We’ve all been there. Staring at prices, comparing contracts, pricing phones. Do we need the latest in iPhone, or should we go with the Pixel? Do we want to commit to Verizon for two years, or try out T-Mobile? Do we really need that much data or unlimited texting? Can we afford this?

TracFone offers an affordable alternative to the standard phone service. Rather than locking you into a contract, they let you pay as you go. Plans range from 30 days to a year with a varied amount of talking, texting, and data. If you run out? Just refill your minutes. Don’t use all of them? They rollover. And the best part? No contracts. You can come and go as you please, and the only penalty will be a loss of your rollover streak.

Just What is TracFone?

TracFone is a budget-friendly alternative to contracts from mainstream networks like Sprint and Verizon. If you aren’t a heavy browser or cellphone user in general, a TracFone plan may be the perfect alternative. With access to all the major cell networks, TracFone has pretty good coverage across the US— though, it works better in cities. Rural areas tend to get spottier with network access.

The Company Behind the Product

TracFone Wireless, Inc. is based out of Miami, FL. The company is currently America’s largest prepaid cell phone provider in the US. Established in 1996 under the moniker Topp Telecomm Inc, they created the niche of no-contract plans. They’ve since grown to be the fifth largest mobile phone company in the United States, with millions of users taking advantage of their cheap, flexible pricing.

TracFone Wireless maintains brands Net10 and StraightTalk in addition to the namesake TracFone. Others they have acquired include GoSmart, Page Plus Cellular, Simple Mobile, Total Wireless, and Walmart Family Mobile.

What can TracFone Do for You?detailed features of tracfone service

Unbeatable Coverage

TracFone is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. This means they rent excess capacity from cellular network operators like Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. Because they have access to most major cellular networks, TracFone’s coverage area is expansive. Their site boasts a “national footprint covering 99% of the US population.”

TracFone allows users access to 4G LTE networks without making you sign away your soul for so many years.

Unlimited Carryover

Tracfone plans operate under two major components: quantity and service days. Each plan offers a set number of units for talking, texting, and data that last a set amount of days. If you refill your plan before the service days run out, then any unused units will continually rollover. You will never cap out on how much can carry over, but you must keep your phone active to maintain your carryover. If you deactivate your account or allow your service days to run out, you lose everything you’ve saved up.

Flexible Plans

TracFone offers plans for smartphones and basic phones that range from $10 for 30 days to $200 for a year. Talking, Texting, Data, and Time Frame vary for each plan, so you can find what works best for you. Run out of minutes or data? You can add-on more no matter the time of the month. Don’t use everything? It won’t go to waste. As long as you keep your account in active service, your unused benefits will continue to roll over.

BYOP(N)

Do you happen to like your current phone? Is your number tied to a home business, or is it simply too much hassle to hand out a new number to all of your contacts? TracFone will let you use an existing phone and/or number. The only caveat for the number is you must be transferring it from an active service; you can’t go back to the number you had in high-school.

Auto Refill

If you find the plan that fits your budget and use case perfectly, you can save a little scratch by enrolling in auto-refill. This feature also ensures that you never miss refreshing your plan before the last service day, so you don’t have to worry about going inactive and losing your number. Only certain plans qualify for auto-refill, so you’ll have to be sure the plan you like has the option before you can benefit.

Breaking Down the Plans

TracFone plans come several flavors, giving you ample opportunity to find the one that works best for you. You can mix and match as the year goes by, getting larger plans for busier cell months and smaller plans for lighter months. You know your schedule and cell usage better than anyone— let’s find a plan to fit.

Smartphone Plans

Cost Auto-Refill Minutes Texts Data Service Days
$125 $118.75 1500 1500 1.5 GB 365
$50 N/A 750 1500 2.0 GB 90
$45 N/A 750 1000 1.5 GB 90
$35 $33.25 500 1000 1.0 GB 60
$25 $23.75 500 1000 500 MB 60
$20 N/A 300 1000 1.0 GB 30
$15 $14.25 200 500 500 MB 30

Using TracFone no longer means resigning yourself to a clunky beast for emergency use only (and otherwise hiding in the dash). TracFone has evolved with the times, now offering plans for smartphones including minutes for talk, a set number of texts, and a set amount of data.

