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.Disclosure: This site receives referral compensation for purchases made. Learn More
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). Smartphone plans start at $15 for 30 days of service. New unlimited talk, text plan with up to 3 GB of data from $20 to $30 for 30 days of service.
- Reliable and fast phone and data connections using AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile networks.
- The most cost-effective plans for light, moderate to heavy cell talk and text phone users who use less than 3 GB of data a month. Example: $125 smartphone annual plan ($10.42/month) includes 125 minutes, texts, data MBs per month. Price per unit (eg. talk time or data MB) drops with higher volume purchased. $20/ month plan for unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of data (add $10/ month for +2 GB, 3 GB total).
- Carryover minutes/usage credits for all plans as long as phone service stays active and in use.
- Inexpensive cell phones. 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.
- No international text messaging.
- Can get expensive for very users who need more than 3 GB of data. Check out Straight Talk to compare. Tracfone also offers unlimited service through Total Wireless ($35 unlimited talk, text, 5 GB data) and Simple Mobile ($25 unlimited talk, text, 1 GB data/ $50 with truly unlimited data)
- Customer support can be uneven. See details.
TracFone Wireless Detailed Review
TracFone 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.Disclosure: This site receives referral compensation for purchases made. Learn More
TracFone 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 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.
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 Premier LTE, Samsung Galaxy Sky, Samsung Galaxy Luna and ZTE® STRATOS™ LTE. 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 Apple iPhones and 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. When you get started, you will be given the option to get a phone plan. This allows you to activate and use the phone when you receive it.
If you have a specific phone model in mind, you can also purchase the unlocked version directly through eBay and get a Tracfone SIM card to work with it. Their site features a huge selection of unlocked phones and a lot of deals to check through for comparison shopping.
Advertising Disclosure: This site will likely receive referral compensation for purchases made through the affiliate ads and links listed.
Some customers specifically look for TracFone feature phones that are non-smartphones. With the prices of entry level smartphones dropping to the $30 to $50 range, both the demand and supply of basic feature phones have shrank. Today, you hardly see any non-smartphones listed for sale on Tracfone’s website directly.
With 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 or eBay listings. There are people offering their old phones up for sale or vendors who still have stock of these from before. Be sure to read the listings carefully before purchasing.
Interested readers can find selective 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 feature phones range from around $10 to $40.
TracFone’s no contract phone plans provide flexible options for users to keep their phone service active and useful to them. A basic Pay As You Go plan starts at $20 for 90 days ($7/month). These basic plans work on both smartphones and non-smartphones.
TracFone’s smartphone-only plans start from $15 a month. Compared to Tracfone’s basic pay as you go plans, they offer better value for Android, iPhone and other smartphone users. Smartphone users receive talk, text and data allotments with their smartphones-only plans.
In mid-2019, TracFone introduced unlimited talk and text plans with 1 GB to 3 GB of data. The cost of these unlimited plans are $20/ 30 days for 1 GB of data, $25/ 30 days for 2 GB of data and $30/ 30 days for 3 GB of data. All unused data can be carried over to future periods as long as phone service remains active and in use. $20 – 30/ month is a great price point as most similar unlimited talk plans cost $40/ month or more.
Before these unlimited plans were introduced, customers who needed to talk or text a lot were either forced to supplement their normal phone use with a communications app like Whatsapp or Skype for additional talk time or text messaging; or else opt for other brands that offered unlimited talk or text plans that typically cost $40/month or up.
TracFone Smartphone-Only & Unlimited Talk/Text Plans (from $15/Month)
Annual Plan Card: Note that the $125 annual plan offers the lowest average monthly price of $10.42 a month. It also saves users the trouble of having to renew their plan repeatedly through the year. If you do not call or text a lot, and rely mostly on wifi for data, you can get away with having the $125 annual plan last you through the year. Typical phone plans cost $35+ or more a month or $420+ a year. Check deals on eBay >
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The Annual Plan is a good plan to have in the background, to keep your service active on an ongoing basis. It does not have offer a low cost per minute (except when you find a good deal like this), but it provides a very low cost per service month. This card is most cost-effective for people who foresee using around 125 minutes/ 125 text/ 125 MB on average each month.
No Tripling: All Smartphone Only airtime credit eg. the Minutes, Text and Data MBs will not triple. The Triple Minutes for Life (TMFL) benefit is only applicable to Pay As You Go plans below, and for limited smartphones (see more info).
