Introduced in the early 2000s, TracFone is one of America's first prepaid wireless services. TracFone is a division of America Movil, which is the third largest mobile network operator in the world. In addition to TracFone, America Movil also operates Net10 and Straight Talk in the US.
Pros: The 50-dollar Double Minutes for LIfe card lowers the price of minutes. The One Year Plus Double Minutes card provides further value. Since TracFone uses multiple cellular networks, service works in most areas.
Cons: Without the Double Minutes card, TracFone's per-minute rates rank high compared to competitors. The lack of a set text messaging rate can become confusing.
Lowest Price Per Anytime Minute: 8.8 cents to 33 cents
Tracfone has a number of pay-as-you-go and monthly plan options. The 30-minute card, which is available online only, costs $9.99; the 60-minute card costs $19.99; the 120-minute card costs $29.99; the 200-minute card costs $39.99; and the 450-minute card costs $79.99. There are also a number of one-year and double minutes pay-as-you-go plans, which can be added onto any pay-as-you-go account. The Double Minutes card, which doubles the minutes on all future purchases, costs $19.99. The 1 Year + Double Minutes card, which provides 800 minutes and doubles all future purchases, costs $119.99. The 400-minute one-year card costs $99.99; the 1000-minute one-year card costs $159.99; and the 1500-minute one-year card costs $199.99.
There are also three individual monthly plans. These minutes carry over month-to-month. The 50-minute plan costs $9.99; the 125-minute plan costs $19.99; and the 200-minute plan costs $29.99. There is also a family value plan, which provides 50 minutes for the first line. It costs $9.99 per month. Each additional line comes with 40 minutes and costs $5.99 per month. Value plan members can add bundles of 50 or 100 minutes to their plans.
Read more about TracFone plans
Customer Service: Customer service is available on the web or through a toll-free number.
Free Nights: No
Credit Check: None
Free Weekends: No
Daily Access Fee: No
Payment Options: Tracfone refill cards are available at retailers and convenience stores nationwide. Customers can also buy airtime on the Tracfone website.
Text and Picture Messaging: Text messaging rates vary depending on which phone or service a customer is using.
Data Plans: Tracfone does offer mobile web usage, but the rates are not disclosed.
Downloads: Ringtones available for $1.49 each, other features (such as games, wallpapers) vary by phone.
International Calling: Tracfone offers an international long distance plan that allows customers to call 60 destinations for the same rate as domestic calls. They also offer a service that provides callers with a local number in a number of countries, which allows for cheaper local calls.
Text Messaging Available: Yes
Roaming Charges: There are no roaming charges for customers using a GSM phone. Non GSM phone users are charged double per minute rates (double the units) for roaming calls.
Text Messaging Charge For Incoming: Depends on card denomination
Calling Features: Tracfone offers voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, and 3 way calling with its phone plans.
Unlimited Text Messaging Plan Available: No
Activation Fee: None
Nationwide Long Distance: Long distance calls are charged the same as regular calls.
Unlimited Plan Available: No
411 Calls: Yes, at no extra fee - charged as regular calls.
Earliest Minute Expiration: All of Tracone's one-year plans expire in one year. Monthly plans roll over every month, so customers can retain unused minutes. For the pay-as-you-go cards, the 30-minute card expires in 30 days and the 60, 120, 200, and 450-minute cards expire in 90 days.
911 Calls: Yes.
Phones: Tracfone offers a number of low-end handsets that users can buy cheaply. They offer a number of these on their website, and none is more than 50 dollars. There are also some higher end phones available at retail outlets, but even those are a few years old. That allows Tracfone to offer cheap handsets to its customers. The G at the end of some handset models denotes GSM network coverage (AT&T and T-Mobile), while a C denotes CDMA (Verizon and Sprint).
Standard Calling Features: Voicemail, caller ID, call waiting
Some Available Cell Models: LG501C (shown)
Cheapest Phone Model: $9.99