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The Noob guide to Tracfone/Net10/Straight Talk

The following is a guest post from Howard Forums user fonezfonz. I found this posted on HoFo, and thought it would be a great resource for Prepaid Reviews readers.

America Movil is a Latin America based multinational wireless conglomerate. They own and operate Tracfone Inc. which in turn runs and owns Tracfone itself, Net10, Straight Talk and Safelink. (All opinions expressed are solely that of the author).

Here are some tips for complete noobs to this world both general and specific.

General

Each service is uniquely different catering to different niches.

Tracfone, the original brand is known for its cheap phones, easy to find cards with many locations, long expiry minutes (90 days on average), somewhat costly minutes (can be reduced with codes and double minutes), international rates being included at no extra charge if you activate the service with them.

Tracfone is NOT for the heavy user.

Net10 is a simplified version of Tracfone. All minutes are 10 cents a minute all the time. All texts are 5 cents a text (except for the new Qwerty Samsung phones which allow 3 cents a text). Their phones are generally slightly to somewhat more expensive then Tracfone .

They also offer an unlimited option for their gsm/sim card phone users. Unlimited talk/text. But at $79.98 , is a pricy one in this time of lowering unlimited prepaid rates from other companies like Boost mobile and sister brand Straight Talk.

Net10 topups and phones are available almost as widely as TF ones are.

International calling is only 15 cents a minute to many countries. Similar to TF, it has to be activated also to be used.

Both enjoy and share a reputation for a very high degree of national coverage area because of the fact that America Movil leases airtime on over 30 networks both cdma (no sim card phones like Verizon/US Cellular) and gsm (sim card types like Att/Tmobile).

Both Net10/TF have the best overall coverage of any single prepaid carrier in the US , including Verizon prepaid. Net10 be better for a slightly heavier user then a typical Trac user.

STRAIGHT TALK: The newest branch of the family . Straight Talk is a brand released exclusively through its own website and Walmart. They are aimed mainly at the heavy/unlimited user market. They have two basic plans. One for heavy users: $30 for 1000 minutes/1000 messages/30 megs web. The other one is unlimited talk/messaging/web for $45. This is the lowest priced total unlimited plan on a national carrier via mvno or not.

With word that Verizon is the brand network it is running on and phones starting at only 29.99, it is easy to see why ST appears to be skyrocketing in nationwide popularity at the moment.

Straight Talk has NO international calling (unlike Net10/TF which do) or intl text options except to receive said calls or texts. As for using a intl long distance calling card or other alternative method to get around this limitation. It is up to the individual to try it out on their own.

Safelink will be mentioned in passing because :
1) It is not yet available everywhere.
2) Not everyone qualifies for it.

Safelink is a Tracfone/US Govt . joint venture to help those of certain income levels qualify for a phone and minutes free of charge. Each family must go apply through a process and is qualified for one phone and about an hours worth of free airtime a month. Additional airtime can be bought by the user by topping up with regular Tracfone topup cards. Safelink is a wireless version of the long existing Life Line, land line for the economically disadvantaged program via the US Govt and various telecoms.

It is not available to the general public , which is why it is being mentioned here only briefly. Safelink is eventually expected to expand to all 50 states. Right now , it is only in a handful.

Customer Service

Customer service is not one of the TF/N10/ST strongpoints. The best way to deal with them is avoid situations which can get you into them to begin with.

Their idea of tech support is generally to replace the phone (at least it is with Net10).

Their CS is outsourced. IN general, at best they are polite but ineffectual. Here is a link on how to deal with them and actually get something done.http://www.fone-review.com/tracfone_support.html

This tutorial is aimed at Tracfone but it can be applied equally to ST/Net10 users as well.

Special note: At present , Straight Talk is in the middle of a MASSIVE nationwide expansion. EXPECT the lines to be either 1)Constantly busy. 2)Get a message that says that no one is available at the time to help. This has been increasingly reported lately here on Hofo. The same phenomenon hit Page Plus users too when their unlimited plan was launched. Expect it to be madness for a little while.

Number porting

It is a lot simpler if you try not to port a number in. Tracfone companies seem to be more problematic/just generally slower then normal about this. If you insist on bringing your number, be prepared for possible delays and more then one phone call. It is up to you to check.

Avoiding a port just makes things simpler.

Phone unlocking

This forum has asked that no questions be asked about putting TF/N10 phones on other forums so I will sum it up with the basics.

Basically America Movil has made their phones very hard to unlock or flash to other networks to prevent people called phone traffickers from easily buying up tons of their cheap retail phones , unlocking/flashing them to another network or system and reselling them overseas. This cuts into America Movil profits severely. They have launched a very successful campaign at suing such people and usually winning. They also have evolved the security on their phones to be so difficult to crack that it is beyond the reach of most ordinary users and even the average phone unlocker/flasher probably.

