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New Smartphone-Only TracFone Refills Offer More Minutes

Because TracFone pricing wasn't already complicated enough, the company has created a new type of airtime refill card. The new refills, which are for smartphones and bring your own phone (BYOP) devices only, come in four denominations: 
  • $90 adds 3000 minutes, 3000 texts, 1.5 GB of data and 90 days of service 
  • $75 adds 2000 minutes, 3000 texts, 1 GB of data and 90 days of service 
  • $50 adds 1000 minutes, 2000 texts, 500 MB of data and 90 days of service 
  • $35 adds 500 minutes, 1000 texts, 400 MB of data and 90 days of service 
These new cards are currently only available on-line from TracFone's Pay As you Go Airtime page.

Up to now TracFone's highest value 90 day refill was the so called "450 minute" card priced at $69.99 that adds 1350 minutes, 1350 texts and 1350 MBs to a smartphone or BYOP device.

These new refill denominations do look like a somewhat better value for customers who run out of minutes before they run out of data.  However they still don't solve the biggest pain point with TracFone smartphone/BYOP billing, the inability to buy minutes only.

Smartphones and BYOP devices have separate buckets of minutes, text and data. There's no way to swap units between buckets. TracFone does have cards that add data only, days of service only and texts only.  The one thing that's still missing are true minutes-only cards that don't also include texts and data that the user may not want or need.
 
With this latest wrinkle there are now 18 different denominations of TracFone refills, 17 of which work on smartphones and BYOP. See the Plans and Pricing section of our TracFone Prepaid Operator Profile for all the gory details of TracFone pricing.


42 comments:

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  1. the telcos cannot derive valuable information through voice minutes except by voip. they want our information, hence they push us to text and use data. that is the reason they do not offer "true minute cards".

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    1. Apple (Siri), Google (Google Now), Microsoft (Cortana), and Amazon (Echo) can all speech to text just fine. Google (Voice) can transcribe your voice mails and serve up context aware advertisements just fine. If you think digital voice networks offer any "protection" against snooping, you are mistaken.

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  2. They look like a good deal for heavy all-around users. It's just a shame they still don't have minute-only cards.

    Most of my usage is voice and data, so it'd be a lot more convenient to buy each service separately.

    Heck, even a 4x1x4 alternative would be better than the standard 3x3x3.

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  3. Tracfone is losing a lot of seniors that only want and use voice minutes.

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    1. Tracfone is losing a lot of subscribers, period. All the tracfone legacy brands lost customers over the past quarter, masked by gains in their newer brands Straight Talk, SafeLink and Total Wireless. Net subscriber gains? Only 13K. Total revenue was down, and EBITDA was down by more than 33% compared to a year ago!

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    2. Correction: USA subscribers dropped .7% overall.

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  4. The highest value 90 day refill has not been the 200 minute one. TracFone also sells a 450 minute/90 day card for $69.99.

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  5. $90 for 1.5 GB WTF makes Verizon and AT&Ts rates seem reasonable.

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    1. YTF. You can't read or divide by 3.

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    2. It all depends on your usage. For 3 months of service, AT&T prepaid (GoPhone) will give you unlimited talk and text but no data (it's $50 per GB extra) for $90. I don't think Verizon Prepaid has a smartphone plan for less than $135 for 3 months.

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    3. That's combined with 3000 voice minutes, 3000 texts, and 90 days of service. If you just want data - $50 for 4GB. Not mentioned in the article, since it's not one of the new offers.

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    4. Using the argument of "can't divide by 3" or comparing $135 for 3 months at Verizon is plain silly.

      These air time at Trac fone should be treated as a fixed cost, not variable cost. Once you paid for the air time, it becomes sunk costs. What might change this analysis is if Trac fone offers the 1-year plan, then the fixed costs is spread over the entire year.

      These buckets may last up to 3 months, but if you burn through the voice minutes (say 2000 minutes), the fact there is up to 3 months left is irrelevant unless you also need the text and data. In contrast, if you pay for a month with Verizon, you get the FULL month. It's like comparing apples to oranges.

      Dividing by 3 is simply the wrong approach. Again, if you burn through the entire 2,000 minutes in your first day, there's no need to divide by 3. You now have 89 days left to burn through your text or data, but no more minutes until you buy another air time card. It's brilliant how Trac fone gets people because they don't want to lose the equity in the unused buckets.

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    5. Again, it's all about usage. If you are using more than 1000 minutes a month, TracFone is not for you. You need to determine your usage and then look at your options. For some people, a $90 / 90 day plan with 3000 minutes and 1.5GB of data with rollover might be the best option.

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    6. All prepaid phone costs are sunk costs.

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  6. Dennis, the data add on "with carryover" must mean they count data separately from the 90 day plan. Or does it expire? Otherwise, these new plans are an improvement for Tracfone. The old business model is changing.

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    1. All of Tracfone's units - voice minutes, texts, and data - carry over as long as the phone's account doesn't expire.

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  7. So I assume that the "regular" airtime cards still triple on BYOP, but these cards don't. That does make things more complicated.

