TracFone Review – Is it a Good Option?

Since everyone’s needs are so unique – selecting a cell phone plan for yourself or family should be a customized process. What fits one person may not fit another.

For example, I use an MVNO provider (Mobile Virtual Network Provider) who rents their coverage from the “Big 4” networks. Typically these providers (Ting, Tello, Twigby, Republic Wireless to name a few that we’ve reviewed here) offer cheaper and more customized plans to users.

The trade-off in using an MVNO is that coverage may – sometimes – be less than ideal. If you’re using Tello (which I use) – and calling your mother in another state, you may get kicked off while chatting OR the connecting time when dialing could be a little longer. But, these instances are rare and the “inconvenience” (to me at least) is well worth the money saved.

I rarely travel and often rely on the WiFi options wherever I am (work / home / etc). So my data is typically under 200MB per month and when I need to make a call (rare), I use our Ooma landline at home. Plus, many of my communications can be accommodated by a quick text (my plan comes with unlimited texts).

My wife, uses AT&T since her needs are a bit more robust. She wants the dependability of having the most stable network available wherever she may be, as well as plenty of data. But, she pays a premium for this.

Believe me, I’ve tried to get my wife to switch to a less-expensive option. No go. :)

TracFone: One of the early MVNO providers

Years ago, it was quite a luxury to have a cell phone. And for many, the costs were prohibitive.

I also remember some of the push-back for having a cell phone:

“Why have a phone with me all the time?”

“Why would I want to always be ‘available’?”

“Those things are annoying to carry around”

When TracFone came on the scene, it was a bit of a novelty. They offered a pre-paid option for customers so you only had to pay for what you used (or wanted to use). Many used the phone only in the case of emergencies.

I actually don’t personally know anyone who uses TracFone today – at least not in my age group. My mother had a TracFone, and was using it until I passed on my old iPhone on to her years ago.

She kept the phone in her glove compartment in the car and used it when she was traveling or in emergencies. It was great for her to have on-hand and it made me feel more at ease that she had it.

TracFone has a great appeal among the 55+ crowd and (according to our rep) is used equally among men and women.

I was curious to know about some people’s experience with the provider – so I reached out to a representative with TracFone and they got me in touch with a couple of their customers.

TracFone’s coverage map

How these customers use TracFone

Nicolson and Paulette agreed to answer a few of my pesky questions I had about the provider. Here’s what they had to say:

How did you decide to go with TracFone?

Paulette: I needed a cell phone but I could not afford the cell phone plans that were available. I saw the TracFone at Walmart and made my first purchase. I have never owned another cell phone besides TracFone. I think this was in the late 1990’s.

Nicolson: I decided to go with TracFone because it was more convenient with my life, it didn’t make sense for me to be paying for text, talk & data that I really wasn’t using. I decided it was best that I change to prepaid service and pay when I needed text, talk or data.

How do you use your TracFone?

Paulette: I am a casual user. I have my phone off most of the time. I use my landline at home. That is always the number I provide to everyone. My friends have my cell phone number and we do text each other. Whenever I leave my house I have my cell phone on with me. I rarely take a picture with my phone.

Nicolson: How I use my TracFone is mostly for texting or using data when I’m on the go. I use both pay-as-you-go & pre-pay.

What makes you stay with TracFone vs/ switching to another provider?

Paulette: The cost is the number one reason. For a person like me who rarely uses a cell phone this is perfect. Each time I need to upgrade I look for specials on HSN, QVC or Evine. These companies have the best deals. The phones that TracFone provides are very up-to-date with other cell phones on the market. I am very happy!

Nicolson: I save money and it’s covenient.

Would you recommend TracFone to others? Why?

Paulette: YES!!! I have recommended them to friends and family and they have purchased. They are very happy with TracFone also. Lots of people are on budgets and can not afford other cell phone plans. This is great for them. For people who like all the fancy gadgets these phones have that also. The best of both worlds.

Nicolson: Yes! I would recommend TracFone to others. The reason why is because they would save money not having to pay every month; only pay when you need text, talk or data.

[Thanks Paulette and Nicolson!]

With many folks owning a souped-up smartphone these days with heads buried and always “busy” – TracFone provides a refreshing option for those who want a customized option where they aren’t “tied” down by contracts.

TracFone offers pre-paid plans starting as low as $10/month, with Smartphone specific plans starting at $15/month. All their plans offer “Unlimited Carryover” as long as the line remains active (Service must be active and in use within any six month period.) 

