TracFone Wireless Review: is It a Good Deal?

tracfone

Being one of the major cell phone enterprises in the US, TracFone has an impressively large number of subscribers. This provider offers no-contract prepaid plans, which differ in price and the services they include.

The company is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), meaning it operates on other carriers’ towers and networks, such as Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Offering plans with quite limited data volumes, TracFone specializes in prepaid plans for people who are “mild” users and don’t require too much mobile data.

What We Dislike:

  • No unlimited plans available (even calls are under the limit of a certain number of minutes).
  • The data packages are rather moderate and aren’t suitable for users who need to stay online everywhere, all the time.
  • No international texting feature available.
  • Roaming is disabled for all smartphone models.
  • The company doesn’t offer the latest smartphone models, which might disappoint some customers.
  • The customer service is oftentimes on a weaker side.

What We Like:

  • Good network coverage and data speed all across the country thanks to other providers’ towers.
  • Inexpensive prepaid plans in comparison with some competitors. You may find cheaper options elsewhere, but in general, Tracfone’s plans are very reasonably priced, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Great option for light and moderate mobile phone users who don’t need much in terms of cellular connection and don’t want to spend too much on it.
  • Since you don’t have to sign a contract with Tracfone, you can stop using their services any time you want.
  • Airtime carryovers are possible and available for both minutes and text messages (as long as your current service remains active).
  • Super affordable international calling.
  • Impressive voice call quality with minimal risks of dropped or disrupted calls.
  • You can use your own phone with a Tracfone plan (you’ll only need to check the compatibility on the provider’s website).
  • Cheap phones available (including kid-friendly options and simple models suitable for seniors);
  • The remaining service minutes and other details are displayed on your phone screen, which can help you avoid unexpected and unplanned charges.
  • An auto-refill feature is available, which offers discounts (from 5% to 10%) on some of the plans;
  • You can get a Mexican number for your phone for free so that your family or friends from Mexico would be able to call you at local cost.
  • Good roaming service for basic cell phones (non-smartphones).

Detailed Review

Tracfone Plans

The company’s services can be divided into two categories: for basic, regular phones and for smartphones. The main difference between those plans is in the data packages, which are only available for the smartphone plans.

To start using the Tracfone Wireless services, you need to purchase their airtime card. Each plan offers a different deal and can last from a month to a whole year.

There are 8 plans for basic phones. They include:

  • $9.99 for 30 minutes (30 service days).
  • $19.99 for 60 minutes (90 days).
  • $29.99 for 120 minutes (90 days).
  • $39.99 for 200 minutes (90 service days).
  • $79.99 for 450 minutes (90 days).
  • $99.99 for 400 minutes (365 days).
  • $159.99 for 1,000 minutes (1 year).
  • $199.99 for 1,500 minutes (1 year).

These package deals are the best for people who don’t require mobile data and have their phone strictly for basic usage. Numerous consumer reports state that these plans are very cost-efficient for light cell phone users, which results in rather high ratings.

Note: Don’t worry about purchasing and activating several airtime cards before the previous one expires, as they will be added to the existing service day and minute amount, without any losses on your part.

As for smartphone plans, there are 7 different packages, each of which includes the best and the most needed essentials for iOS or Android users:

  • The cheapest option is $15 for 200 minutes, 500 text messages, and 500MB of data, which last for 30 days.
  • There’s also a $20 service package for 300 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 1GB for 30 usage days.
  • A $25 plan includes 500 minutes, a thousand texts, and 500MB, which will last you for 60 days.
  • The next plan costs $35 and offers 750 minutes of voice calls, a thousand messages (text), and 1GB of cellular data for 60 days.
  • A $45 package includes 750 call minutes,  1,000 text messages, and 1.5GB that you will be able to use for a period of 90 days.
  • The next plan is $50, offering 750 minutes or talking, 1,000 texts, and 2GB for 90 service days.
  • The most expensive plan costs $125. It includes 1,500 minutes, 1,500 texts, and 1.5GB of data, which will last you for 365 days.

There are a lot of pros to buying such plans since they offer a solid amount of data and last for longer periods of time. You can also save some money if you set up an auto-refill system. It will not work with all of the plans but will allow you to receive up to 10% of discount with every new refill.

The plans also offer international calls, which are very cheap and cost the same as local calls. The service allows for more than 100 global destinations. We’ll get back to this later in the review.

Add-Ons

The Tracfone carrier also has add-on cards for customers who require a little bit more than just the essentials. The International Long Distance card costs $10 and allows customers to call any place in the world, even the destinations that are not included in the Basic International package that comes with regular plans. You can download the Tracfones’ Dialer App (which will work on Android devices) to make calls without the access numbers. This add-in card doesn’t feature a limited number of service days. However, it will expire in 180 days after its last usage or 30 days after your plan’s last day of work.