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  8. 200 min card $39.00) = 600m/600t/600MB 90 days
    BYOP $35 card = 500m/1000t/400MB 90 days

    200min card is still a better deal (and you can probably buy it below $35) unless you care for texts more.

    Also, the 400min/1year card ($99.99 1200/1200/1200) may be more expensive than the $50 and $75 new BYOP cards but it gives you a full year of service. Better option for a low/ moderate use line IMHO.

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    1. Why you will see Smartphone transitioned over to these new cards exclusively and you can no longer add the traditional cards, at least that is how I see it playing out.

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    2. I agree with anon above. I think it is a ploy by Tracfone to eventually force everyone on to these higher cost per month plans.

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    3. Not unless the cards are sold at Walmart too. The old cards are here to stay. Can't change the triple minute policy or will be lawsuits when phones are advertised triple minutes

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  9. Tracfone smartphones and BYOP have Triple Minutes for Life. Shouldn't these cards triple?

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    1. The smartphone-only cards don't triple, only the traditional pay as you go cards do.

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    2. Probably why not sold in stores because not tripled.

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  10. "200 min card $39.00) = 600m/600t/600MB 90 days
    BYOP $35 card = 500m/1000t/400MB 90 days

    200min card is still a better deal (and you can probably buy it below $35) unless you care for texts more"
    IF you count all Minutes / text / data as a "unit" , the above 200 (3x) = 1800 U for $39

    The BYOP 500/1000/400 = 1900 U for $ 35 actually seems like the better deal -

    As noted multiple times above, one's usage really determines what is "the best deal "

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  11. do you have to use these specific airtime cards for smartphones? or can you still use the regular tracfone minutes?

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    1. You can use the regular TracFone airtime cards with smartphones.

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  12. For android phones, can you just buy a data card to keep service active, or do you have to buy airtime?

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    1. The data-only cards do not add any days of service. You also have to add a legacy minutes card or one of the new smartphone only cards described in the post at least every 90 (or 365 days for the one year minutes cards) to keep your service active.

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  13. Since using Tracfone is based on saving money compared to using other plans, are there any alternatives to Tracfone worth considering if you want to go to a smartphone?

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    1. It really depends on how many minutes and texts and how much data you need and where you need coverage. There are dozens of options see my The Best US Prepaid Phone Plans For Data Users for an overview.

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  14. tracfone could do ALOT better on data cards! jeez, you have Sprint mvno's freedompop and ringplus GIVING AWAY FREE buckets of minutes txt and data!! the least tracfone can do is offer better values on the data.. I'd like to see a 90 days 500 min 500 txt 1gb data card for $20 to $25.. I'd buy that RIGHT NOW just so I don't have to buy a new phone, otherwise the next phone I might buy might be a ringplus sprint compatible one getting free buckets!!

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  15. What's the deal with buying airtime at the Tracfone site? I've been doing that for over a year, and today when trying to buy 90 days of service for my smartphone, I see a note that the 90-day purchase for smartphones does NOT include the triple-minutes-for-life that I've been buying. Should I just go to Walmart and buy my airtime cards there?

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    1. The regular TracFone minutes cards triple on smartphones. The Smartphone only cards do not.

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  16. sad to see they took the 1500/365 off the site, it was expensive but well worth it. I can see tracfone is going hard at the smartphone only market,
    not a bad thing but will anger some I'm sure. As did the whole 2G migration.

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    1. We agree. We always counted on the 1500/365 from web. Have been doing this for years for our 2 flip phones. Probably will look into going to our Verizon wireless plan. Disappointing but Tracfone is going in a different direction and customer needs are put aside.

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  17. Tracfone has also stopped tripling the minutes for smartphone users. This represents a substantial price increase.

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    1. Not true. The regular TracFone minutes cards that you can buy everywhere still triple-triple on smartphones and BYOP. The newish "Smartphone-only Plans" that are only sold on the TRacFone website have never tripled, they are essentially pre-tripled.

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  18. Can no longer purchase a replacement battery for my original tracfone so am forced to upgrade. Learned the profiteering multi-bucket scheme when asking about the pros/cons of smartphone v flip phone -- if I go smartphone I lose many of the accrued minutes from my "dumb" phone AND am penalized by their arbitrary re-distribution of my remaining units. Add to that, unless I choose a smartphone, I also lose my "lifetime" 3x designation, but gee whiz, they'll give me 2X for "life". ("Life" isn't what it used to be.) I had thought of going smartphone/3X, but then learned if I decide it's not for me and "dumb down" I lose ALL my accrued units. (But they'll let me keep my pre-paid service. Aren't they generous?) I have been told I can still by a year or more at a time instead of the nickle and dime every few weeks inconvenience. I hope that remains true - and affordable. Would have tossed the damn thing in the trash if it hasn't become necessary on the road.

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    1. Switch to an AT&T BYOP SIM. You can use the SIM in any smart or dumb AT&T or unlocked GSM phone and swap between phones at will without contacting TracFone. You will keep your minutes balance and days of service. No matter what phone you use you will get triple-triple billing.

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  19. Also noticed on the website's stores in your area page, it always takes me to Kansas, no matter the address or zip code.

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