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Cell phone plans don’t have to be expensive or complex. In our Tracfone review, we cover plans, smartphones, and costs of this low-cost cellphone option.

Tracfone Review

TracFone is an appealing option for many people looking to escape from the contracts of major mobile carriers.

TracFone stands out among all of the prepaid and budget carriers out there because it actually has coverage contracts with the four major wireless carriers in the country. What does this mean? It essentially means that TracFone customers get the coverage and reliability of major carriers without the high monthly rates or ironclad contracts.

Related: How to Find the Most Affordable Cell Phone Plans

There’s a lot of variety when it comes to TracFone’s plans and coverage tiers. The lowest plan possible costs $9.99. Prices are then offered in tiers that can go as high as $199. Here’s a look at what you’ll have to choose from:

  • Smartphone–only plans
  • Pay-as-you–go plans
  • Service add–ons

TracFone Smartphone Plans

Most plans offer customers the option to save between 5 percent and 10 percent when they sign up for TracFone Auto-Refill. Be sure to factor this in when doing a price comparison. Your discount can be set up during the checkout process once you’ve selected your plan.

Smartphone–Only Plans

TracFone currently offers seven coverage tiers to choose from when selecting a plan. Smartphone-only plans provide minutes, texts and data. These plans offer service periods of 365 days, 90 days, 60 days or 30 days. Here’s a look at the current plans available for smartphones through TracFone:

Plan Cost
# of Service Days
# of Minutes
# of Texts
Data Limit
$125.00*
365
1,500
1,500
1.5GB
$50.00
90
750
1,500
2.0GB
$45.00
60
750
1,000
1.5GB
$35.00*
60
750
1,000
1.0GB
$25.00*
60
500
1,000
500MB
$20.00
30
300
1,000
1.0GB
$15.00*
30
200
500
500MB

  • Plans marked with a * are eligible for a 5% discount when you auto enroll.

TracFone Pay As You Go Plans

TracFone currently offers eight pay-as-you-go plans. Pay-as-you-go plans include talk, text and web. These plans offer service periods of 30 days, 90 days or 365 days. This plan type works with both smartphones and non-smartphone models. Here’s a look at the pay-as-you-go plans available through TracFone:

Plan Cost
# of Service Days
# of Minutes
# of Texts
Data Limit
$199.99
365
4,500
4,500
4.5GB
$159.99
365
3,000
3,000
3.0GB
$99.99
365
1,200
1,200
1.2GB
$79.99*
90
1,350
1,350
1.35GB
$39.99*
90
600
600
600MB
$29.99*
90
360
360
360MB
$19.99*
90
180
180
180MB
$9.99*
30
90
90
90MB

  • Plans marked with a * are eligible for a 10% discount when you auto enroll.

I don’t own a smartphone, and I use my TracFone exclusively for when I’m on road trips, away from my family.  That only happens a couple of times a year, for a couple of days a year,so I try to keep my cell phone spending to a minimum.

Every three months, I auto enroll in the $19.99 plan for 180 minutes and 90 service days.  By auto enrolling, I get a 10% discount off the cost, so my annual cell phone cost is $71.96.  As I only use this phones a few days every quarter, I never run out of minutes and by renewing, I keep the same cell number.  For ~$6 a month, I think the service is more than worth it.

TracFone Service Add-ons

It’s okay if TrackFone’s plans don’t quite offer everything you’re looking for. The company provides add-on options that allow you to bulk up your plan and create a custom situation. All add-ons that are purchased will roll over and remain active for as long as service remains active. Here’s a look at the pricing for the extras you can add on to the plan you choose:

  • $10 for international calling
  • $10 for 1GB data
  • $5 for 1,000 texts

The more expensive plans with longer service periods tend to break down to be much cheaper per month than less expensive plans with shorter service periods. For instance, an annual plan that costs $125 works out to be just over $10 per month. The other big perk of going with an annual plan is that you won’t have to worry about renewing your service.

