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Tracfone Pros and Cons: Everything About the Prepaid Wireless Company

By
Shayla Burke
February 13, 2024

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When you first think of Tracfone, an image might come to your head, one of an old flip-phone with a numbered keypad you have to press multiple times over and over again just to send a text message. 

But that’s not what Tracfone is, not anymore anyway.

Tracfone also known as Tracfone Wireless, Inc. is a wireless no-contract phone provider.

Tracfone has been around for over 25 years as a wireless company that’s all about versatility. You get to choose your phone, choose your plan, and choose your price which is a huge selling point to many people as there seems to be more and more limits on what you can and can’t do when you sign up with a wireless company, especially since you’ll find that you have to sign a contract- but not with Tracfone.

Tracfone is upfront about what you pay and how you pay it, there’s no hidden fees and you don’t have to worry about ditching your old phone when you switch over. In 2013, Tracfone started the “Bring Your Own Phone” program, where they started selling Tracfone SIM cards that can be inserted into non-Tracfone phones, having them then quality as a Tracfone.

They’ve made versatility one of their biggest selling points and throughout the years it has earned them a good reputation, with a lot of companies taking inspiration. 

But what do you need to know before you switch over to Tracfone? Well, we’ve got a list of Tracfone pros and cons that will help you decide if this prepaid wireless network is right for you. You will get information regarding:

  • How Tracfone works
  • Tracfone’s Pros and Cons
  • What Tracfone offers
Tracfone’s signature logo
Tracfone’s signature logo. Image courtesy of RetirementLiving.

How Tracfone Works

Tracfone is a prepaid- (aka “pay as you go” which means you buy credit before you use the phone) MVNO. 

What’s a MVNO?

MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. And what you might not know is that most wireless companies in the country are MVNOs. They are essentially carriers that don’t have their own network and instead piggyback off a major network like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. 

MVNO wireless companies will buy in bulk coverage from these major networks and then offer their own plans at lower rates to people like you. This leads to more accessible phone plans and allows your yearly phone bill to potentially decrease by hundreds of dollars. 

But it can come with a catch, since these companies are using the services of these big wireless companies, you might experience slow internet and/or data speeds when there’s network congestion and/or in high traffic areas. That’s because the major networks will be prioritizing direct consumers and subscribers instead of ones who are signed up for a MVNO wireless network.

Verizon’s signature logo
A new tale begins. Image courtesy of Pentagram.

In 2021 Tracfone Wireless, Inc. was acquired by Verizon in a deal worth 6.9 billion dollars. Tracfone and all of their subsequent brands, like Straight Talk and Net10, are now under the Verizon umbrella, meaning that because Tracfone is a MVNO you can expect to see coverage under one of America’s top wireless companies.

Now that we know about MVNOs and the recent Verizon migration, how does Tracfone differ from other wireless companies and how does it all work?

Tracfone offers prepaid cell service in the form of an airtime card. Airtime cards are almost life gift cards but instead of the value being used to buy clothes from your favorite store, you instead will buy call time or “minutes” that you can load onto your phone. Also on airtime cards is the ability to buy data for surfing the web and/or a certain number of text messages:

Plans at affordable prices. Images courtesy of Target.

These are just three examples of Tracfone cards, when there’s actually a whole lot more. You’ll find these airtime cards at major retailers and they come in a range of different options. 

But there is one thing to note and that is service days.

When you go to buy an airtime card you might notice a card saying 30, 60, 90, or 365 days. What that’s telling you is how many service days you have to use up your minutes, text messages, and/or data. Tracfone’s aren’t just dependent on how many minutes you have left, they also will depend on how many service days you have left. 

For example:

Person A goes to the store and buys a 60 minute card, good for calling and texting for 90 days. That means Person A has 90 days to use 60 minutes of their data. You don’t want one to run out without the other!

But don’t worry! You aren’t limited to just those 60 minutes and 90 days, you can add-on airtime cards and any leftover minutes will be added making it a brand new total. If you add another 30 minutes with another 30 service days, you will then have 90 minutes and 90 service days.