Another card you can purchase is for 1,000 additional texts. It costs only $5 and offers an unlimited number of service days. This is the top deal for people who prefer SMS texting over online messengers like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and so on.

Double Minutes For Life Feature

Several TracFone packages that are being sold on the company’s website include a DMFL add-on that allows the owner of such a plan to double the number of purchased airtime credits. Thanks to this feature, when purchasing a card with 60 minutes on it, you’ll be actually given 120 credits.

Note: Currently, the DMFL add-ons are unavailable for the latest smartphone plans.

To find out if the phone you’re about to purchase supports this benefit, search for the “Smartphone Only Card” line in the product description. If it’s there, the amount of purchased airtime won’t multiply. However, that doesn’t mean that such plans are worse – they both are designed to even out in value in the end. This is possible because Smartphone Only plans offer more airtime than simple packages without the DMFL benefit.

How Does the DMFL System Work?

Let’s assume that the phone you’ve bought includes a DMFL benefit. In this case, if you purchase a 120-minute card, this amount will be doubled, leaving you with 240 minutes for a 90-day period. Depending on your needs and preference, these minutes can be spent on calls or texts with the following ratio being applied:

  • 1 airtime minute = 1 minute of talking.
  • 1 airtime minute = 0.3 of a text message.
Note: Both sent and received messages are deducted from your total amount.
TracFone Special Family Offer

Similarly to most mobile phone service providers, TracFone has its own family-aimed package called a “Value plan.” This offer differs from an individual family package because of the lower prices that all relatives enjoy except for the first one. Thus, while the first user enrolled in this plan pays $10 per month for 50 airtime minutes, each subsequent member (2nd, 3rd, etc.) gets 40 airtime credits for only $6 per thirty days.

Note: This add-on is available only for existing TracPhone clients and their family members.
Service Protection Package

As TracFone is primarily aimed at adults that don’t use their cell phone a lot, it’s not a surprise that a lot of their customers may leave their devices lying on the nightstand for days or even weeks.

To ensure that such people don’t accidentally get their cards deactivated, TracFone offers them an automatic service-extension add-on for the price of $6 each time it’s being used. This plan prolongs the phone’s usage for a month and is only activated when you don’t have any pre-paid days of service left.

Note:  Any minutes you have left on your card will be also preserved with the help of this feature.

Getting Started

Available Cellphones

The company offers quite a wide selection of cell phones (Tracphones, as some people call them), including basic ones and smartphone models (on both Android and iOS). Tracfone is known for their reasonably priced mobile phones since they deal mainly with simpler models and don’t chase after the latest and the most advanced gadgets. The company is more concentrated on the best value than on keeping up with the trends.

Basic Phones

The selection of simpler models is quite impressive (even though it gets smaller with time due to the constant technology improvement). You can choose among different options with various features such as a touchscreen, WiFi, MP3 player, Bluetooth, camera, and so on. The brands include Samsung, LG, Alcatel, and many more. There are even flip phones for people who appreciate simplicity and efficiency. Prices vary and start from $14.

Smartphones

tracfone-iphone-8

Tracfone has a nice selection of smartphones, including Android and iOS ones. However, the number of more advanced models may not be enough for some users to choose from. Numerous reviews claim that this provider lacks versatility in their line of more luxurious models and chooses to stick more to the basics.

The good news is, the carrier seems to be adding more new smartphones to their selection than they used to, which promises there will be more options to pick from soon.

The brands include Samsung, ZTE, LG, Apple, and so on. There are different options for different regions of the country. You will be asked to enter your zip code on the provider’s website in order to see the offers available in your area.

Prices vary and depend on each model, starting at around $70. Oftentimes, the carrier offers promo deals that allow you to get a phone for free with the purchase of your plan. And if you are interested in a more advanced model (like an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy), you can get it by making monthly payments.

Phone Activation

To activate your brand new phone you need to buy an Airtime card as well. The carrier will offer you the available plans that we have mentioned above. So, you will be able to use your phone right after you receive it.

Now, the activation process is extremely simple. All you have to do is go to the provider’s website, click the “Activation” button, which you can find on the main page, and follow the instructions.

Bring Your Own Phone

If you already have a phone that you enjoy using and don’t want to get rid of, you can still pair it up with a TracFone Wireless card. However, you first need to check your device’s compatibility (it must be either GSM or CDMA compatible). You can do that on the carrier’s website, and the process will take just a couple of minutes.

Another scenario is when you are thinking of getting a specific model that Tracfone doesn’t offer. In this case, you can find its unlocked version on Amazon and then simply buy a Tracfone SIM to work with it.

