TracFone wireless is a subsidiary of America Movil, Mexico’s largest telecommunications company. The company functions as a mobile virtual network operator, holding agreements with different large network operators to provide service for their customers, like Sprint and Verizon. They were established in 1996 as Topp Telecom in Miami, Florida. There are over 90,000 retail locations nationwide.
- No contract
- Customer service options
- No hidden fees
TracFone is "America's #1 National No-Contract Wireless service provider." They offer no contract, bills, daily or monthly fees, with nationwide coverage on America's best and most dependable networks, like Sprint. TracFone is a pay-as-you-go wireless phone service, which means you can pay month-to-month or as needed. They have various customer service options offering live chat, email, and phone service, from 8 AM to 7 PM EST.
TracFone makes their product and service easy to follow. Each prospective customer will follow the same three steps prior to enrolling in the service:
- Choose a phone - customers will need to purchase their phone up-front since there are no contracts to bind them to the service
- Activate - once you order your phone, customers will simply need to follow the activation instructions found in the package. At this stage, customers will need to have an airtime card or service plan.
- Add airtime - to continue service, customers will continuously need to add "airtime" to ensure minutes, texts, and data are available. This can be done over the phone, online, or in one of their retail stores.
TracFone promises that there will be no hidden fees, no-contract plans, and unlimited carryover (your unused minutes, texts, and data never expire as long as your service is active and in use within each six month period"). They also triple everything, which means that when you buy a 60 minute Airtime Card, you'll get 180 minutes, 180 Texts, and 180 MB of data at no extra charge. They offer a wide variety of phones, including Android smartphones.
- Deceptive acts or practices
- Expensive minutes
- Upfront costs can be high
TracFone currently is fighting a few legal battles due to some of their marketing campaigns. It was found that, "TracFone participated in deceptive acts or practices," in an attempt to increase sales. The government actions were resolved with a "stipulated order for permanent injunction and monetary judgment." TracFone also agreed to pay $40 million to the FTC to settle charges that it deceived millions of consumers with hollow promises of "unlimited" data service.
- Expensive Minutes - Pricing is something that has also caused concern amongst the TracFone consumer base. The minutes are pretty expensive, and because you have to purchase them upfront, you may end up spending a lot more on minutes than you would on another unlimited plan.
- Up-front Costs - Most carriers require a contract, but as part of the service, the phones are subsidized. With TracFone, customers have to purchase the phone outright which can be a little more expensive.
The Bottom Line
TracFone seems like a good option for a prepaid phone service, but customers need to be aware of the government actions against TracFone. Their minutes tend to add up, and are quite expensive to buy in bulk, though that may end up paying off in the long run. Because they have a lot of retail locations, as well as great customer service, they are easy to get a hold of. They also offer no-contract plans that are useful for many, and will end up costing less in the long run while providing the same level of service as other big brand service providers. All in all, prospective TracFone customers can expect the following:
- No contracts
- Limited device selection
- Pre-paid service
- No hidden fees
- Unlimited Carryover
- Pay for phone up-front