The Tracks of your Phone...
March 3, 2011 5:58 PM   Subscribe

I've had it with my cell provider -- going to a track phone. Will I hate it?

I sure do hate my provider -- Verizon. They keep hitting us with fees and little "gotchas." Enough. My contract expires this month, my wife's in June. Sicne we work at home these days, our landline is adequate for most purposes. But when we travel we'd like to have a track phone. They seem inexpensive and easy to deal with. Please enlighten me as to your experience with these devices. Good signal? No problem using your old cell phone number? Thanks!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit to Technology (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry to ask what may be a dumb question, but are you talking about TracFone, or something else that is called Track Phone that TracFone just overtakes in the google results?
posted by brainmouse at 6:06 PM on March 3, 2011

I have had a trac fone for years and it is a great phone for my needs. The connectivity has greatly improved over time. I am perfectly happy with it. I do not use it except when out and about so I have a large build up of minutes. But I can buy 90 days service for under $20 and it is just right for my needs.
posted by JayRwv at 6:07 PM on March 3, 2011

I can't say anything about porting your old number because I've never done that, but I have a Tracphone and I like it. However, be aware that if you don't use it, you will lose it. Those cards only last for 60 (or is it 90? I forget) days after you activate them and then they expire, whether you've used the minutes or not.

I've never had a problem with connectivity and I never run out of minutes. I bought the "double minutes" card when I got the tracphone so every time I top up I get double the minutes - it works well for me. However, I hardly use my phone, so there is that.
posted by patheral at 6:09 PM on March 3, 2011

When I had a TracFone they had terrible customer service. They first activated me with a number that someone else already had and it took me forever to change it. The network was also very bad. This was in ~2005, so this may have changed.
posted by Jeanne at 6:19 PM on March 3, 2011

I've been pretty happy with my prepaid T-Mobile service. If you buy $100-worth, it's $0.10/minute and the minutes don't expire for a year. I supplement that with google voice to make calls on my computer and I don't even need a landline.
posted by Cogito at 6:24 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had a TracFone for about 5 years, and I'm happy with it. Customer service, based somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, is friendly but glacially slow (they repeat everything you say to make sure they have it right, then they read from a script, then they say thank you, please hold, and so on). But I have only had to call them once in the entire 5 years I've been a customer, so it was not a deal-breaker.

it's really easy to pay for only the time you want or use. They have a couple of ways they bundle their airtime and minutes. You can buy little tiny bundles of service (30 days), or longer ones, with lots of minutes or only a few. I switched to a monthly value plan with more minutes when I was away from home for a few months and used the TracFone as my primary phone, but then I changed it back to the $99/year of service with 400 minutes or whatever it was -- no problem.

Oh, and I have never had minutes expire -- they just keep on rolling over as long as you renew the service. Service - the charge for keeping your phone active -- and minutes are separate charges: if I use up all 500 minutes that are currently on my phone before my year of service is up, I just buy more minutes. No contracts, no mess, highly recommended.
posted by philokalia at 6:33 PM on March 3, 2011

Re: reception, I have had no problems anywhere on the east coast, or throughout the midwest, even in VERY rural areas. Ontario all along the 401 was fine too. No roaming charges or international fees in Canada, BTW.
posted by philokalia at 6:38 PM on March 3, 2011

I have straight talk, which is owned (and probably has the same customer service) as Tracfone.

I had Tracfone a long time ago, back when they still had brick and grayscale displays.

As for Straight Talk(and Tracfone) depending on the phone you get you'll be on Verizon or AT&T or Verizon.
With Tracfone 99.9% chance Verizon, the phones are about 1 or 2 gens ago, so don't hope for anything too fancy.

But check out reviews on voice quality especially, mine is horrible, but it's primarily built for texting so thats what I get. Also, it may just be on the Straight Talk side but there are no exchanges for a different phone.