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.
Data Card – 1 GB of data – $10. Data Card credits can be added to active TracFones.
Texting Card – 1000 Texts for $5.
International Long Distance calling – $10 Global long distance card. Calls to over 100 international destinations are the same as at local rates.
Carryover – All above extra credits purchased will continue to be active until they are used up, as long as cell phone service remains active and in use.
TracFone Smartphone Airtime Credit Example
A user purchases a 1,500 Min/ 1,500 Text/ 1.5 GB TracFone smartphone-only airtime card with 365 days of service for $125. This works out to average $10.42 a month. It will yield the following.
365 Service Days – Once activated, it will keep the phone service active for 365 days.
Carryover – 1,500 Min/ 1,500 Text/ 1.5 GB to be used anytime. Any airtime credits (eg. talk, text, data) left over at the end of the 365 period will carryover into the new service period as long as services is active and in use.
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 plan option consists of a minutes value denoting credits that can be used services such as voice calls, text messaging and web browsing. You can purchase these Pay As You Go plans to use with both smartphones and non-smartphones.
Here are the various options presented in this chart.
|Cost||Service Days||Cost Per Month||Min||Text||MB||Talk Time (Cents Per min)||Text (Cents Per Text)||Data (Center Per Data MB)|
Double Minutes For Life (DMFL)/ Triple Minutes For Life (TMFL) – Some TracFone models sold include a DMFL or TMFL benefit that multiplies the airtime credits added. This benefit DOES NOT APPLY to newer smartphone only plans, only the traditional Pay As You Go card when activated on Triple Minute Tracfone phones. Before you purchase, read the product listing. If the product listing says “Smartphone Only Card,” then the credit will not triple. If you are unsure, check with the merchant selling the card.
You are not getting a lesser deal. The airtime face value of these Smartphone Only cards are much higher, so the value is equally good or better without tripling.
Traditionally, Tracfone offers Double Minutes For Life (DMFL) with TracFone Basic Phones. For example, a $19.99 card with 60 minutes will yield 120 minutes after minutes are doubled (through the Double Minutes For Life benefit).
Here is an example of how PAYG airtime works for basic non-smartphones. Let’s say your phone comes with the Double Minutes For Life benefit. A 60-minute card doubles to 120 minutes (2 x 60 minutes) in airtime credit. 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.
Carryover Airtime Credit – All airtime credit will remain in your airtime balance as long as service remains active and in use.
TracFone’s low rates in one of its key strengths. Interested readers can compare Tracfore with other top providers in this comparison chart.
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. There are higher levels of plans as well. Users can also purchase 50 or 100 minutes bundles at preferred rates.
Unfortunately, Tracfone has phased out these plans for new customers. However, their newer Smartphone Only plans and existing Pay As You Go airtime cards offers sufficient flexibility to take the place of these.
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.
Unfortunately, the family value plan is no longer available for new customers.
1 Year Service Extension
For users who hardly use their cell phones, Tracfone’s 365 days Extra Service Days plan will keep service active in an ongoing manner. It provides an extension of 1 year of service at a cost of $49.99. Existing airtime minutes credit will continue to carryover until you have use for them.Prepaid MTS Surcharge
This is a low cost convenient way to keep your line active over periods when you don’t want to add any PAYG airtime credits for talk time, text or data.
This option is directly available through Tracfone’s website. You will need to select a plan first and then add this as an option during the checkout process.
Double Minutes For Life Benefit
Double Minutes For Life provide additional airtime to basic phone users. These benefits are attached to selected basic TracFones sold. 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.
Besides the Double Minutes For Life benefits mentioned above, basic phone users can find promo codes that add bonus minutes credits to their airtime balance. However, these bonus minutes mostly do not apply to smartphones.Disclosure: This site receives referral compensation for purchases made. Learn More
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 $25/month plan (unlimited talk/ text including international texting, 1 GB high speed data) to address that.
With smartphones, users may be able to bypass and send international texts by connecting to apps (such as Skype, WhatsApp, WeChat, Line) that allow for instant messaging and texting over a wifi or data connection.
TracFone rates about average on customer satisfaction. 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.
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 for purchases on Tracfone’s official site is sometimes included. This can be verified when you visit their website.Disclosure: This site receives referral compensation for purchases made. Learn More
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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.