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TracFone Wireless Review
TracFone’s low-priced plans are a great option for anyone who doesn’t use their phone a lot, but if you’re looking for unlimited talk, text, and data, look elsewhere.
You might remember TracFone from the '90s. It was one of the original prepaid cell phone providers to pop up on the market. Well, the company is still going strong, and one of its unconventional plans may be just what you need if you don't need a lot of data.
But we should say this up front: TracFone won't be for everyone. The company doesn't offer the data, special features, and phones that many people want. And many of TracFone's plans are strangely priced. But where else are you going to get a 1,500-minute plan that lasts a whole year?
We'll go over everything you need to know in this TracFone review, from plans and pricing to performance and customer service.
- Pay-as-you-go plans
- Simple unlimited talk and text plans
- Great network coverage
- No unlimited data plans
- Weird pricing
- No family plans
What we like
TracFone marches to the beat of its own drum. While other cell phone companies are going all in on unlimited data plans, TracFone is keeping it retro. The company offers up a bunch (14 to be exact!) of cheap and simple plans with no data or very little data.
Here’s a detailed look at everything we love about these plans.
Cheap and unique pay as you go plans
Sure, all the youths are all on Tik Tok and a bunch of other data-hogging apps these days. But your grandparents probably aren't. And your 6-year-old probably shouldn't be. So, where are all the cell phone plans for the low data users out there?
TracFone has an answer for those who don't need any 4G LTE mobile data (or who just want enough to check Google Maps occasionally). Check out these pay-as-you-go plans.
Yes, that's a 30-minute plan, which is probably the most basic phone plan you can get from any carrier. In fact, it's a plan that even the least technology-savvy person in your family will probably find boring.
But TracFone's no-data, pay-as-you-go plans do get more interesting. For instance, there's that 1,500-minute (!) yearly plan that we featured in the introduction.
TracFone may not win the award for the hippest cell phone carrier. But it's definitely the most unique and interesting company. And for those who still want to use an old Nokia "brick" phone and have a pay-as-you-go plan, TracFone is the best option around.
Simple unlimited talk and text plans
Those pay as you go plans are interesting, for sure. But most folks will want a plan with a few more minutes, texts, and maybe even a smidgen of mobile data. Luckily, TracFone has a few of those plans too.
For $20 you can get unlimited talk, text, and a single GB of data. If you're worried about that solitary GB getting lonely, you can add one or two more for an extra $5-$10. But at that point you might actually get a better deal from another carrier, like Mint Mobile, which has an unlimited talk and text plan with 12 GB of data for $25 a month.
Great network coverage
TracFone is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means that it doesn't actually have its own cellular network. Instead, MVNOs lease bandwidth from existing networks to bring service to their customers.
Tracone actually uses the bandwidth of all three major networks: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Which specific network you end up on depends on what kind of device you're using. Either way, you should receive great coverage in most areas.
What we don't like
TracFone has some pretty nifty features that make it great for a certain kind of user. But we'd be lying if we said it's the right carrier for everyone. Here are some of the features that may be frustrating for TracFone customers.
No unlimited data plans
Most carriers--even budget providers--have an unlimited data option. That's because mobile users increasingly rely on data for everything they do on their devices, from scrolling social media to communicating almost exclusively via GIFs.
So TracFone's lack of an unlimited data option will simply be a dealbreaker for many people. The company's plan with the most data tops out at just 3 GB, which is about enough to stream three episodes of The Mandalorian.
As we mentioned above, TracFone has some great deals. But that doesn't mean that all of the company's phone plans are priced cheaply. In fact, some of TracFone's prices are downright weird. For example, look at how TracFone's cheapest unlimited talk and text plan compares to these plans from other discount MVNOs.
As you can see, you can pick up an unlimited talk and text plan from Twigby for less than half the price of TracFone. So, what's the deal? Honestly, we're not quite sure.
What we do know is that TracFone's best deals are the carrier's unconventional plans, like the 1,500-minute yearly plan.
No family plans
One of the best ways to save some cold hard cash on your monthly phone bill is to bundle multiple lines together. Whether you're bundling with your spouse, your kids, or a couple of your buddies, family plans can cut the cost of phone service almost in half.