Bring Your Own Phone FAQ

How can I find out if my phone model is compatible with the BYOP program?

You can do so by visiting the “Bring your own phone” tab on TracFone’s website and clicking on the “Get Started” window. Next, follow the instructions presented on the screen. Once you’ve inputted your IMEI\MEID and ZIP code, you’ll get your answer.

Where do I find out if I need to acquire a BYOP SIM?

The answer to this question can be found on the “Bring your own phone” tab. However, these are the basic guidelines that can help you:

  • If you have an untied GSM cell phone or if it’s compatible with AT&T, you’ll need to get TracFone’s BYOP AT&T SIM card.
  • If you have an untied GSM cell phone or if it’s compatible with T-Mobile, you’ll have to get TracFone’s BYOP T-Mobile SIM card.
  • If you have an untied GSM cell phone or if it’s compatible with Verizon, you’ll have to get TracFone’s BYOP Verizon SIM card.
  • If you have an untied CDMA cell phone or if it’s compatible with LTE, you’ll have to get TracFone’s CDMA BYOP SIM card.

How can I activate the BYOP service for my phone?

Once again, visit the “Bring your own phone” page on TracFone’s website, click the “Activate your phone” option, and follow the presented instructions. During this process, make sure you pick a SIM card if you require one, and preemptively register your cell phone if it employs CDMA technology.

Note: Remember that you have to be in possession of a TracFone Airtime Card (or any standard credit/debit bank card) to perform the activation.

About the Company

TracFone is considered to be the oldest company to offer prepaid cell phone services in the country. Founded in 1996, the brand has been growing with each passing year, conquering the no-contract market segment. Currently, TracFone represents the fifth biggest cell phone enterprise in the United States, falling behind only such giants as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

As of the beginning of 2017, the company has boasted to have nearly twenty-six million active clients to its name. If you’re surprised by that number, then you might be unaware of the fact that the TracFone enterprise also owns a large number of subsidiaries including Net10, Straight Talk, Simple Mobile, Total Wireless, and GoSmart. Some of the listed entities continue to function as separate brands with their own client bases and service packages.

Unlike its other subsidiaries, TracFone has an established reputation of catering to people who aren’t picky about their phones and data consumption but rather value simple phone functionality and low prices.

Read Also: Total Wireless Review

TracFone Retailers

Even though people mostly purchase TracFone services online, the company’s phones and airtime cards can also be bought in over 100,000 locations across the country. Thus, you can find them in gadget-oriented shops, small convenience stores, and nationwide chains such as Walmart and Target.

Furthermore, TracFone Wireless has dozens of its own stores located in the States. The advantages of purchasing the company’s services in a physical space include:

  • Assistants can help you choose the phone and plan that will satisfy your needs the best.
  • Store employees can answer all of your questions regarding how TracFone service works so that you clearly know what you’re paying for.
  • You can purchase any necessary accessories for your phone.
  • TracFone stores offer exclusive deals that aren’t available online.

Network Coverage

Because Tracfone is an MVNO, it uses other operators’ cellular networks, which results in a clear and reliable reception and fast data speed in different areas across the country. Furthermore, thanks to the fact that the company’s clients have access to networks established by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, instead of being limited to a single option, the chances of disrupted calls occurring are far smaller.

According to Tracfone’s official site, they have the biggest digital territory coverage in the country, being able to supply their services to nearly 99% of American citizens. The extensive service area is actually one of the main reasons why numerous consumers choose this provider over its competitors. Unlike several smaller companies, TracFone operates in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and even in the Virgin Isles, allowing Americans from all corners of the country to connect with each other.

International Calls

As we mentioned at the beginning of this review, Tracfone is extremely liberal with its international call policy, as in most cases the offered prices are identical to the cost of local calls. Thus, this carrier allows you to reach hundreds of countries around the world without spending an extra dime. For instance, you can call you friend or relative in Canada, China, or Mexico and only have your airtime minutes deducted as they normally would.

This feature is a great bonus for any user that has a lot of family members or friends living abroad and wants to chat with them on a regular basis. Additionally, this benefit makes Tracfone very useful for businesspeople who conduct operations on an international level.

As the company’s management understands that a huge part of US population is closely tied to Mexico, it allows its clients to set up a free Mexican phone number in their plan. With its help, up to three selected individuals can reach you with their phones while paying their local price regardless of their provider!

International Texting

Even though TracFone’s international calling service is exceptionally customer-friendly, the same can’t be said about international texting. As of right now, such a feature isn’t included at all, and the company’s clients can’t send text or picture messages abroad regardless of their plan. On the plus side, receiving international messages is fully supported and completely free.

