TracFone Wireless is the largest prepaid or no contract cell phone service provider in the US. Its focus is to provide reliable phone plans at the lowest costs. This is a tall order. Does their premise work? In this review, we go over in detail their pros and cons, and how TracFone compares with other cell phone companies.
TracFone is a prepaid cell phone company that offers consumers affordable cell phone services. Plans start at $20 for 90 days of service (or $7 a month). Additional plan options are listed here on this page.
Consumers need to purchase a TracFone Wireless cell phone and activate it to access their services. Users can transfer their existing phone numbers to TracFone.
The cost of TracFone cell phones starts at $10 for a basic cell phone and $80 for a smartphone. A good touchscreen phone that can be used for emails, web browsing and social updates costs around $40. Finding a suitable TracFone cell phone and choosing a plan (ie. getting an airtime card) is the first step to getting on board with the service. See steps to getting started with TracFone.
TracFone provides reliable phone connections by utilizing the cellular networks of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. They are what is known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, where they have contracts with cellular network owners to rent excess capacity as low prices.
As the largest prepaid phone service with most subscribers in the US, TracFone has definite clout and economies of scale. It is owned by América Móvil, a dominant mobile operator in Latin America and one of the 4 largest telecommunications companies in the world.
They have the capacity to form major alliances in the telecommunications field. For example, AT&T is moving into the Latin American wireless market in partnership with América Móvil.
Tracfone Cell Phone Plans
TracFone Wireless has 2 main types of plans: Pay As You Go and Monthly plans.
Tracfone Pay As You Go Plans
Pay as you go plans require customers to refill airtime cards either every 90 days or once a year. These cards can be purchased online or through retail outlets. Here are examples of how to Pay As You Go airtime credits work:
Basic Phone Plans:
- $9.99 (30 days): 30 minutes
- $19.99 (90 days): 60 minutes
- $29.99 (90 days): 120 minutes
- $39.99 (90 days): 200 minutes
- $79.99 (90 days): 450 minutes
- $99.99 (365 days): 400 minutes
- $159.99 (365 days): 1,000 minutes
- $199.99 (365 days): 1,500 minutes
- $15 (30 days): 200 minutes, 500 texts, 500MB
- $20 (30 days): 300 minutes, 1,000 texts, 1GB
- $25 (60 days): 500 minutes, 1,000 texts, 500MB
- $35 (60 days): 750 minutes, 1,000 texts, 1GB
- $45 (90 days): 750 minutes, 1,000 texts, 1.5GB
- $50 (90 days): 750 minutes, 1,500 texts, 2GB
- $125 (365 days): 1,500 minutes, 1,500 texts, 1.5GB
Tracfone Monthly Plans
Another alternative to Pay As You Go plans is Monthly plans. With Monthly plans, customers can set-up their accounts to automatically receive airtime credits each month. Monthly plans are:
- $9.99 for 50 anytime minutes per month (30 days)
- $19.99 for 100 anytime minutes per month (30 days)
- $29.99 for 150 anytime minutes per month (30 days)
Family Plan Pricing
- First phone: 50 minutes for $9.99 per month
- Each additional phone (up to four): 30 minutes for $5.99 per month
Users can supplement their regular monthly plan airtime by purchasing additional airtime packages. Users who regularly use 100 or more minutes of airtime a month usually receive a slight per minute cost advantage compared with purchasing 90 days service airtime cards. Another advantage is that there is no need to remember to purchase airtime cards and activate them periodically.
To choose between Pay As You Go plans or Monthly plans, do the math and consider the cost and convenience.
Compared To Other Companies
- Lowest cost – TracFone has the lowest cost of entry to use a cell phone. Their $7 a month plan includes credits for talk, text, and data. You can use a smartphone or a regular cell phone. Some companies claim you can get started at $5 or $10 a month, but that’s just to keep the line open without adding any service credits to dial/receive calls or texts.
- Most flexible – They have small bundles of airtime, so users can make incremental purchases accordingly. Some plans have a low cost per minute price, but they require you to purchase larger packages of 300 minutes that will expire in 60 days, more than you can use in before they expire.
- Rollover – Most companies are shifting away from offering rollover minutes, but TracFone has stayed true to its roots of continuing with its rollover minutes policy.
- Not suitable for heavy users – TracFone does not have an unlimited option. Heavy users are well advised to look at Virgin Mobile or Straight Talk, as these companies offer heavy use or unlimited plans that will turn out to be cheaper for the user.
Roaming & Long Distance
TracFone cell phone service does not have roaming charges or no long distance charges.
When buying a TracFone cell phone, you will see a message that says “one rate for local or long distance calls, and roaming at local rates.”
International calling is available at the same rate as local calls to hundreds of destinations. This includes Mexico, Canada, Russia, India, and China.
The wide range of destinations work for most, but for countries that are not included, we advise users to purchase an inexpensive phone card at local stores.