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Walmart turns your iPhone, iPad, or Galaxy S3 into grocery money

The mega retailer's new trade-in program offers instant cash (OK, it's really credit) that can be spent right away at Walmart Stores or online.

Walmart wants your old iPhone or iPad if it gets you to shop in its stores. Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Many big names like Amazon offer to turn your old gadgets into cash, but now the other big name in retail -- Walmart -- wants to take your unwanted iPhone, iPad, Galaxy S3, or other devices in exchange for gift cards that you can use right away at the company's ubiquitous stores and Web site.

This week Walmart announced its "Gadgets to Gift Cards" program in advance of the expected release of the next iPhone on September 10. It works like similar buyback programs, with the interesting added twist that users can go spend their old gadget money right away at a Walmart store or, even before they send their device in for verification (provided they pass a credit check first, meaning you don't want to try to scam this one, folks).

As of this writing, my old Motorola Droid Razr would fetch about $53, or as I like to think of it, 10.6 bags of Walmart beef jerky (apologies, my vegetarian friends).

Walmart is also offering a few particularly nice prices for working top-flight devices until August 25 to kick things off -- $225 for an iPhone 4S 64GB, $175 for a Samsung Galaxy S3 16GB, and $250 for an iPad.

The process works by going to the program Web site and getting a quote for your device and its condition. Select the "pay me now" option and you could have an e-gift card just a few minutes later. The program extends to MP3 players, video games, cameras, computers, and other select electronics.

You'll definitely want to send that device in within 10 days, though (a free shipping label is included in the deal), because what is basically going on here is that you're opening a credit account for shopping at Walmart -- a credit account that you pay off by sending in a device in the condition you promised.

So if you fib about your device or don't send it in, the consequences are likely to be the same as not paying a credit card bill. In my estimation, nothing is worth a ding on your credit report for owing Walmart $175 -- not even 35 bags of beef jerky.