If sending texts to other countries is vital for you, then consider purchasing a card from one of TracFone’s subsidiaries, Simple Mobile, as it offers a rather inexpensive plan ($25 per month) that enables the international texting function (along with unlimited voice call minutes and a gigabyte of Internet data.)

Another method of bypassing the inability to send texts abroad is to use any of the dozens popular apps available both on Android and iOS (including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.) All you need in this case is either WiFi connection or 3G/4G coverage with some data available on your plan, and you’re good to go!

Roaming Policy

The vast majority of TracFone phones are free from roaming charges, and this fact is reflected in the company’s policy. The only phones that do get charged for roaming are old, outdated models that have been purchased years ago.

If you want to find out whether a particular cell phone is subjected to roaming fees, just go to its product page on TracFone’s website, click on the “Details” tab, and search for the “roam at local call rates” phrase. If it’s there, that phone will be fined for roaming calls.

It should also be noted that TracFone smartphones do not support the roaming function at all regardless of the specific model. This fact may come as a disappointment for some people as roaming can oftentimes be a useful alternative for the main provider’s network when it’s jammed. However, such issues don’t happen very often thanks to TracFone’s broad coverage and amount of used towers.

Customer Service Review

When it comes to customer satisfaction, TracFone is one of those providers that can make a different impression depending on the situation and circumstances. Numerous consumer reviews describe both good and bad experiences with the provider and its methods of resolving issues.

We conducted a couple of tests ourselves to see how the phone agents work and whether those negative reviews are wrong. The provider doesn’t have any physical stores dedicated to solving consumer problems. Therefore, we addressed the phone service.

The agents were always polite and professional, trying to do their best to help. However, the response time was quite long is some cases, which was frustrating. To get something done with the issue, it sometimes took a couple of hours of waiting.

A lot of customer reviews claim that the phone agents (despite being friendly and willing to help) didn’t actually know how to resolve some of their problems.  This means, the company doesn’t really train the phone agents to deal with the issues, therefore the whole process can become quite a hassle.

It is safe to say that the quality of customer service really is different in each separate case. Overall, Tracfone lacks reliability in this area and concedes to some of the competitors.

Who Is Tracfone Perfect For?

Anyone who primarily uses a cell phone for quick calls, lots of texts, and mostly employs WiFi technology to browse around the Web instead of 3G/4G. Thus, Tracfone is mostly suited for adults who have proven to be light Internet users.

Who Should Avoid Tracfone?

If you’re used to unlimited data packages offered by other providers, the amount presented by Tracfone will probably be insufficient for your needs. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time on Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram but don’t usually have a WiFi hotspot at your disposal.

Our Verdict

TracFone is one of the biggest and most reliable cell phone service providers in the United States. Being an MVNO, the company has the largest 3G/4G coverage in the country as it employs the physical networks of other major carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

Even though TracFone doesn’t sell the latest smartphone models, it manages to uphold a client base of twenty-six million with its wide range of offered services, high voice call quality, and reasonable prices. The company also has dozens of phones for sale on its website (covering all price ranges!), offers international calling at local rates, and supports saved up minutes carry-over.

The biggest drawback of TracFone is that it doesn’t have any unlimited data plans, which are generally expected from a service provider in 2018. However, if you’re not an active Internet user or are accustomed to browsing the Web mostly via WiFi, this fact shouldn’t be a problem, and TracFone may just be the affordable provider you’ve been looking for!

FAQ

Is there any way to earn additional minutes?
Yes, TracFone occasionally distributes promo codes to its loyal customers.

How do I receive promotional codes?
Such codes are included in the emails and texts send out by TracFone on a regular basis. However, make sure that you are subscribed to the brand’s mailing list to receive them.

Note: You can only use a single promo code per transaction, and some of them are relevant for only a limited period of time.
How can I find out how many minutes I still have available?
Typically, the number of service days left and unused minutes should be displayed every time you turn on your TracFone device. If that’s not the case, pick the “No-contract” menu on your phone, choose the “Airtime Display” option and make sure that it’s turned on.

Can I transfer my airtime minutes to a friend or family member?
No, the purchased minutes can only be used with your phone.

Does Tracfone perform credit checks?
No, the company doesn’t hold credit scores since it has trust in its clients.

Can I use my existing phone number with Tracfone?
Yes, as long as it’s active.

Do TracFone’s phones come with a warranty?
Yes, all cell phones purchased through the company’s official website are covered by a one-year limited warranty protecting the user from any defects in materials or craftsmanship.

Does TracFone have any long distance charges?
No, all out of state calls within the US can be made without any additional fees.

Does TracFone offer free shipping of its products?
As a part of its policy, the company ordinarily organizes free shipping on all orders exceeding $19.99. To find out if such a deal is being offered right now, visit the TracFone’s main website.