Basic Phone Plans

Cost Auto-Refill Minutes

for Talk, Text, & Web

Service Days
$199.99 N/A 1500 365
$159.99 N/A 1000 365
$99.99 N/A 400 365
$79.99 $71.99 450 90
$39.99 $35.99 200 90
$29.99 $26.99 120 90
$19.99 $17.99 60 90
$9.99 $8.99 30 30

If the typical smartphone is a bit too fancy for you, then you’re in the right place with the basic plans. Basic phone plans are simpler and don’t have as many bells and whistles. Talk, text, and web share from a pool of minutes— One minute per minute of talking, one minute per minute of browsing, and 0.3 of a minute for each text received and each text sent.

Service Add-Ons

Cost Addition
$10 International Long Distance
$10 1.0 GB of Data
$5 1000 Texts

Would you like fries with that? Sometimes we need a little extra; TracFone is ready. They offer simple service add-ons such as a ten-dollar card to tread international long distance calls with local rates or an additional gig of data.

How to Get Started

If you decide to give TracFone a try, activation is pretty simple. In fact, you could say it’s as easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3.

 

  1. Browse for a Phone or Keep Your Current One

The first step is deciding what to do for a phone. You can browse online through TracFone’s current selection; they’ll even narrow down the options based on where you’ll use your phone the most. You can also buy a SIM card if your phone and network are compatible with TracFone.

Don’t forget to protect your phone! TracFone offers two protection plans based on your chosen phone’s compatibility. The Mobile Protect Plus grants Lost and Stolen coverage, wear and tear, out of warranty malfunction, and accidental damage (e.g. cracked screens or water damage) with a mobile support app for a monthly payment.

The 13- or 24-month coverage offers mechanical & electrical coverage, accidental damage, and the mobile support app for a one-time payment.

  1. Activate Your Service

Once you’ve settled on the phone, it’s time to activate your plan. You can do so through the website or by calling 1-800-867-7183. You must have an airtime plan ready to activate.

  1. Fill, Refill, or Autofill

To enjoy all the benefits of TracFone, and to ensure you don’t lose any carryover, you need to stay on top of your service. Running out of minutes or data won’t deactivate your account, but going past the last service day before refilling will.

The first time you purchase an Airtime Service Plan, you fill your phone with minutes for talking, a set amount of texts, and a set amount of data. After, be sure to refill your phone whenever you get low or reach the last few days of your service period.

TracFone also offers a service called AutoFill for quite a few of their plans. With AutoFill, you get a slight discount and your card will automatically charge your card on the last day of your current service period.

refill options for tracfone

Benefits v. Downsides

Tracfone wins a lot of customers through their no contract, pay as you go plans. They’ve grown in popularity as they’ve expanded their network coverage by renting from the Big 4 and offering unlimited carryover for talk, text, and web. TracFone’s phone supply has expanded to include more elite phones like the Samsung Galaxy and the iPhone, but they also let you bring your own phone (as long as its compatible) and keep your current number. You can also breathe easy knowing that overage charges, activation fees, and deactivation/cancelation fees don’t exist.

On the flipside, while the phone models are starting to include heavy hitters, these hitters are older models. You won’t have the glam of the latest tech to hit the market when you use a prepaid plan through TracFone unless you buy it from someone else. Coverage can be pretty spotty in rural areas, as well. If you’re a heavy data user, Tracfone may not be right for you. Price per gig is pretty poor, and unlimited data doesn’t exist. You always get to use Wi-Fi for free, so you may not need all that jazz. If you do, however, you’ll be singing the blues instead with TracFone.

Is TracFone Right for You?

In Today’s digital age, phone needs are as varied as clothing and music styles. One size certainly does not fit all. If you’re looking for a simple plan for the occasional use and don’t really need a lot of data, TracFone could be your Goldilocks moment— just right.