TF/N10 phones have sim unlock apps on them. LEAVE THEM ALONE.
Even if you could unlock a TF/N10 gsm sim phone, it would only be a half way unlock. You would have to FLASH or reprogram the airtank built in. That would make them usable with other sims, but will render them useless on the TF/N10 network.

As for ST phones, they are still new and it has been known that the first generation models (All the Motorolas) can be used with minor modification on the Page Plus system which shares the same Verizon prepaid network under it that Straight Talk does. Whether they will modify/increase the security levels in future ST phones remains to be seen as Tracfones too were at one time easily unlockable when they first launched. Whether the newest ST models (Samsungs and LGs can be used on Page Plus or other networks is still unknown at this time. That is more of a question to be answered in the Page Plus technical forums then here).

Phones

All three brands use some of the same models, primarily cdma LGs. Net10/TF is more similar to each other then they are to ST though.

Generally, Trafone has the cheapest phones even if it is the same model as the other two and the most expensive time rates. Straight Talk has the most expensive overall phones and lowest priced time rates. Net10 is in the middle.

As of this writing, Tracfone is the only line without a qwerty model.There is supposed to be a touchscreen smartphone coming out for ST but has not been 100% confirmed as of this writing.

Other tips

Tracfone: If you buy a Tracfone always get the Double Minutes For Life DMFL version. Most current middle to higher priced models come with it built in for free. With it you automatically get DOUBLE the minutes your Tracfone topup card face value has. 200 minutes become 400. 120 become 240, etc.

Promo codes. An additional way to stretch your Tracfone dollar. By combining current promo codes with DMFL, you will really get a lot for your money. Promo codes are added during topups. Here is a good source of reliable current codes. It is free. http://preprepaid.com/currenttracfonebonus.php

For both TF/N10. Avoid putting in more card then one at a time. If a Tracfone or Net10 phone dies on you, it is extremely difficult to recover said minutes via Customer service. The burden of proof of the existence of said lost minutes is squarely laid on the shoulders of the customer/user, you. That means, receipts, scratched off old cards, records, records, records and a lot of explaining. Minimize potential headaches and losses. Keep airtime on these phones to a minimum. Top up only when you HAVE to.

Also, TF/N10 users, try to avoid transferring large quantities of minutes. There have been way too many tragic horror stories of users losing THOUSANDS of minutes of saved time. The previous rule of avoiding building up a huge bank of minutes relates to this to prevent such a loss. And by not transferring until you have used up all or at least most minutes on a phone before you move the number to another phone because of damage or upgrading

ST 1000 minute plan users, if you topup again before the 30 day period because you ran out of talk mintues, or message or web megs, remember you are STARTING OVER from scratch and will lose any unused talk/text/web you have left . There is no rollover on this plan. Your 30 day cycle will start again once you renew.

There have been reports of rollover like effects, especially with data and messages, but this is apparently a quirk in their system is should not be counted on to last.

For unlimited users , this is a moot point as the recent upgrade has made all features now unlimited, whereas before mms and data had 30 meg restriction.

For additonal support, especially with Tracfone/Net10 brands, try these resources out. Written and maintained by Tracfone Hofo Pbushx, this site has extensive hands on up to date information on Tracfones , Net10s and a little Straight Talk. Most useful are his detailed and through phone reviews.http://pbush14.wordpress.com/

Written by Tracfone Hofo Jimates, this site is a little older, but again covers a lot of valuable detailed information on Tracfones and Net10s. Not being updated regularly, it can be considered an archive of good solid but little known information about Tracfone/Net10s with tons of tips like how to get specific phones not in your market, ordering replacement sims, etc. It is a intermediate kind of Tracfone primer. Appropriately titled, Everything You ever wanted to know about Tracfone but couldn t find anyone to ask. http://thejmart.com/links.htm

Finally, this one helps too. He is also a Hofo. http://www.fone-review.com/tracfone-review.html

Right now Straight Talk resources are few and far inbetween except for what we post on this forum ourselves but with time , pretty sure one will pop up just for them.
If any one has extra advice they would like to add to enhance this guide. Please add on. Thanks.

13 Responses

  1. DollyRoberts Says

    I have a Straight Talk phone with the unlimited everything and I think it’s great. The network coverage is always good b/c of Verizon and the one time I had to call customer services I had my problem sorted out easily without any hassle.


    Posted on November 28th, 2009 at 5:53 am
  2. Jollybird Says

    I’ve actually been with TracFone for several years now but just recently got the Straigh Talk plan. For $45 a month I get the unlimited calls, unlimited text, and unlimited internet. You’re right about the coverage. I’ve never had a dropped call or out of range which is really important to me since I’m always on the road. My job takes me up to the hills of North Caolina all the time where reception is not always great (according to my co-workers), my only problem up there is that the other employees always need to use my phone!