The good thing too is if you’re ever worried about forgetting to add minutes or don’t want your service days to hit an abrupt end, Tracfone has an Auto-Refill option where you can have your minutes, data, and service days refilled. And since there are so many versatile plans out there, you will be able to choose exactly the airtime you need in order to perfectly craft your wireless plan just to your tastes.

You know the ins and outs of what makes Tracfone different and more variable, let’s get started with a little step-by-step guide on how switching over/getting started with Tracfone works: 

First things first:

  • When you’re deciding if you should go over to Tracfone, the first step will be deciding on picking a new phone or keeping the one you have now. With Tracfone you don’t have to worry about potentially losing your current phone, as you will be given a SIM kit.
  • What’s a SIM card and kit? A SIM card is a small removable smart card that’s inside your phone that allows you to make phone calls, send texts, and connect to the internet when you don’t have WiFi. A SIM kit is a small package that has a new SIM card in it along with information on how to switch your SIM card out and any activation instructions you might need when transferring or adding a SIM card to a current or new device.

Second Up:

  • Once you have your SIM kit or when you get your new phone through Tracfone, you will now follow the instructions in the SIM kit in order to activate your card/phone. 

Three easy ways that take no time at all to activate your SIM/phone include:

  1. Downloading the Tracfone Wireless My Account app
  2. Calling their customer help-line at 1-800-867-7183
  3. Logging onto the official Tracfone website

And lastly:

  • Buy a plan that suits your needs! Whether that’s going to a local retailer and buying an airtime card for a set amount of minutes or choosing Tracfone’s “Auto-Refill” option on their website. Their array of plans will allow you to pick exactly what you need.
a person wearing a blue shirt and a blue blazer holding a phone
Weighing your options is a big part of wireless research.

Tracfone’s Pros and Cons

Every wireless network has its draws and drawbacks, including Tracfone. Let’s first start by talking about Tracfone’s pros:

The Pros

  • Affordable and flexible phone plans
  • No contracts means no credit checks
  • Minutes and data carry-over

Affordable and Flexible Phone Plans

We’ve talked a little bit about Tracfone’s airtime cards. Through these cards you can find one that works best for how you think you will use your phone’s data throughout the month(s) and year. 

Tracfone’s three most popular service plans according to their website are:

Tracfone’s three most popular service plans

1From the Tracfone website: “A service period is the period of time in which your service plan is active. When the service period ends, you will not have access to calls, texts or data.”

2From the Tracfone website: “Add 90 Days” is available with this plan.

Tracfone has over 20 service plans with varying minutes and service days which can be found here.

And if you know you will need your minutes and data re-filled frequently you can look into their “Auto-Refill” plans. There’s a few of them to choose from but here’s a featured one from their website you can use as an example:

Auto-Refill plans

1From the Tracfone website: “A service period is the period of time in which your service plan is active. When the service period ends, you will not have access to calls, texts or data.”

Explore Tracfone’s plans to refine your perfect phone coverage.

No Contract = No Credit Check Required

Because Tracfone doesn’t have contracts, you will find that there are a lot of benefits that come with that including no credit checks. Anyone can sign up, no matter if you have good credit or bad credit. Tracfone will never ask to check your credit and that can make switching over a breath of fresh air for some.

There’s a freedom in no contracts, and that includes deciding what you want to do at any time during the year with no frills or worries about being locked in or breaking your current contract. With Tracfone you can take breaks, upgrade your phone, and choose your monthly rates without running into potential roadblocks.

Minutes and Data Carry-Over

As we mentioned before, if you don’t end up using all of your current minutes, text, or GB’s of data you will be able to add that to the next month. That way when you add on another airtime card and start your next service cycle you will have your extra bonus minutes, texts, and data from the previous months available as long as your service plan is still active!

The Cons

  • No unlimited data plans are available 
  • Data deprioritization during peak times
  • Must track and be mindful of airtime

No Unlimited Data Plans

As of now Tracfone does not offer an unlimited data plan on any of their current service plans. You will find that most plans will come with 1 to 10GB of data and that’s it.

