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How to get more minutes for less money with Tracfone

Ever since Tracfone started selling their prepaid services at our local Wal Mart, which was ages ago, we’ve been quite fascinated with the service. It was our first exposure to prepaid, and although at the time we had no idea how it worked, we thought it a novel concept. At that point, your phone choices were either AT&T or Verizon — T-Mobile and Sprint had the worst reception possible in our area, causing many of our friends’ phones an ill fate.

A thought occurred to us then, and we’ve never really been able to answer it: Why refill cards? Why not just have a website and/or phone number where you can enter in your account information and get more minutes? To us, calling cards were made to be stored in your wallet and used at a pay phone. They weren’t used to add minutes to your account, only to be discarded afterwards.

Since we’ve been with Prepaid Reviews, though, we’ve started to see the light. Well, maybe not the way Tracfone intended us to see it, but we’ve come to a realization nonetheless.

Tracfone offers a variety of calling cards at different denominations. As you increase the denomination of a card, the lower the per-minute rate. So, for instance, purchasing a $10 card might get you 33 cents per minute, while buying a $20 card might bring that down to 20 cents per minute. The denomination also determines when the minutes will expire. A $10 card might be good for 15 days, but a $20 card might be good for a month. All in all, the refill card you buy should be in direct relation to how many minutes you use per month.

On top of that, they have a double minutes card, which for $40 does exactly what it advertises: double the minutes of any card you buy for the life of your Tracfone membership. Once you hit a certain threshold of minutes usage, purchasing a double minutes card should be a no-brainer.

Even further, they have yearly cards, which cut out the minute expiration factor. They’re good for one year, and can really optimize your minutes, depending on how frequently you use your phone. The good thing with Tracfone is that when you buy a new airtime card, it adds that card’s minute expiration to your existing amount. For example, if you have a 365-day card that has been used in 165 days, you still have 200 days of service left. If you buy a 200-minute card, which has 90 days of service, you will now have 290 days to use those 200 minutes.

That’s the entire point of what follows: using your minutes to the max. We’ll show you how to spend the least amount of money to get the most minutes out of your Tracfone.

50 minutes and under per month: Emergency users

One reason people use prepaid, and Tracfone specifically, is that they want a cell phone in case of emergency. While you want a low number of minutes on your phone, you also have to keep minute expiration in mind. What good is a $10 card if it expires in a week?

Thankfully, Tracfone has a value plan catered to this type of user. For $10 per month, you get 50 minutes. Perfect, huh?

Total Cost: $120 for the year, or $10 per month.

150 minutes per month

We’re going to scale up by 100-minute increments here. Using 150 minutes per month adds up to 1,800 per year, so you’re immediately better off buying the doubles minutes for life card. In fact, if you use more than 70 minutes per month, this should be the first thing you purchase when you get a Tracfone.

After the initial card, you should buy four 200-minute cards, which will extend your service to 365 days. Why not the 400-minute? Because with your double minutes, it makes no sense. Remember, your service is now good for a year, so you don’t have to worry about minute expiration. Then go nab yourself a 120-minute card, which will take you through the rest of the year and give you some wiggle room.

Total Cost: $240 for the year, or $20 per month.

250 minutes per month

So you immediately have your double minutes card in hand. Now it’s time to load up on the 200-minute cards. If you use 250 minutes per month, that’s 3,000 per year, so let’s start to do the math. That’s seven 200-minute cards, with 200 minutes remaining. As we discussed in the previous example, a 120-minute card (doubled, of course) will cover that and give you a little wiggle room.

Total Cost: $360 for the year, or $30 per month.

350 minutes per month

In the interest of brevity, we’ll just go over the basics from here on out. You’re using 4,200 per year. That’s ten 200-minute cards, plus your 120-minute one. See the pattern developing here?

Total Cost: $480 for the year, or $40 per month.

450 minutes per month

Total for the year: 5,400. That’s 13 200-minute cards, plus a 120.

Total Cost: $600 for the year, or $50 per month.

The basic idea is to figure out how many minutes you use per month, and then factor that into a yearly scheme. Then divide that total yearly number by 400, and you’ll get the number of 200-minute (doubled) cards you’ll need. Take the number behind the decimal point and multiply it by 400 — that’s the number of remaining minutes you need. You can then buy 120-minute or 60-minute cards to fill out the rest of the year. Or you can just buy another 200-minute card and give yourself even more wiggle room.

Buyer beware

Tracfone offers two cards that might seem attractive: their 800 minutes plus double-minutes and 365 days of service card, and their 400 minutes and 365 days of service card. However, these cards will end up costing you more in the long run.

Just to quickly demonstrate what we’re talking about, let’s look at the 400-minute card. It costs $100, and it can be doubled to be 800 minutes for $100. But when you look down and see the 200-minute card, you wonder how Tracfone gets away with it. For $40, you can get 200 minutes, or 400 if you double it. That means you pay $80 for 400 or 800 minutes. Uh, last time we checked, $80 was less than $100.