There’s no need to wait until the evening to make calls with a TracFone plan. All minutes, text and data can be used at any time. Anything that’s left over at the end of the period you’ve signed up for will carry over into the new service period if you choose to renew your plan.

What happens if you end up needing more talk time or data than what’s provided in the plan you’ve purchased? You always have the option to purchase additional cards and add more airtime to your plan. This can be a cost-effective, non-permanent option to cover the months that you have more activity.

TrackFone Q and A

Can You Bring Your Own Device?

  • TracFone allows customers to bring their own devices. You will first have to check to see if your phone is compatible. The next step is purchasing an activation kit and choosing the plan that you want. You will have the option to keep your current phone number or get a new one when you sign up for a TrackFone account. You do not have to use a smartphone to be able to use the company’s pay-as-you-go plans.

Does TracFone Sell Devices?

  • It’s not a problem if you don’t already have a compatible device or if you’re ready to upgrade to something new. TracFone sells a wide range of Android devices and iPhones. In addition, you can purchase a non-smartphone device from TracFone. Both new and refurbished devices are available. Customers receive free overnight shipping on most phone purchases. Certain phones available through TracFone come with double minutes and triple minutes. This is definitely a feature to look for when shopping through TracFone’s selection of devices.

Where Can TracFone Phones Be Used?

  • TracFone service will only work in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This includes Alaska and Hawaii. While service won’t work in Mexico, you can obtain a Mexican phone number through TracFone for the purpose of making calls at local rates. Cheap international calling is actually one of the biggest perks offered by TracFone. Customers can enjoy local calling rates to more than 100 destinations worldwide.

Can I text internationally?

TracFone doesn’t offer international text messaging. The biggest drawback of TracFone is that costs can add up very quickly if you’re not careful. Heavy phone users can become frustrated easily by the extra costs that are incurred.

Is TracFone a Good Cell Provider?

TracFone is a discount carrier that has been around since 1996. It stands out among similar options because of the strong network that it provides. TracFone actually uses the same towers as Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. The exact network your service runs on will depend on factors like the type of phone you’re using and your geographical location. You can technically choose the network you want if you bring over a compatible phone that is branded by that network.

TracFone is an ideal option for anyone who needs a plan for light to moderate monthly usage. The plans offered are extremely inexpensive once you break them down by month. The coverage provided by other pay-as-you-go carriers can barely come close to the dependable and clear service offered by TracFone. Unlike many discount carriers that offer spotty coverage, service is available virtually everywhere in the country with TracFone.

What is offered by TracFone is about as close as you can get to what’s offered by the major wireless carriers without actually making the commitment to sign a contract with one. Its versatile options and low per-month costs make TracFone a solid pick for anyone looking for an affordable and flexible wireless option.

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Americans are spending more time than ever on their cell phones.  Ironically, the time is not spent talking. Rather, its spent online and texting friends and family. This means that the more important part of your cell phone plan isn’t the talk time, but the data and the reliability.

Earlier this year Verizon decided to launch Unlimited Data plans.  Verizon did this because, in the six weeks prior to this launch, they lost almost 400,000 customers to other carriers.  Verizon was the last of the four major cell phone providers to do so. I’d like to take a few moments of your time to dig into the value (or lack thereof) of these plans.

Does Unlimited Really Mean Unlimited?

The short answer is no.  This is how the Verizon Unlimited Data Plan breaks down:

  • Call Minutes – Unlimited
  • Texts – Unlimited
  • Video – Unlimited
  • Data – 22 GB of LTE data.  After this point, you’ll be throttled as priorities are used elsewhere.
  • Hotspot – 10 GB of LTE data.  After this point, connection speed moves to 3G

Take my three year old daughter Everleigh for example.   She absolutely loves ABC Mouse.  More specifically, she loves to listen to the songs they have about the letters of the alphabet.  These two minutes songs played 100 times consecutively saps your data at lightning speed (and also tests your willpower to live).  After just a week or two of normal use and one or two of these adventures, your 22 GB of LTE data can vanish.  For the next couple of weeks, you’re at the mercy of Verizon.

