a trade in promotion of some kind. They usually take the form of a trade in more games, get an increased percentage of credit, or a per-game trade in bonus.
These promotions essentially get you free credit, so it would be insane to not take advantage of them. Even if you've got some crappy game lying around that wouldn't be worth anything normally (old sports games, for example), they can bump you up to the next level of bonus, netting you much more credit in the process.
Sometimes it's even beneficial to find a cheap game to buy and then trade back in. If you're getting a five dollar bonus per game for adding an extra title, it's totally worth paying full price for a single five dollar game in order to get twenty dollars in bonus credit for trading in four.
Keep an eye out for these promotions, and never trade in a single game at a time, unless there is a game-specific promotion that you're taking advantage of. Signing up for the email newsletter is a great way to keep apprised of these deals.
Page three has more ways to up your trade in values, including manipulating trade in bonuses to your advantage and ways to pick up games cheaply and trade them in for a profit.
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Game Specific Pre-Order Promotions
Another popular promotion is bonus credit when you trade in games toward pre-ordering a specific upcoming title. This is a great deal for those who are actually planning on picking up the specific title, but it can also be used to the advantage of those who are not.
Once that credit is in the computer on your pre-order, it is yours to keep, regardless of what you do to it. You have every right to cancel your pre order and use it for something else in the store if you so choose. Employees generally tend to frown on this, though, so you are going to want to space your transactions out a bit.
Basically, you can walk in and say that you want to put your trade credit toward whatever game they are running a promotion toward, trade in your games, and the credit goes into the computer. You can then walk in the next day, cancel your pre-order and use the credit (bonus credit included) to buy anything else in the store you'd like.
Some savvy store managers are aware of this tactic, though, so use it at your own risk.
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Buy Low, Sell High
Keep an eye out for stores running ridiculously good sales on used games. Sometimes you'll find these deals in the store you're trading in at, and sometimes you'll find them elsewhere. The Hollywood Video "all used games $29.99 and under for $4.99" promotion is a good example of what I'm talking about. Blockbuster also frequently runs a similar deal.
If you can buy some games at one of these sales that trade in for a decent amount of credit, you can turn them into some fantastic profits.
Example: the last time Hollywood ran the $4.99 promotion, I was able to pick up three copies of GTA IV for a total of fifteen bucks. I then walked across the street to the local Gamestop and traded these three copies in for a total of $45 in store credit. I made $30 just by walking across the street, and my next year of Xbox Live was paid for, just like that (Some stores won't let you trade in multiple copies of the same game, so it may be wise to pick a few different titles).
Keep an eye out for these good deals on games that you know will net you decent credit, combine them with an Edge Card, a multi-trade in promotion, and a pre-order bonus, and you'll have more credit than you know what to do with.
Now that you've mastered the art of acquiring maximum trade credit, it's time to spend it on some great used games. Don't pay full price, though. Check out our Guide to Getting the Absolute Lowest Prices on Used Games.