Mobile phone networks often bundle pay as you go phones with a compulsory credit purchase. The networks know that people buy PAYG handsets with the intention of unlocking them and using them on another network; naturally, they want to ensure they make something from the transaction before that happens.

If you often switch phones and upgrade, you’ll probably have ended up with a drawer full of old SIM cards, some of which may have credit on them. We recently conducted a ‘SIM card audit’ in our Leeds technical authors’ office and found more than £30 of unused credit on various cards.

So how do you make the best use of that credit? Simple: reclaim it, spend it or donate it.

1. GetPoundsBack offers cash back for any pay as you go credit on your SIM card. The rates vary depending on the network. At the time of publication, GetPoundsBack offer 62.5% of the face value on the SIM, except for Virgin pay as you go credit, which is valued at 42%. All networks, including virtual networks, are eligible.

GetPoundsBack sends a PIN code to your phone to verify that you own it. You can then apply for up to four cashback amounts per month.You’ll get your payment 50 days from the end of the month in which you apply for cashback – a long time to wait for a few quid, but worth it for larger transactions.

2. SellYourCredit also offers a pay as you go credit buyback service and a contract credit buyback service. Both work in exactly the same way, allowing you to liquidate the unused cash on your account.

The SellYourCredit PAYG cashback rate is a flat 60% across all networks, and the company says it allows users of practically any network to apply for cashback (that’s all five UK networks, plus 27 smaller virtual networks that piggyback on those services). All cashback is paid via PayPal, but the company covers the fee. Be very careful when entering your PayPal email address – the company won’t alter it if you get it wrong.

You can cash in as much as you like in one go, but the company only pays out a maximum of £60 per telephone number per week. Like GetPoundsBack, SellYourCredit imposes a lengthy payout delay, so you’ll be waiting a while for your money.

3. Spend Your Credit Like Cash

Not excited by credit cashback sites? There is another way. Look for a business that accepts payment from a mobile instead. That way, you can put your unused pay as you go credit towards something you would have bought anyway.

Of course, you could spend your credit voting on Britain’s Got Talent, but that’s not the only way to use it up. Some businesses use services like ImpulsePay, JunglePay and OneBip to take payment for goods and services. The company says Cross Country Trains, Virgin Trains, SpareRoom and Paymentwall are all using its services already.

If you struggle to find a retailer to suit, you can also transfer money into gambling websites from a mobile as though you were going to bet with it, which is a similar process. Just be careful not to fritter it away if you actually intend to withdraw it again.

4. On Android? Use Carrier Billing

Got an Android phone? You can use your credit to purchase apps, games, movies and music from the Google Play store, providing the goods you want to buy are being sold in your own local currency. That allows you to spend your phone credit on digital content that you may have otherwise paid for via your bank account.

Note that your device needs to support the Google Play store app, as your payment will be routed through Google Wallet. Most smartphones and tablets do, but some cheaper ones don’t. Also, your network must support carrier billing.

5. Donate to Charity

Charities, fundraisers and community project leaders can sign up to JustTextGiving to receive donations from customers’ mobile phones. There’s a list of participating organisations on the JustGiving website. The charity receives 100% of your donation, and you don’t have to pay for the text.

Any More Ideas?

Short of selling your SIM card on an auction site, these are the five best solutions we found. Do you know any other ways to cash in your credit? Let us know.

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Claire Broadley is a freelance technical blogger for Red Robot Media. Hire Claire to write your business blog or technical user guides.