TracFone Plan options

Would you (or do you) use a pay-per-use or pre-paid cell phone plan?

Do you currently use a provider that offers pay-per-play or pre-paid and what has your experience been. I’m particularly interested to know about your experience with TracFone too.

Learn more about TracFone

TTG may earn commission on any purchases made via the links above – at no cost to you. Thanks for helping to support the site through your purchases.

TracFone

Varies
TracFone
8.6

Ease of use

9.0 /10

Reliability

8.0 /10

Customer Service

9.5 /10

Performance

8.0 /10

Pros

  • No contracts
  • Unlimited carryover
  • Pay-as-you-go
  • Inexpensive plans

Cons

  • Not as premiere as Big 4 networks

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16 comments

  1. Nick says:

    STAY AWAY FROM TRACFONE. They would not let me cancel my auto-refill plan. I was charged twice for the plan I had tried to cancel (the message kept saying that they were updating my phone and as such wouldn’t let me make any changes to my account)l. I wasn’t even able to update my payment information so that the charges wouldn’t come out of my account. I tried to contact customer service many times but was unable to talk to a human. When I finally got through to customer service (this is after days of trying different avenues), I was told that they wouldn’t refund the money that had come out of my account. I spoke with the manager and she said it was company policy not to refund the money. Very disappointed with the lack of available customer service and lack of integrity.

    • Aaron says:

      Sorry you had a bad experience with TracFone. We do have a contact there who may be able to field your complaint. Will be in touch.

  2. K says:

    I rarely use my Tracfone and don’t text. Having been forced to switch to an Android cellphone through Tracfone has been a pain. I hate the thing. It doesn’t like the letter “Q” on the keyboard so I can’t put my Google password in quickly, the keyboard is so tiny, it steers me to games, etc. I don’t want or need. It truly is scary how much time it takes just to place a phone call only to have the call receiver say that the call is garbled or too soft in volume. Yes, it is fairly inexpensive and comes in handy (in the past) for emergencies (why I bought it) but it is such a headache to use. I have several thousand units built up (can’t access account to find out how many anymore – that ease of use has disappeared – so it is not out very often except to recharge. And adding the renewal units – every time the set up and verbiage is different.

  3. Karen says:

    Guys, you completely missed the boat on this review! I have an iPhone and used Bring Your Own Phone to add a TracFone chip. I have better coverage than anyone I know. People around me are waving their phones around trying to get a signal while I’m sitting there watching the Olympics. Low on data? Just buy more! No more sitting around for ten days waiting for your plan to reload! I get the power of an iPhone with the cheapest service around. Oh yeah, guess what, those folks over 55 you seem to be sneering at in your article invented the cell phone, the computer, video games, space travel, contact lenses and satellites. Show some respect!

  4. Paul Volltrauer says:

    I have used Tracfone since 1995. I tried another carrier for 2 months and went back to Tracfone when I realized the difference in cost. I rarely use the phone to make calls on the ISP. I used wifi when possible as I use wifi instead of data. My data is turned off except when I need it. I use Hangouts for texting. I cannot imagine using another Telephone company for my mobile service. I am a retiree from AT&T so my landline is the phone at home.
    I have suggested to many people the advantage to using Tracfone and some have chosen to change.

  5. Cathie Triplett says:

    I had been with Verizon and paid over $120 a month for two lines, granted, this was over 5 years ago. I switched back to tracfone and I now have a smartphone and pay about $15 a month for my one line and my husband pays like $30 every 2-3 months(he still uses a flip phone). I have over 3000 minutes saved up, so I only ever have to add data and text, bought a one year card for like $50 to extend my expiry date and my service is comparable to verizon, runs off verizon towers. I recommend this service to anyone that ever asks, it’s better than a plan and we love it! Today’s phones are a far cry from the Nokia phones of the early days and are so much more reliable! Not sure I’ll ever switch plans again.