Compared to Sprint, AT&T and T Mobile, everything outside of the unlimited data plan is the same.  However, 22 GB of LTE data is on the low end for what a provider will allow you before they begin to throttle the data.  Here’s a handy chart of what each offers in their unlimited data plans.

Cell Phone Provider / Plan Name
"Unlimited" Data Package
AT&T Unlimited Choice / Plus
22GB of LTE Data, then reduced speeds
Sprint Unlimited
23GB of LTE Data, unspecified speeds thereafter
T-Mobile ONE
30GB of LTE Data, 3G speeds thereafter
Verizon Unlimited
22GB of LTE data, then reduced speeds

Verizon Unlimited Costs and Packages

Verizon offers just one Unlimited package. But they have a variety of line options depending on what you need.  For example, if you were to purchase just a single line, your cost breakdown would be as follows:

  • $65 per month for Unlimited Data
  • $20 per month for a smartphone access fee
  • $5 discount per month for auto-pay and paper free billing
  • Total Cost – $80 + taxes and fees (comes out to about $86 per month).

Verizon offers up to 10 lines for your unlimited needs.

Number of Lines
Total Cost (w/ Auto Pay Discount)
Cost Breakdown Per Line
1 Line
$80
$80 Per Line
2 Lines
$140
$70 Per Line
3 Lines
$160
$54 Per Line
4 Lines
$180
$45 Per Line
5 Lines
$200
$40 Per Line
6 Lines
$220
$37 Per Line
7 Lines
$240
$35 Per Line
8 Lines
$260
$33 Per Line
9 Lines
$280
$31 Per Line
10 Lines
$300
$30 Per Line

Verizon Coverage Map

If you live in a highly populated area, the chances are Verizon has you completely covered.  Outside of the mountainous areas of the west, you can see from the map above that the areas of white are limited.  Sorry to Alaskans … unless you live above Anchorage or in Fairbanks, Verizon is not the provider for you.

You can enter your zip code into their coverage locator to find out if your area is blanketed.  If the map comes up completed red, then the chances of finding a strong signal day in and day out are great.  If you find areas of white and light pink, your calls have a higher chance of being dropped (and your data slowed).

Verizon Unlimited Added Perks

Canada & Mexico – When signing up for a Verizon Unlimited plan, you’ll also have access to unlimited calls and texts in Canada and Mexico.  In those countries, your data limits become 500MB per day, then after that 2G speeds apply.  Don’t get too comfortable, however. Verizon makes it clear that if more than half your calls, texts, and data come from these countries over a 60 day period, they have the right to cancel your service.

My Verizon App – All Verizon members can manage their account with a few taps of their finger.  The My Verizon app allows you to manage your account from anywhere in the world.  From this app, you can change plans, pay your bill or check on your data usage.

Verizon Unlimited Prepaid – Everything you see above is also included inside of a Verizon Unlimited Prepaid plan except for tethering, HD video (standard definition instead) and mobile hotspot access.  The cost of the plan is the same $80 and no contract in required.

Is There Value in Verizon Unlimited?

Absolutely. When compared to its competition, Verizon fits in nicely with everything that isn’t Sprint.  For the next full year, Sprint is offering a heavy discount on their Unlimited packages for up to 5 lines of service.  The chart below shows you how Verizon matches up.

Yes, you can do better both on price and on data (before throttling) but not by much.  If you’ve been a Verizon customer and enjoy their coverage and customer service, then sticking with Verizon is easy.  For new customers, take comfort in knowing Verizon excels in customer service and coverage as proven by the following two awards:

  1. Highest wireless network quality performance in all six regions from J.D. Power
  2. Ranked #1 overall network in the US

More information on Verizon Unlimited Plans

Is Verizon the best option? Check out our guide to the best cell phone plans.

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