  • There is one Smartphone Only plan that’s $199, 365 days, unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 24GBs of data, but that’s the highest available data plan and it’s a Smartphone Plan.

So if you’re a frequent data user and have limited access to wifi, a Tracfone plan might not be the best option for you.

Data Deprioritization

Data Deprioritization is when you will experience temporary slow data speeds due to high network traffic and congestion. 

But why does it happen with Tracfone?

Because Tracfone is a MVNO, they are piggybacking off of a major network(s) service and when high traffic or congestion happens the major network will prioritize its own subscribers and customers before ones through an extended network like Tracfone or any other MVNO.

That means you may experience slower internet speeds when you’re out in the world if the network is experiencing that congestion which could be a potential drawback.

Must Track and be Mindful of Airtime

Since Tracfone is a prepaid wireless carrier and they function on airtime cards, you will have to keep track of your usage more closely then you would from a different network provider. Remember if you run out of service days you will need more to be able to make calls, send texts, and surf the internet on data. Or if you run out of minutes, texts, and/or data, you will need to add more that way. The “Auto-Refill” options are a solution to this problem but not all want or need those plans.

Black Samsung Smartphone Stock Photo
The latest Smartphones can be brought or bought.

What Tracfone Offers

Besides their airtime cards and service plans, Tracfone offers a number of products that might entice you to check out their services.

For products:

They have Apple Phones including but not limited to the: iPhone SE 2nd Generation, IPHONE 12 MINI 64GB, iPhone 11 64GB, iPhone SE 3rd Generation, and the (currently out of stock) iPhone 12 64GB.

For Andriod their selection is a bit bigger to name, but they do have brands like BLU, Samsung Galaxy, Motorola, Google Pixel, TCL, and more.

Want to go back to basics? Tracfone sells a few flip phones that’ll bring you back in time close to 20 years ago.

They also have a catalog of cases, cables, speakers, headphones, and batteries.

Special Offers and Protection Plans:

There’s also Protection Plans that can be a big help for those who are particularly clumsy with their devices.

If you have a Tracfone $40 Talk and Text Unlimited Plan you can qualify for Tracfone’s IDnotify® which can restore your identity, offers Lost Wallet services, and has Up to $1M Identity Theft Insurance

A step-by-step guide on how you can find out if you’re qualified for the Affordable Connectivity Program which is a federal program used to help households receive affordable data services.

Tracfone comes with a lot of perks too, including points you can use to pay for your next airtime card!

Overall Tracfone has got a lot going for it and for those who don’t always use their phone’s data or know they can fall into one of Tracfone’s many service plans, this long-standing wireless company might be for you!

If you want to compare and contrast Reach Mobile to over 1,200 other phone plans so you know you’re getting the service that’s right for you, then make sure to check out the REALLY compare page which allows you to look at pricing, coverage, what phone plans are available, current deals and steals, and how you can make the most of your phone bill.

compare phone plans and save up to 80%

compare phone plans and save up to 80%

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your questions,
answered

does this phone service work everywhere?

Yep, we offer premium wireless service on the the nation’s largest and fastest 5G network. If you are in our dewi coverage areas, you’ll also get access to our decentralized phone network powered by the people which will give you even faster speeds and better coverage.

is there a contract?

Nope, it’s pay as you go.

is this prepaid?

Yeah! You put your card on file and prepay each month so that you never experience any disruption.

does my phone need to be unlocked?

Yep, but it’s super easy to unlock your device as long as it’s paid off. Chat with us and a real human can help you here.

what if I want a new phone?

We have some recommendations on what we think you should get, from iPhones to Droids. Check out our list here which includes affordable places online to get a good deal.

what does decentralized wireless (dewi) mean?

It means we are building a phone network that is powered by the people. Your neighbors put small radios on their roof and help extend the phone network to cover deadzones™ and get even faster speeds. Right now our DeWi network is available in Austin, but we’ll be expanding to other cities REALLY soon. Learn more about DeWi here.

can I keep my phone number?

yup! you can port your current number in a snap. need help? hit up your VIP concierge.