TracFone Wireless Review

Tracfone Review image

TracFone Review Summary

TracFone is the largest no contract prepaid cell phone company in the US. They are well-known for providing the least expensive cell phone plans without contracts. They currently provide reliable low cost cellular phone services for both smartphones and regular phones, all without contracts. TracFone has the best pricing for light to moderate cell phone users.

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Pros

Compared to other top no contract prepaid phone service providers, TracFone has the following advantages:

  • The least expensive no contract plans for smartphones and regular cell phones, starting at $7/month ($20 for 90 days).
  • Reliable and fast phone and data connections using AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile networks.
  • The most cost-effective plans for light to moderate cell phone users using under 30 minutes to 400 minutes per month and/or less than 400 text messages per month. Example: $10/month plan includes 100 minutes, text, data; per unit price drops with higher volume.
  • Carryover minutes/usage credits for all plans as long as phone service stays active.
  • Inexpensive cell phones starting at approximately $10 for feature phones, $80 for smartphones. Senior and kid friendly options.
  • Cheap international calling, costing the same rate as a local call, to over 100 destinations worldwide.
  • Mexican local numbers service – get a free Mexican phone number for your phone. Friends and family in Mexico can call you at local rates.
  • Bring your own phone option – Enjoy the best phones with Tracfone’s low rates.

Cons

  • No international text messaging.
  • Can get expensive for very heavy phone users. Check out Straight Talk to compare. Tracfone also offers unlimited service through Total Wireless ($35 unlimited talk, text, 5 GB data).
  • Customer support can be uneven. See details.

TracFone Wireless Detailed Review

Background

Tracfone company logoTracFone Wireless is a pioneer in the prepaid no contract cellular phone industry. They were established back in 1996 with the name Topp Telecomm Inc, before no contract plans were anywhere near fashionable. Over the years, TracFone has grown to dominate the no contract phone market.

They are now the 5th largest mobile phone company in the US behind stalwarts like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. At the end of 2016, they have approximately 26 million customers under all their umbrella brands.

TracFone operates several brands of no contract phone companies. Besides the flagship TracFone brand, also run Net10 and StraightTalk. In addition, they have acquired Simple Mobile, Total Wireless, Page Plus Cellular, Walmart Family Mobile and GoSmart in recent years. Some of these well-known prepaid cell phone companies or brands are continuing to run as separate brands and entities with their own phone and plan selections.

The TracFone brand is mainly focused on serving consumers who are light to moderate cell phone users looking for the best value. Their plans are inexpensive and unbeatable in value. A good basic plan that covers talk, text messaging, email and web access cost $20 for 90 days (ie. less than $7 a month). In 2013, they added Android smartphone models to their lineup of phones offered.

To compare TracFone with other no contract phone companies, visit the No Contract Cell Phone Providers Reviews section.

 

Cellular Network

Cellular networkTracFone offers customers clear reception and fast data speeds through various high performing phone networks operated by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. They are known in industry parlance as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) – a cell phone company that rents excess capacity from cellular network operators.

Due to their access to multiple networks, TracFone’s coverage area is wide and will cover almost anywhere that cellular service is available. According to their website, “TracFone has the largest digital area coverage in the US,” and “a national footprint covering 99% of the U.S. population.” Strong and clear coverage is one of the main reasons many are happy with their TracFone service.

Area of Service

TracFones only work in the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii), Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They do not work across borders in Mexico, Canada or anywhere else internationally.

TracFone Phones

TracFone offers both prepaid no contract smartphones and regular prepaid cell phones (also known as feature phones). Their emphasis is on providing the best value rather than the latest premium models. Cell phone prices drop quickly when you are not chasing the latest models. Recent past season models can still be outstanding in terms of quality and features, giving more bang for the buck.

Smartphones

Samsung Galaxy Centura Android Phone

Samsung Galaxy Centura Android Phone. Check Availability in your local area >>

TracFone currently offers a nice selection of Android smartphones. They are mostly budget or mid-tier cell phones by LG, Samsung, ZTE and Huawei. Current models include the LG Optimus Dynamic™ II, Samsung Galaxy Centura, Huawei Glory and ZTE Valet. These recent Android smartphone models cost around $80 to $130.

TracFone’s focus is on consumers who are light to moderate cell phone users seeking the best value. TracFone smartphones tend to offer great value at a low price point. Starting in 2017, they have also started to offer high-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S series models at bargain prices. Add to that a low cost Pay As You Go plan, and the value is unbeatable.

An airtime card is needed to activate a TracFone smartphone. To keep things easy, consider including a card with the phone purchase, as you want to be able to activate and use your phone without waiting around for a card.

