Author Topic: Considering switching to Tracfone - input requested from those who use it  (Read 8665 times)

hybrid

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In our quest to reduce expenses stop setting fire to hard-earned money I am looking at moving us away from Verizon cell phones to, well, anything better.  I'm looking hard at Tracfone, and it seems like it might be a fit for us, the caveat being I have a wife and son who both talk on the phone quite a bit.  So a pay-as-you-go plan might not be the best fit for us.  I know I can use Skype to reduce calling costs some.  We got rid of the land line a few years ago and I don't miss it.  Especially after the past election season - I live in a swing state and my land line friends were hammered with political calls.

For the folks who are currently using Tracfone, have your experiences been good, bad, or somewhere in between?  Anything that you did to optimize the pay as you go portion (like paying extra to double the minutes of future purchases, etc.)?

Thanks.

madage

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My advice is to look at your current total usage over several months. Before I switched to Tracfone I tracked total usage for more than six months before convincing myself I'd save money in the long run, even if some heavy-use months cost more prepaid.

IP Daley will almost certainly chime in soon regarding America Movil, the company that operates Tracfone, Net10 and Straight Talk (and others?). The customer service and terms of service are pretty bad, and that poor service eventually caused me to look elsewhere. I also don't like that the phones are completely locked-down (each phone is hard-linked to a specific sim). I now have unlocked GSM phones which I can easily take to another MVNO whenever I choose (currently Ptel).

Also, definitely read the Communications Superguide and research, research, research!

DK

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I've been happy with mine, although I'm not a big cell phone user. The first phone I got came with a 2x minute bonus, and I bought a slightly fancier one a few months ago that came with 3x minutes. You can also find some deals online to buy minutes....I know I more than halved my bill switching. One thing you would want to do is see how many minutes you actually use, and avg it out to see which pay as you go you would want to go with, and do a cost comparison on it. I think net10 has an unlimited option you could look into if they use a'lot of minutes. I know someone who went with virgin mobile I believe? And he's been happy with that, high upfront cost for the phone you want (if you want a fancy one) but then month to month it's a lot more reasonable that most of the carriers.

Frugal_in_DC

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A friend of mine in Virginia who doesn't use her cell phone much switched from Tracfone to Verizon last year.  She said that sometimes she didn't have voice coverage with Tracfone because it jumps from one major wireless network to another. 

I know what you mean about the landline.  We got rid of it years ago and never missed it.  With time it just became an annoying and money-wasting device that only rang whenever telemarketers called.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2013, 11:58:53 AM by Frugal in DC »

OzzieandHarriet

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Not to highjack this, but we want to get rid of our landline too, but when I called Verizon to ask about it, they said we would only save $21 a month if we kept the internet service. Might go ahead and do it anyway, but DC area people, do you know of any other solutions?

madage

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do you know of any other solutions?

The Superguide

Know it and love it.

Jamesqf

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I am fairly happy with my Tracfone.  The only real aggravation is that I can't find a way to set it to ring more than 4-5 times before it rolls over to voicemail.  (And according to their tech support, there IS no way to do it.)  Their on-line support forums are also an irritation, as they seem to take every interesting question off-line.

But on the positive side, it works fine as a phone.  I don't talk all that much, and have a cheap phone with 3X minutes, so at $21 for 3 months service I've built up about 500 surplus minutes.

hybrid

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Thanks for all the great input, I'm liking PTEL a lot more after reading parts of the SuperGuide and browsing their website.  Seems like a better deal and I like the selection of phones.  I only need a basic phone but the missus may opt for one with a real keyboard, even though she only texts maybe 10-15 times a month.  If that is what it will take for us to ditch Verizon and their face-punching $132 a month we spend now on four phones it is money well spent.

madage

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Thanks for all the great input, I'm liking PTEL a lot more after reading parts of the SuperGuide and browsing their website.  Seems like a better deal and I like the selection of phones.  I only need a basic phone but the missus may opt for one with a real keyboard, even though she only texts maybe 10-15 times a month.  If that is what it will take for us to ditch Verizon and their face-punching $132 a month we spend now on four phones it is money well spent.

Remember you're not limited to the phones on PTel's website. You can use any T-Mobile or unlocked GSM phone compatible with T-Mobile's network frequencies. You can probably find something really cheap on Craigslist or ebay or amazon that will do the trick.

Daley

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Thanks for all the great input, I'm liking PTEL a lot more after reading parts of the SuperGuide and browsing their website.  Seems like a better deal and I like the selection of phones.  I only need a basic phone but the missus may opt for one with a real keyboard, even though she only texts maybe 10-15 times a month.  If that is what it will take for us to ditch Verizon and their face-punching $132 a month we spend now on four phones it is money well spent.

Remember you're not limited to the phones on PTel's website. You can use any T-Mobile or unlocked GSM phone compatible with T-Mobile's network frequencies. You can probably find something really cheap on Craigslist or ebay or amazon that will do the trick.

Yup. Though, you could do worse than the Nokia 1616 or the Alcatel Sparq for the money. Don't get me wrong, they're cheap phones, but they seem solid for the price. P'tel recently sent out both models for use and distribution for tornado relief efforts. They're good phones.

Madage, thanks for covering for me on the America Movil front. :)

madage

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Though, you could do worse than the Nokia 1616

Shoot. I think I have a T-Mobile 1616 at home I'm not using. It should work fine on PTel, though it's not unlocked. PM me, hybrid, and we'll work something out if you want me to ship it to you.

jat9449

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We use a Tracfone and we've had decent results.

The pros: CHEAP (if you don't talk a lot and don't have the urge to take pictures/surf the web, etc.). We also usually always get good reception.