Basically if you just need a phone for talking and you don't use it that much, Tracfone will be fine. So it should serve the purpose of a travel phone nicely, 90days double mins on a $20 (60min) card gets you 2hrs of talk.
posted by tropikal at 6:56 PM on March 3, 2011

Honestly, tracphone looks expensive compared to T-mobile.
posted by pwnguin at 7:11 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I switched from a contract with Verizon to a Tracphone about a year and a half ago and have been 100% happy with the decision. I have never dealt with customer service . . . but I also have never had a reason to call them because nothing has gone wrong. I have never had a signal problem, but I do live in the middle of a city.

I was able to find a phone that automatically doubles any minutes loaded onto it. I don't know if those are still available, but if you are seriously considering making the switch, it may be worth your while to do some checking around. Also, you can sometimes find promotional codes online that will double minutes that you load from a card.

It isn't fancy, but it has voicemail and texting and I love not getting a monthly bill for it.
posted by ainsley at 7:21 PM on March 3, 2011

My son was giving up his tracfone account, with 10+ years of service remaining. I ported my number and took over his account, inheriting the remaining service time. The customer service rep was incredibly patient and thorough, in sharp contract to typical cell phone provider service. Seriously, I'm a customer service connoisseur, and they impressed the hell out of me.
posted by theora55 at 8:12 PM on March 3, 2011

Oh yay, go with Tracfone. I've used their service for 6 years; they are brilliant. I am a fairly low call user, so their rollover system means I always start my next year with more minutes than the previous one. No roaming charges, excellent reception everywhere - I have lent my phone to people with really expensive plans who could not get a signal when I could (north, south, east, wets, midwest - I have never had a problem with signal strength). The phones are nothing to call home about, but adequate. They don't have anything resembling a data plan, but that's not why you use them. I have replaced the phone once and it was no problem - I kept my rollover minutes, a new phone was cheap, and the transfer was painless. I pay less per year than some of my co-workers pay per month. You can do almost everything online, which means you don't spend hours in customer service phone-wait purgatory. Definitely recommend.
posted by Susurration at 8:30 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tracfone was very good. I used it for a number of years. The customer service was ok.

I now use It isn't great, but it is really good. I hate talking on phones, so I rarely use mine to talk. I have a pay-as-you-go set up, and pay $15 every three months, getting $15 worth of airtime. The air time rolls over, so I don't lose it. Virginmobile has some good unlimited monthly plans and some great phones.
posted by fifilaru at 9:11 PM on March 3, 2011

Go T-mobile pre-paid instead. T-mobile roams to Canada, TracFone doesn't. Plus, once you have spent $100 on your T-mobile phone, you are then a gold member and your minutes last 365 days from the date of purchase. This means I keep my phone on now for $25/yr after my initial investment.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:12 PM on March 3, 2011

Verizon does have a great network, so you might want to stay on that. Once your contract is up, port your number and your phone to Page Plus Cellular. It's pay as you go and they have great per-minute rates. A $25 card gets you 400+ minutes, so you're only paying about 6 cents a minute. (A comparison: the above mentioned Tracfone $20 card for 60 minutes plus a double minute deal gets you 120 minutes for $20, so that's 17 cents per minute. T-Mobile's cheapest is 10 cents a minute, and you have to buy a $100 card for that. Page Plus is far cheaper than both.) They operate on the Verizon network. You will need a Verizon phone to use Page Plus, but you've already got one, so that's not a problem. We've used them for about four years now and we have no complaints.
posted by azpenguin at 9:47 PM on March 3, 2011

I just left verizon for Virgin Mobile, which is a branding of pre-paid Sprint plans. So far, I'm loving it. Sprint and verizon both use CDMA tech, btw.

VM offers minute-based plans and month-based plans. I got their "new" Android phone, the LG Optimus, and their $40/month plan which gets you unlimited Internet and unlimited texting plus 1200 phone call minutes. $25/month gets the same except 300 minutes.

I'm happy with it, though I haven't done much with the phone's advanced features yet.
posted by NortonDC at 11:10 PM on March 3, 2011

I came in to suggest PagePlus too, which my wife and I have been using for a little over a year. They use the same network that Verizon uses, so it's exactly the same call quality, for much less money. You can probably keep and use your existing phones. They do offer mobile web for "WAP 2.0 capable phones" (I haven't used it), but don't support smartphones. Customer service is difficult to get a hold of, but I haven't needed customer service anyhow except to resolve some confusion when we first signed up. It's a bare-bones service but it works great for us, and we save about $600/year compared to our old, minimal Verizon plan.
posted by jon1270 at 4:35 AM on March 4, 2011

When I had a TracFone they had terrible customer service... This was in ~2005, so this may have changed.