Non-Smartphones

Tracfone Slider Phone: Samsung T404G

Tracfone Slider Phone With Qwerty Keyboard: Samsung T404G Check Availability in your local area >>

Some customers specifically look for TracFone feature phones that are non-smartphones. These phones are inexpensive and easy to operate. Most importantly, to many, they have all the features that one needs for a cell phone!

Interested readers can find TracFone non-smartphones with one or more of these features: touchscreen, Qwerty keyboard, wifi connectivity, bluetooth, MP3 player, camera and more. A favorite is the LG840, touchscreen phone with wifi connectivity. Another is the Samsung T404g with a slider Qwerty keyboard. The Alcatel A382G Big Easy is recommended and liked by seniors because of its big buttons and clear large fonts display.

Pricing for these TracFones range from around $10 to $40. TracFone also run periodic web specials that offer free phones with the purchase of an airtime card.

With the advent and price decline of smartphones, Tracfone feature phones or non-smartphone have been getting harder and harder to find. You may still be able to find a few good choices by combing through Amazon.com listings.

TracFone Plans

TracFone’s no contract phone plans provide flexible options for users to keep their phone service active and useful to them. Plan costs start at $20 for 90 days ($7/month), for both smartphones and non-smartphones alike. Smartphone users with low data needs can get away with not buying a Data Card, as regular Pay As You Go phone cards include bonus add-on data units.

 

Pay As You Go (PAYG) Starting At $20 For 90 days ($7/Month)

TracFone offers users a number of Pay As You Go prepaid airtime service options. Each option consists of a minutes value denoting credits that can be used services such as voice calls, text messaging and web browsing. Here we explain an example of how it all works.

PAYG Airtime Credit Example

A user purchases a 60 minutes TracFone airtime card with 90 days of service for $20. This will yield the following.

90 Service Days – Once activated, it will keep the phone service active for 90 days.

Double Minutes For Life (DMFL)/ Triple Minutes For Life (TMFL) – Some older TracFone models sold include a DMFL or TMFL benefit that multiplies the airtime credits added.

Smartphone Airtime Credits – For smartphone (Android or iPhone) users, TracFone’s Smartphone-only plans start at $15 a month and offers the best value. It supersedes the plan values offered through its Triple Minutes For Life program. You can see a comparison of the old and new plans here.

Non-smartphone Airtime Credits – A basic non-smartphone comes with the Double Minutes For Life benefit. That translates to 120 minutes (2 x 60 minutes) credits. This 120 minutes credit can then be deducted for talk, text or data use. One minute is equivalent to 1 minutes of talk time. Text messages are deducted at 0.3 minutes per text sent/received. A user can use up the full 120 minutes for voice calls or for 400 text messages (120/0.3 = 400), OR any combination in between.

TracFone’s low rates in one of its key strengths. Interested readers can compare Tracfore with other top providers in this comparison chart.

PAYG Service Options

There are various Pay As You Go airtime cards offered by TracFone to keep cell phone service cost low and flexible. Airtime cards can be purchased on TracFone’s website and at retail locations. Airtime refills can also be directly bought and added through the TracFone phone. Here are examples of prepaid airtime cards and their cost:

  • 60 minutes (DMFL 120 min, TMFL 180 min) & 90 days of service at $19.99 ($7/month)
  • 200 minutes (DMFL 400 min, TMFL 600 min) & 90 days of service at $39.99 ($13/month)
  • 400 minutes (DMFL 800 min, TMFL 1200 min) & 365 days of service at $99.99 ($8/month)

Check Out TracFone’s Best Current Offers For Your Area (Enter Zip) on the Official Tracfone Website

Note that the Double/Triple Minutes For Life benefits will add to the basic minutes figure. In addition, there are Promo Codes you can use to extend this even further (more below).

Data Cards – For smartphone users who need additional data usage, Data Cards can be purchased. For example, a 1 MB card costs $10. Double/Triple Minutes For Life benefits do not apply here.

Data Card credits can be added to active TracFones. The credits will continue to be active until they are used up, as long as cell phone service remains active.


Monthly Plans

Individual Value Monthly Plan Starting At $10/30 days

Some users prefer the convenience of a monthly plan that will automatically add airtime to their TracFone each month. The cost starts at $9.99 for a 50 minutes reload every 30 days. This can be doubled (100 min) or tripled (150 min) depending on your phone’s DMFL/TMFL benefit. There are higher levels of plans as well. Users can also purchase 50 or 100 minutes bundles at preferred rates.

Family Value Plan – $5.99 Per Additional Family Line

A family value plan works similar to an individual family plan, with the advantage of lower prices for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and subsequent phone lines added to the plan. The first TracFone enrolled is charged $9.99 every 30 days for 50 minutes of airtime. The second phone (and all subsequent phones enrolled) receives 40 minutes of airtime every 30 days for $5.99. A family of 4 can be covered for $28 a month, quite a bargain!