Cons: lame/unattractive phones, the customer service is HORRIBLE - you will never speak to a representative in the US, and if you have a problem it may take hours/days/weeks to get it resolved.

One personal story ... One time we bought a new TracPhone + $200 worth of minutes. 15 minutes later my son threw the phone in the toilet. We called TracPhone, they sent a new card for the phone, it didn't work, hours were spent trying to fix the problem, they 'determined' that we used all the minutes and refused to refund the money, I filed a dispute on my Discover card, TracPhone never responded, Discover refunded the $200 towards minutes. MORAL OF THE STORY: Always pay with a good credit card in case any issue arises.

At home we also use a MagicJack ... kind of annoying, but it gets the job done. You can spend a long time talking and pay very, very little.   

Kriegsspiel

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I was using Straight Talk for a while, and it was generally very bad.  I switched to Airvoice and the reception is much better, no more dropped calls, and customer service is right on.

Constance Noring

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We use a Tracfone and we've had decent results.

The pros: CHEAP (if you don't talk a lot and don't have the urge to take pictures/surf the web, etc.). We also usually always get good reception.

Cons: lame/unattractive phones, the customer service is HORRIBLE - you will never speak to a representative in the US, and if you have a problem it may take hours/days/weeks to get it resolved.

One personal story ... One time we bought a new TracPhone + $200 worth of minutes. 15 minutes later my son threw the phone in the toilet. We called TracPhone, they sent a new card for the phone, it didn't work, hours were spent trying to fix the problem, they 'determined' that we used all the minutes and refused to refund the money, I filed a dispute on my Discover card, TracPhone never responded, Discover refunded the $200 towards minutes. MORAL OF THE STORY: Always pay with a good credit card in case any issue arises.

That's...not the moral I'd take away from that story. If you have to file a chargeback dispute with your credit card to get your money back, that might be a red flag about the calibre of business you're dealing with.

We used TracFone in the early days of our switch from postpaid to prepaid cell usage, and they are, at best, aggressively mediocre. There are far better prepaid outfits out there, with better customer service and better rates. They're just less visible to the average consumer. There's really no reason to subject yourself to TracFone if you don't have to.

madage

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There's really no reason to subject yourself to TracFone if you don't have to.

Well said, Constance Noring.
/thread

Jamesqf

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We use a Tracfone and we've had decent results.

The pros: CHEAP (if you don't talk a lot and don't have the urge to take pictures/surf the web, etc.). We also usually always get good reception.

Why should taking pictures cost anything?  Other than the few bucks for the cable to connect phone to computer, which I need anyway because I back up things to the phone.

Quote
MORAL OF THE STORY: Always pay with a good credit card in case any issue arises.

I'd say the moral here is to teach your kid not to throw stuff in the toilet.  And I'm not quite clear on just why you think Tracfone should pay for that.

RedMaple

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At home we also use a MagicJack ... kind of annoying, but it gets the job done. You can spend a long time talking and pay very, very little.   

Why is MagicJack annoying?

madage

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Why is MagicJack annoying?

From the Superguide:

Home Telephone Service (VoIP providers)

...

There's also services like MagicJack and Ooma. MagicJack offers a dirt cheap price per year on phone service and a proprietary device, but they don't permit using your own devices or software to make or receive calls, which is one of the cost savings benefits of using a VoIP provider with a WiFi enabled cell phone. Their call quality is rather inconsistent as well and "unlimited" comes with some fine print and monthly minute restrictions. Ooma's actually a bit of a racket as their "unlimited" free phone service still costs about $3-5 a month for the phone number, e911 support and regulatory fees, their "unlimited" comes with fine print as well, and their hardware is proprietary and starts at $200. Unfortunately, the Ooma hardware also has a history of dying due to shoddy electronics components just outside the warranty period (likely cheap capacitors - as is the bane of all electronics these days). You also have the same limitations on flexibility with the service as you do with MagicJack. They might be decent options for cheap shut-ins who spends all day glued to the phone, but we want workable, reliable, frugal solutions. Intelligent frugality requires the resourcefulness to use your services how you need them with your own devices.

As with all things since I can't say it enough, RESEARCH! Nothing is a one-size fits all situation, and that applies with these carriers, your usage, and if you want to use it for personal or business needs. A good place to do a lot of VoIP provider research is over at Broadband Reports. They have extensive reviews of VoIP providers, user forums, and they cover other topics such as ISPs and networking hardware.

There are easier to use, more reliable services out there. You should consider the Superguide to be required reading if you're interested in saving money on communications.

beyondhuman

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My girlfriend works at Walmart in wireless.  We have also been looking at switching to a much cheaper plan. after looking them all over and deciding to go with straight talk the new round of cell company deals came out.  She was telling me Walmart is currently offering some sort of exclusive T-Mobile deal that would allow for an unlimited everything plan at $20/phone/month if you have 3 or more phones on it.  Not as cheap as tracphone but definitely a better value if you have two other reliable people to join you.

My family and hers also uses magicjack and the services is terrible-sometimes it just doesn't work despite being set up properly.

Kriegsspiel

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Well, you can't say you weren't warned...

madage

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Why is MagicJack annoying?

A bit more to add:

If you're looking for cheap home phone without a lot of extras, NetTalk Duo is probably a better choice than MagicJack. Thanks to Ladymaier for trying it out and getting in touch with I.P. Daley, the resident communications expert in these parts. This follow-up from Ladymaier is also really positive on NetTalk Duo for those who want a home phone but don't want or need to pay a lot for the the highest quality, highest level of service.

One more bit of advice: make sure your internet connection is "good enough" for VOIP services. Typically, constant 128 kbps down and up is required as the bare minimum. Ping time under 100 ms (the lower the better) is also preferred to minimize dropped voice packets. http://speedtest.net is the place to go to test your connection.