For example, when you bundle four unlimited talk, text, and data lines together on Visible Wireless, the cost of each line goes down to just $25 a month. That's the same price as a single TracFone line with 2 GB of data.
So it's a big bummer that TracFone doesn't have any family plans to speak of. None. Nada. Zilch.
How do TracFone’s plans compare?
We just did a little comparison with TracFone's unlimited talk and text plan. So, instead of giving you another comparison chart we'll just direct you to some reviews of TracFone's competitors.
In this section we'd normally show you a coverage map. But TracFone uses three different networks and we don't want to waste your precious time by showing you three separate coverage maps.
Instead, we'll do a quick overview of these networks and how TracFone decides which one you'll be on.
The three networks that TracFone uses are AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. All three of these networks have amazing coverage, though Verizon is generally considered the best. Meanwhile, T-Mobile boasts the fastest data speeds.
Which network will you end up on if you join TracFone? It depends on what phone you plan to put that TracFone SIM card in.
If you've got an awesome new iPhone 12 (or other device) that you want to bring over to TracFone then you'll simply be put on the same network that your device used before. If, on the other hand, you're buying a new device from TracFone, the network you're put on will depend on which model you buy.
Speaking of buying a new device from TracFone ...
TracFone cell phones and devices
TracFone is not a premium cell phone carrier. They're a discount carrier. That's not a dis, it's just the truth. And it means that the company sells discount phones rather than the latest (and priciest) Samsung and Apple models. For example, TracFone is one of the few companies still selling the iPhone 7. To be honest, we kind of love it.
Here's a breakdown of some of the most popular devices that TracFone is offering right now.
We're actually really fond of that 2020 iPhone SE model at the top. It's a stripped down Apple device that packs a lot of raw power for a relatively cheap price (just $200!).
TracFone customer service
Listen, we're going to let you in on a little secret: *whispers* Telecommunications companies like TracFone are all pretty bad at customer service. Okay, maybe that wasn't a secret. Maybe you already knew that because you tried to call Comcast and they put you on hold for three and half hours.
But, the point is, don't expect your customer service experience with TracFone to be like staying at the Ritz-Carlton. That said, the company does tend to respond to issues if you bug them enough.
So how can you pester TracFone when you're having an issue? Try reaching out to them using the following methods. Good luck!
TracFone Wireless Forums
Recap: is TracFone right for you?
TracFone is definitely one of the most unique cell phone carriers out there. For some, the company will be a perfect fit. For others, a total bust. Let's do a quick recap to help you figure out if TracFone is right for you.
- Plans: TracFone offers up a variety of basic cell phone plans. There are pay as you go plans and unlimited talk and text plans with some data. There are even plans that you pay for by the year! TracFone's plans are great for those who don't use a ton of data and don't want to worry about being roped into an expensive and confusing contract.
- Prices: TracFone's prices are kind of all over the place. If you sign up for the company's pay as you go plans you can get service for as little as $10 a month. But, when you compare some of these prices to the competition, you may find that there are better deals to be had, especially on plans with unlimited talk and text.
- Performance: TracFone uses three different networks to keep its customers connected. Which network you end up on what device you use. Luckily, all three networks have great coverage.
Other ways to save money on your bills
TracFone's cheap plans can help you save a bit of your hard earned money. But why stop with your phone bill? You may be able to save on other bills too. Here are some recommendations for cheap internet and home security plans.
Recommended home security
Protecting your home and the people you love shouldn't be a luxury. It should be available to everyone. Check out these more affordable home security providers to see if there's a system that works for your budget.
Recommended internet plans
How are you going to binge the new season of The Real Housewives or Fargo without an awesome internet connection? If you need to add some speed to your Wi-Fi without breaking the bank, check out these internet service providers.
|Xfinity Internet||$19.99–$94.99*||50–1200 Mbps||1.2 TB||View Plans|
|Verizon Fios Home Internet||$39.99–$89.99†||200–940 Mbps||Not Available||View Plans|
|AT&T Fiber||$45–$80‡||300–940 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|CenturyLink Internet||$50–$65^||100–940 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|Viasat Internet||$30–$169.99°||12–100 Mbps||12–300 GB||View Plans|