Again, the airtime with double or triple on the DMFL/TMFL benefit associated with each phone. Like the individual plan, users can also purchase 50 or 100 minutes bundles at preferred rates.

Service Protection Plan

For users who hardly use their cell phones, the Service Protection Plan will keep service active in an ongoing manner. It provides an extension of 30 days of service at a cost of $5.99, only when there are no more airtime service days left on the account. Existing airtime minutes credit will continue to carryover until you have use for them.

This is a low cost convenient way to keep your line active during periods when you don’t want to add any PAYG airtime credits.

Double/Triple Minutes For Life Benefit

As mentioned, Double or Triple Minutes For Life provide additional airtime to users. These benefits are attached to almost all current TracFones sold on their website. TracFone airtime per minute pricing will make the best sense after factoring in this mulitiplier effect. The Triple Minutes for Life feature has been superseded by TracFone’s Smartphone-Only plans since Apr 2017. See comparison chart here.

Promo Codes

Besides the Double/Triple Minutes For Life benefits mentioned above, users can find promo codes that add bonus minutes credits to their airtime balance. However, these bonus minutes usually do not apply to smartphones.

No Long Distance Charges

There are no domestic long distance charges for out of state calls.

No Roaming Charges

TracFone wireless phones are not subjected to any roaming charges. This policy has been in effect for a number of years now. Yes, there are still some very old TracFone prepaid cell phones that are charged for roaming, but it does not affect current models.

Interested shoppers can verify this when you check out the cell phones on their site. At the top of Details page of the phone listing, there will be a message that says “Single Rate – Call nationally, internationally or roam at local call rates” or “Call nationally, internationally at local call rates.”

TracFone smartphones do not roam. Some people would prefer to see roaming active, though. Roaming could lead to a better connection when the current phone Carrier’s towers are jammed with signal requests or not accessible. That said, the current call connections appear to work fine nationally. Many users rate TracFone highly on the quality of phone connections. It’s one of their strengths.

International Calling At Local Rates

TracFone allows international calls to hundreds of countries worldwide to be made at the same rate as local calls. For example, calls to landlines and cellular phones in Mexico, Canada, Russia, India, China and South Korea are included. This is a definite plus for customers who call internationally. There is no need to worry about expensive international rate prices or purchasing plan upgrades.

For callers who want to reach international destinations that are not included, such as the Philippines or German cell phones, one suggestion is to purchase an inexpensive global calling card at a local (ethnic) store or online.

For customers with ties to Mexico, TracFone’s International Neighbors program will provide for up to 3 free local Mexican phone numbers. This can be handed to family and friends in Mexico to call your TracFone, just like they are calling someone in Mexico. For users, the airtime minutes are deducted at the same rate as receiving a local call.

No International Texting

While TracFone offers generous policies for international calling, their international text messaging process is lacking. They do not allow for international SMS texting at all. Receiving international texts is usually not a problem. For international texting, TracFone’s subsidiary Simple Mobile has an $40/month plan (unlimited talk/ text including international texting, 4 GB 4G LTE) to address that.

With smartphones, users may be able to bypass and send international texts by connecting to apps (such as Skype, WhatsApp) that allow for instant messaging and texting over a wifi or data connection.

Customer Satisfaction

TracFone rates high customer satisfaction based on customer support because they provide valuable and cost-effective wireless phone service that is reliable. According to Consumer Reports’ press statement in Nov 2013, TracFone rated better than the major standard providers like AT&T and Verizon in customer satisfaction.

Customer support, though, can be either hit or miss. You can find lots of positive and upbeat testimonials and user reviews about how great their products and services are, and positive experiences with support agents. You can also find lots of complaints from customers. On the balance, they have maintained a BBB grade of A.

According to JD Power and Associates survey results (released 2017) on no contract phone companies, TracFone customer service rated weaker than other major prepaid cell phone companies like Virgin Mobile or MetroPCS.

TracFone’s support agents and polite and help as much as they can, but they are not trained to resolve any problems that have not already been well defined. The odds are that everything will run fine, but if something goes wrong, it may take a while to resolve.

Warranty

No contract cell phones sold by TracFone Wireless receive a 1 year limited warranty under normal use by the purchaser against defects in materials and workmanship.

Free Shipping

Free Shipping for purchases on their official site is included for all purchases over $19.99. With a bit of luck, this could mean a complete package for a free cell phone plus an initial 3 months of airtime for $20, shipping included.

Disclosure: This site receives referral compensation for purchases by linking to other websites. Learn More

 

 
Limitation: We make every effort to share the most accurate information on this site but we cannot provide any warranties on this content. Plans and pricing change without notice. Please always do your own verification to make sure.

 

 

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