Same experience here, even the same time frame. Phone itself was fine, customer service absolutely sucked. The last straw was one time I was on "roaming" and wasn't able to check my voice mail messages. So I call up customer service. When I was actually able to get through, they need me to call back from a different phone (my hotel room phone, which naturally costs an arm and a leg) so they can walk me through inputting various codes on my phone. Each time it doesn't help, and I call back, and have to go through the whole rigamarole over again, and I'm racking up the hotel phone charges, and it still doesn't work. Eventually I give up on being able to check my voice mail that weekend.

As soon as I get back home, I do about an hour of research online, then go directly to the nearest Verizon store. Spend a minute or two looking at the display model of the phone I've picked out, then go to the desk.

Verizon Salesperson: Hi, can I help you?
Me: I'd like to get such-and-such a phone, with such-and-such a plan. I have a number I'd like transferred from TracFone.
[Later, while taking my information:]
VS: And what's the number you'd like transferred?
Me: [gives phone number]
VS: And do you happen to have your TracFone account number?
Me: [rattles off something like a 14-digit account number]
VS: [pauses, looks up] You know your account number from memory?
Me: I've given it at least ten times over the past weekend. That's why I'm here.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:06 AM on March 4, 2011

I've been very happy with PagePlus. I went with them after seeing a lot of glowing recommendations here on AskMe. Even though Verizon was my previous provider, I was unable to get my old phone and phone number ported over. Verizon blamed PagePlus and PagePlus blamed Verizon. Finally, I gave up and bought a new, very basic phone from PagePlus, gave everyone my new number and then cancelled my old Verizon phone. It's only been about two months so far, but I'm happy and it's so much cheaper than Verizon. I buy a $25 card (400 minutes) when I need to. I used it a lot when I first got it because I was calling everyone to give them my new number. I expect my 2nd $25 card to last me a lot longer.

You have to get a new card at a minimum of once every 4 months. The cheapest card is $10. If you don't use your phone much, you could theoretically have a cell phone for just $30 a year!
posted by marsha56 at 8:03 AM on March 4, 2011

+1 for loving my TracFone. I've used them for at least the last seven years, all over the country - never had a problem. I also have the double minutes for life thing, which is a great value. Be aware that if you use the phone a lot, it WILL be more expensive than a cheap monthly plan with virgin or whoever. But I mostly text and have quick phone calls with work or family - I HATE talking on the phone and being able to say "Gotta go, I'm on a prepaid phone," is simply brilliant. And in the last year I've probably spent $100 total on minutes. But when I used the phone more, I'd spend $20 each week - TracFone is not cost-effective at that rate.

The phone itself cost TEN DOLLARS and took about 15 minutes to set up. I'll never go back to monthly cell phone bills, as much as I really (sometimes) want an iPhone.
posted by polly_dactyl at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2011

I've had TracFone for a couple of years. I seldom use a cellphone but need one for quick calls and emergencies out and about. I bought the double-minutes card when I got the phone, quickly built up a bunch of minutes I wasn't using, and then switched to the $5/month option that keeps your minutes alive for as long as you pay it. So I've got about 1,000 minutes to use anytime I want, for $5 a month. I'm satisfied.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:04 AM on March 4, 2011

If by track phone you mean pay as you go - I have a tracfone now, I'm very happy with it. Oddly, reception in my house is really, really bad. The virgin mobile pay as you go I had before only had maybe one bar, ever; it was fine for sending texts but not voice. My friend had a t & t and had decent reception here. The tracfone, I have five bars and perfect reception all the time. couldn't be happier with it.
posted by lemniskate at 11:50 AM on March 4, 2011

I got the Tracfone, and it seems pretty decent. Got the double-minutes option, too. Happy Guy! Thanks everyone.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:33 AM on March 9, 2011

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