The same principle applies for the 800 minutes plus double minutes and 365 days of service card. If you buy the regular double minutes card, it’s $50. Then add on two 200-minute cards, which when doubled add up to 800 minutes. That’s $130, as opposed to the $140 you pay for the 800-minute card. The only disadvantage is that the service lasts for a year; if you’re using more than 70 minutes per month, but fewer than 130, that card could work for you. Otherwise, it’s a waste. Remember, four 200-minute cards gives you a year of service time.

So, Tracfone customers, have you been swindled by the company yet? Do you feed off their 400-minute and 800-minute cards, thinking they’re a value? Hopefully after reading this, you’ll start using those cost-friendly 200-minute cards and double-minute cards. After all, we’d hate to send a telecom more money than we have to.

12 Responses

  1. We Help You Decide: You’re headed to college | Prepaid Reviews Says

    [...] really aimed at the less frequent caller. However, we discovered this week that you can, in fact, get a good deal on a Tracfone. If you work the system right, that bill can stay in a reasonable range — at least as [...]


    Posted on August 24th, 2007 at 12:41 pm
  2. Buy a Tracfone, get double minutes for life | Prepaid Reviews Says

    [...] Sounds like a good day to go prepaid. If you want to go this route, check our our Tracfone guide. [...]


    Posted on October 24th, 2007 at 9:04 am
  3. whatamimissing Says

    Buyer beware??? What am I missing??

    on the tracfone site: SPECIAL $140 bucks you get a $30 phoneC261refurb + 1yr service + Dbl Min for LIFE card ($50) +800 minutes and you say it’s better to buy a $30 phone dbl min card ($50) and a 200 min card every 3 months which will dbl the min for a year ($40×4=$160) 30+50+160=$240….last I checked $140 was $100 less than $240 ???? whatamimissing?


    Posted on December 9th, 2007 at 11:39 pm
  4. Joe Says

    Clearly, whatamimissing, this special was not available on the Tracfone website when this article was written — which was back in August. The only thing you could get for $140 was a double minutes for life card plus 800 minutes (800 straight up, not doubled).

    Also, the $50 double minutes card is doubles minutes FOR LIFE.

    I also don’t see this special on the Tracfone website now.


    Posted on December 10th, 2007 at 4:07 pm
  5. John Says

    Com’on people…Tracfone=Net10. Exact same company, exact same service. Just sign up with Net10, pay 10 cents per minute ($15 per month minimum) and quit playing all the games with the Tracfone gimmicks. The Tracfone brand is just marketed towards the upscale areas of the country by a Brazilian Telco reselling bulk minutes from the major carriers. Its all Net10, anyway. Why pay more just for the “Brand Name”??


    Posted on February 15th, 2008 at 2:56 pm
  6. Jim Says

    Actually, Tracfone is better than Net10 assuming you have the double minute card added, which you can now get for free on certain phones. If you have the double minute card installed, by adding a 200 minute card each call will cost you 10 cents per minute. Plus, there are bonus codes you can use when adding minutes to your phone that will give you additional free minutes. Another way Tracfone is better is that your minutes last longer before expiration, useful if you talk infrequently. Which is the point of the year cards. If all you need for the year is 800 minutes (plus an additional 200 minutes if you use a code) it makes no sense to buy 4 200 minutes cards, which you would have to do to get a year of service, since it would cost you an extra $60. Because of Tracfone’s greater amount of airtime for your minutes and the bonus codes, its the better way to go.


    Posted on May 22nd, 2008 at 12:41 am
  7. asoncion racaza Says

    Do I get a free nights and weekend call plus with a good deal of text messaging with Tracphone?


    Posted on June 26th, 2008 at 9:48 pm
  8. Jeremy Says

    Try to get pne of the old phones like the Nokia 1100. They only charge .3 units to send a text and 0 to receive. Many NEW Tracfone models cost .5 send and .5 to receive. So 3 sends, and 3 potential receives, for less than ONE send and receive… $$$!!!


    Posted on August 6th, 2008 at 12:57 am
  9. jimmy Says

    good luck in trying to get trackfone to make good on any of there misstakes there answere will be according to there records! no case closed


    Posted on December 28th, 2008 at 1:24 pm
  10. Sarah Says

    this is so awesome


    Posted on June 5th, 2009 at 12:32 pm
  11. Kathy Says

    Anybody know a valid code for around 200 bonus minutes on a 400 minute tracfone airtime card. tried lots can’t get one to work. Thanks, kat


    Posted on July 1st, 2010 at 8:51 am
  12. Dave Says

    NET10 is not TracFone, John. We canceled our Net10 phones and got Tracfones because Net10 has no 365 day cards (despite repeated requests to honor Net10 cards on Tracfone phones and vice versa). We pay $8.25 or less a month (400 minutes doubled + 200 bonus = 1000 minutes) for $99/year at Walmart, or sometimes $75/year at Amazon. That’s half of Net10′s $15/month.

    Kathy, Tracfone sends out bonus code promotions regularly, but they have fairly short expiration. Google tracfone promo – and try 21480 for 300 bonus minutes (1100 total) on a 1 year card as of Aug 2011.


    Posted on August 5th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

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