TracFone Cell Phone Plans: It was a privilege to carry a cell phone in the not-so-distant past. For many, the costs associated with doing so have been too much to concern them–after all, they already had their landline!–TracFone then showed up on the scene.
TracFone sculpted a new industry-within-a-industry: prepaid cell phone contracts, so you only had to pay for what you used. Today, TracFone is one of the largest cell phone carriers–just behind Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint–that makes them the largest prepaid network, of course.
TracFone is even big enough to own some of its own Mobile Virtual Network Operators— some of which you may have heard of:
Page Plus Cellular
That’s not even all of them, either. Nonetheless, TracFone focuses on consumers who are just light-to-moderate users of telephones; most often, these customers land in the age range of 55 +. Here, we’re notageist–it’s just a fact. Look at their website quickly and you will see lots of images of people in that age range, as well as offers that cater to that audience.
Since TracFone was formed in 1996 (under a different name), yet they are still around and important, so they have to do something right. But how good are they? We’ve dug in to find out and it’s your turn now.
TracFone offers primarily pay-as-you-go cell phone plans, with a handful of monthly plans for smartphone users. The prepaid carrier contracts with all four major wireless companies, so customers benefit from extensive networks without the premium price tag.
TracFone cell phone plans
Monthly plans include unlimited talk and text, plus a set amount of data. You can rollover any unused data, as long as you keep your service active on a monthly plan. These plans are only available with a smartphone.
PAY AS YOU GO
Tracfone airtime cards are good for anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the package. Any calls placed or received, as well as incoming and outgoing texts, will be deducted from your plan. You can save 10% on most airtime cards if you set your account to automatically refill. And with some plans, you can double or triple your minutes.
Use the table below to see how TracFone’s monthly plans stack up against other prepaid providers.
2GB or less
*Project Fi customers pay $20 for unlimited talk and text. Data is billed at a rate of $10 per gigabyte.
**Republic Wireless customers pay $15 for unlimited talk and text. Data is billed at a rate of $5 per gigabyte.
When you setup your account with TracFone, you’ll be given the option to sign up for the auto-refill. Essentially, if you go over your plan’s allotment of talk, text, or data before your next cycle, TracFone will refill everything for you. Doing so gives you a small monthly discount.
There are some trade-offs to this either way. For instance, if you’re on a budget, an auto-refill could be a precarious thing that sends you into the red. Moreover, you don’t always get to choose the plan that might fit your current needs the best; maybe you just wanted to buy a $10 500 minute add-on and didn’t want more texts.
Tracfone and Net10 are Owned by the Same Company
Here’s the funny thing. Net10 is a sister brand to Tracfone. Both are owned by America Movil, a massive company with over 200 million prepaid subscribers worldwide. They literally run off of the same network and share the same towers in the U.S., and can be CDMA or GSM, based on the phone model that you purchase. Both are MVNO’s (mobile virtual network operators), meaning they don’t own, but instead lease bandwidth from Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Other than pricing models and phone selection, the two companies are the same.
Tracfone is actually the largest prepaid cell phone service provider in the U.S., with roughly 22 million subscribers. Here’s a look at how they grade out in key wireless provider characteristics.
You essentially get the same network coverage as Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile – depending on what phone you have. I have never experienced any major coverage issues with any of the Tracfone’s I’ve used over the years.
Very simple. Charge the battery and go online to activate your airtime card, and you’re all set.
Net10 and Tracfone are not going to win any awards for their service. The good news is that I’ve only had to have one encounter with them (when my wife’s phone was stolen), as the phone service quality and setup have been flawless. The online help center is pretty well built out if you run into problems. Unlike the large mobile customers, Tracfone and Net10 don’t have local stores to get service in. I’m sure this is a contributing factor to why they are able to offer such inexpensive service.
Tracfone Phone Selection
Tracfone is at its best for those who want good, inexpensive service without all the fancy bells and whistles. However, they’ve been adding a lot more whistles, with many of the latest and greatest Android phones.
Tracfone Vs. Net10: It’s all About the Pricing
Herein lies the main difference between the two companies. Tracfone has a lot more flexible and cheaper airtime card options than Net10. The lowest minutes/month airtime card you can get is 150 minutes from Net10 (300 minutes for 60 days of service, costing $30). So the cheapest you can get your cell cost down to is $15/month.
With Tracfone’s 60 minutes, you get 90 days of service for just $19.99. That’s only $6.67 per month! Of course, you only get 60 minutes over those 90 days. But if you use your phone like I do, it might just be enough.
It’s also worth noting that most Tracfone phones have a text message rate of 0.3 minutes (some are 0.5). Net10 is 0.5 minutes on all phones.
To get the best deal for your money, try to find a phone that offers triple minutes for the life of the phone (you may have to buy an older phone, as Tracfone stopped offering this on new phones that they sell).
Don’t like the service? Phones are cheap, so you haven’t lost much.
You see your service date and minutes remaining right on your phone screen so you don’t have to worry about where you stand with either. Hard to get accidental overage charges.
No daily airtime fees. This is where you can save money over other prepaid carriers. A lot of the other prepaid cell plans charge you $0.99 or more for each day you actually use the phone in addition to the per minute charges.
Rollover! Unused minutes during your service dates are banked and rolled over.
Customer service and they don’t have the latest in phone technology (in my opinion, this is a good thing if you’re looking to cut costs).
Who is Tracfone Good For?
Anyone who uses their phone minimally for emergencies, short chats, wifi data, and for texting – and not heavy conversation.
Who is Tracfone Not Good For?
If you live and die by your unlimited data plan from another carrier, you’re probably not going to see Tracfone as a good fit, as their data and data plans are pricey.
TrackFone Q and A
Can You Bring Your Own Device?
TracFone allows customers to bring their own devices. You will first have to check to see if your phone is compatible. The next step is purchasing an activation kit and choosing the plan that you want. You will have the option to keep your current phone number or get a new one when you sign up for a TrackFone account. You do not have to use a smartphone to be able to use the company’s pay-as-you-go plans.
Does TracFone Sell Devices?
It’s not a problem if you don’t already have a compatible device or if you’re ready to upgrade to something new. TracFone sells a wide range of Android devices and iPhones. In addition, you can purchase a non-smartphone device from TracFone. Both new and refurbished devices are available. Customers receive free overnight shipping on most phone purchases. Certain phones available through TracFone come with double minutes and triple minutes. This is definitely a feature to look for when shopping through TracFone’s selection of devices.
Where Can TracFone Phones Be Used?
TracFone service will only work in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This includes Alaska and Hawaii. While service won’t work in Mexico, you can obtain a Mexican phone number through TracFone for the purpose of making calls at local rates. Cheap international calling is actually one of the biggest perks offered by TracFone. Customers can enjoy local calling rates to more than 100 destinations worldwide.
Can I text internationally?
TracFone doesn’t offer international text messaging. The biggest drawback of TracFone is that costs can add up very quickly if you’re not careful. Heavy phone users can become frustrated easily by the extra costs that are incurred.
Final Thoughts on Tracfone
If you can keep your cell phone minutes down to a bare minimum, or really only use your phone for texting, quick chats, and emergencies, then TracFone cell phone plans is a great option. It’s essentially taking what has typically been a high-priced subscription model product, and taking it to a frugal, bare-bones extreme. Right now, Tracfone is offering sales on many models.
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