    Posted on November 28th, 2009 at 11:33 am
  3. Jane Says

    I’m hearing a lot of good things about StraighTalk. Seriously considering it. I know the price is already hard to beat but does anyone know if they have any special promotion/package for the holidays?


    Posted on November 28th, 2009 at 2:46 pm
  4. StarsAndStripes Says

    The Safelink program is only available to low income households. I know it requires an application and applicants must qualify in order to receive the phone. I think this a great social program that Tracfone is offering, especially during these tough economic times. I know a few people who actually qualified for the free phone and free minutes and they are truly grateful for the program. Way to go Tracfone!


    Posted on November 29th, 2009 at 5:52 pm
  5. DAWN Says

    IM TRYING TO GET A ST PHONE.. LAST NIGHT I CALLED TO ORDER THE TOUCH PHONE. WELL SOMETHING HAPPENED AND THEY COULD NOT GET ANY OF MY CREDIT CARDS TO GO THROUGH. BUT WHEN I LOOKED ON LINE AT MY BANKING I TOLD THE REP. YES IT DID GO THROUGH.( HE KEPT SAYING NO NO I GIVE YOUR MONEY BACK) BOTTOME LINE IS, IT TOOK ME 4 HOURS TO GET MY MONEY BACK! THEY DON’T SPEAK VERY GOOD ENGLISH NOR DO THEY UNDERSTAND IT. I WOULD STILL LIKE TO TRY THE PHONE BUT THERE COSTOMER SERVICE REALLY STINKS!


    Posted on December 17th, 2009 at 11:28 am
  6. mike freeman Says

    Order the phones at Walmart.com or go to Walmart. A lot of people are too eager to get the R810c touchscreen, go to the ST website and get burned ordering it. Patience is a virtue. ST has lousy customer service , the reviews prove it.
    Buying from Walmart instead of them bypasses that part of the issue in case something goes wrong.


    Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 8:04 am
  7. Russell Says

    I have a tracfone that now does not work unless it is plugged into a wall. Is there a way for me to buy a new phone and move the stuff that I have on my current phone over to it?


    Posted on January 14th, 2010 at 9:20 am
  8. Hayley Says

    I have just got to say how great Straight Talk has been for me. I recently had At&t ( an iphone) which I loved! But I was paying over a hundred dollars a month! So I got the Samsung Finesse from Straight Talk which is pretty much the exact same thing as an Iphone. BUT FOR 45 dollars a month!!! AND its unlimited texting, minutes, and data! It’s just unreal! First off- there is no contract which is JUST AMAZING but the service is fantastic. It is on the Verizon network so you really get the best of two worlds. Joining Straight Talk was the best thing ever.


    Posted on February 24th, 2010 at 1:47 pm
  9. MariaEsther Says

    I had ST for a few months and I loved the service.The only thing I didn’t like were the phone models.The Samsung Finesse is too expensive.So,because I wanted a better phone I made the big mistake of switching over to Metro PCS which is the WORST cell phone carrier there is..I’m switching back to ST..I hope they come up with new phone models or lower the price on the Samsung Finesse.


    Posted on March 11th, 2010 at 8:19 pm
  10. robert Says

    my lg phone just malfunctioned and i cant get internet service anymore they offered to replace the phone but i have to send mine back first and it will take up to 15 days to receive the new one once they get mine the worst part they offered no refund for service i wont have for two weeks or more just flush that 20.00 down the toilet there is no e-mail to complain to anyone only a snail mail address to send correspondence to for a modern company this is a major defect follow up service is for the paying customer and should have some priority i wonder how they would feel if i disconnected there service for a couple of weeks then burnt there money in front of them with no remorse


    Posted on March 16th, 2010 at 5:56 pm
  11. Vickie Spitz Says

    I’ve had tracfone for a good while and have discovered some interesting facts: they utilize some of the better towers compared to other prepaid companies, international calling seems to be better than average with minutes costing no more than regular domestic calls, and also minutes can easily be doubled or quadrupled with little to no extra cost. Tracfone’s been so far so good.


    Posted on May 30th, 2010 at 6:58 pm
  12. corey Says

    I love Net10!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my favorite part about being a NET10 subscriber is the fact that I only pay 10 pennies per minute.

    Net10> everyone else.


    Posted on June 30th, 2010 at 10:13 pm
  13. Bret Erwin Says

    Coverage and signal strength don’t have any analogy to each other in parts of the area I live, a major metropolis. Batterys on any phone wouldn’t last more than a day or two w/ the constant search for a signal in these areas. Prepaid cell phones in general are a bad deal because of the lousy selection of phones available, but maybe Verizon or a few smaller companies like Cricket here in DC slightly improve coverage


    Posted on September 7th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

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