  6. Sharon says:

    My husband and I have used TracFone for many years. We buy the one year card and seldom use all of our minutes…and they roll over so no loss. We use our phones when we travel. For everyday use we still have a land line. We don’t need all the bells and whistles of smartphones, nor the expense of contracts. TracFone fits our needs perfectly. (My husband prefers a flip phone rather than the touch screen design. )

  7. BabyJ says:

    I use a dual SIM phone–with Tracfone in one and Freedompop in the other– Freedompop gives me 700MB of free 4G LTE data per month and I use that up before defaulting to Tracfone for data, if I even use it up. I have Tracfone set to receive or make all phone calls as it’s generally more reliable for voice. I have so many minutes on Tracfone I really only have to extend the expiry date, which is cheaper than buying minutes. My current monthly usage fee is the absolute minimum and I use the phone exactly how I want with no limitations (though to be fair I am on wifi at home and work most days.) I use Hangouts and Whatsapp for a lot of free calls, which just use wifi minutes or free wifi at your location, instead of actual voice minutes. I feel Tracfone is still a great option these days in SIM form (their bring your own device deal) but I personally would not buy one of their more ancient phones/setups to use. My (elderly) Mom buys the old tech for too high a price on the home shopping networks when they have a Tracfone ‘deal’ going and feels happy about it and independent, despite me trying to get her to use it in smarter ways. But still glad she is in the loop, so to speak. :) However she must have a bazillion minutes/texts as it all rolls over each time she adds a year card to a “new” bundle phone and she probably makes 10 calls a year. My advice to anyone on a limited phone plan is simply don’t stream music or movies while on the phone network data and you’ll stay under 1 GB for just about anything else you want to do freely. I will say that Freedompop is worth a look for those who are not heavy users–either on its own or in conjunction with Tracfone.

  8. Abbie Thompson says:

    We bought tracfone for our kids. They have the iPhone 5s’ and we pay $135/yr, then top up texts and data as needed. We have been very impressed with tracfone and are considering changing to it from Sprint for us.

  9. Sara says:

    I’ve used tracfone for quite a few years now. I initially bought one because it was an inexpensive way to have a cell phone. I switched to Straight Talk for about 3 months, when a job I had required me to have “unlimited” service. One month, when I was short on funds, I bought the “all you can use” option with them. At the end of the month, I still had 400 minutes left, but at midnight, those 400 minutes disappeared. I went back to tracfone immediately! To my surprise, in areas where straight talk lost signal, I had a GREAT signal with tracfone. My only problem is finding something easy to use. I just bought a ZTE Flip phone through them when I lost my Alcatel one touch, and it really sucks. I’ve just ordered a different Alcatel phone and expect delivery tomorrow. Wish me luck!

  10. Martin says:

    I’ve used Tracfone between 12 and 15 years. If you’re someone who just don’t use phones a lot, it is far more affordable, and I’ve almost always gotten good connections, except in locations where everyone had trouble. There have been instances where I could get a connection, but people on other services could not. My current Tracfone is a smart phone, but I hardly use it for anything besides necessary calls and text messaging. Yeah, I’m over 55. ;) But I am not tech avoidant — I have used computers for over 30 years, and still do for hours a day. I just prefer email by a wide margin over phone calls. Tracfone’s customer service can leave something to be desired (although I’ve found it easier than Paypal), but the phone service has always served me well.

  11. Ray Mc says:

    Have had a TracFone for 15 years. Very reliable, no contracts, inexpensive and you can call just about anywhere in the world for the same cost as calling locally. My wife travels to Colombia once a year and I speak to her every night in Medellin, with very good voice quality. I also got a triple minutes plan when I bought a newer LG smartphone from HSN last year and my days usually run out before my minutes do!

  12. Julie says:

    I love TracFone! I’ve been using TracFone for almost 20 years and currently have three TracFone mobile phones (Samsung Galaxy), which are perfect for me. I got one for my mother to use while driving (great insurance for less than $8.50/month). The other two I use for business. Since beginning with TracFone I purchase 365 days of service for $99.99 (which comes out to less than $8.50 / month!) and the mobile phones I’ve purchased from TracFone over the years all qualified for either double or triple minutes for the life of the phone (1,200 minutes talk, 1,200 texts, 1,200 MB data). So with my casual usage I never run out of minutes, texts, or data. The minutes carry over every year if you renew BEFORE the service end date. And there are no contracts. Over the years I would say I’ve have very good experiences with customer service with only a few glitches. One of my new smart phones died within 30 days of purchase and they replaced it free of charge without me asking! Another great thing about TracFone is while I am in Check Out (online) they always offer me an additional 365 days for only $49.99 more – that’s half off for an extra year of service ($150 for two years). What a great deal. They also send me discount offers and coupons that are appreciated.

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