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Developing: New TracFone Android Phones and SIMs Won't Support Triple-Triple Billing

It looks like TracFone is changing the way billing works on its smartphones and BYOP SIMs. New smartphones and BYOP SIMs apparently won't be eligible for "triple-triple" billing. This change will make TracFone more expensive for light users and for customers who refill their TracFone smartphones with airtime cards purchased at local stores rather than on the TracFone web site.

TracFone billing is complicated but basically there are two kinds of TracFone airtime:
  • The traditional minutes cards that TracFone has sold for at least 10 years. TracFone calls these "Pay As You Go" cards. When applied to a smartphone or  BYOP SIM account, these cards "triple-triple", meaning that three times number of minutes listed on the card are added to the customer's minutes and texts and MBs of data balances.  For example, the "60 Minute" card adds 180 minutes and 180 texts and 180 MBs of data when applied to a smartphone or BYOP SIM.
  • Newer Smartphone Only Cards (which are also technically pay as you go as the unused minutes roll over and never expire as long more airtime us added every 30 or 60 days). The Smartphone cards do not triple, each one delivers the number of minutes, texts and MBs of data specified on the face of the card. 
If typical TracFone fashion, the company has left customers and dealers in the dark about what's happening. But there are strong indications that TracFone is going to force smartphone and BYOP customers to only use the smartphone cards to add airtime. TracFone, which has never done a very good job of communicating with its users, has not officially announced the change, but:

1) The packages for the recently released LG Rebel 2, ZTE ZFive 2 and LG Fiesta Android phones are labeled "This phone will only work with Smartphone plans".

2) On Turk Forums, an independent TracFone user forum, a TracFone employee using the name AlexTrac has posted information about the change. Alex's forum posts can be found here, starting with post 416, where, referring to the one of new phones with Smartphone plans only label, he says.
"Be informed that this phone will no longer be compatible with our "Pay As You Go" TracFone cards. It will only work with Smartphone Plans."
Alex shares more details in following posts:
Post 419: "Smartphones will still be able to use Pay As You Go service cards, but this won't triple."
Post 429: "The Triple Minutes promotion will continue working with the phones that had the promotion added to them already. Any Smartphone and Bring Your Own Phone device that was activated after the 1st of April won't receive Triple Minutes promotion any more."

There's a lot more on Turk Forums on this topic and I encourage you to read it all at the original source.

Keep in mind that TracFone's history of not communicating changes to its users effectively. TracFone also seems to change offers and policies suddenly and with little or no warning.  Even official representatives like AlexTrac sometimes say things that turn out to be wrong, probably because the decision makers changed their minds without notifying their spokespersons.

I think Alex is likely mostly correct, but I doubt his claim that every smartphone or BYOP activated since April 1, 2017 is not getting triple-triple. If that were true I'm sure I'd be hearing complaints from users.

Another problem with rolling out the change so quickly is that the Smartphone cards are in very limited retail distribution. The only places I've seen smartphone cards are at Target and Walmart stores. My Target usually has the $10 data card, $15 200 minute, 30 day card and the $35 750 minute, 60 day card. The $15 card and the data and text cards have been spotted in some Walmarts.

In addition there's a truth in advertising issue with making the change retroactive to April 1. Except for the new LG Rebel 2, ZTE ZFive 2 and LG Fiesta, all TracFone smartphones and every TracFone BYOP SIM I've seen has labeling on its packaging saying that the phone or SIM gets "3X" minutes, texts and data. Most packages also have tables showing in detail how triple-triple works. If customers don't get what's advertised at point of sale, TracFone, the FTC and FCC are going to be getting plenty of complaints.

The table below lists all the available refills of each type. The ones with the lowest costs per minute, text, MB of day of service are indicated with a bold font. It's apparent that the cost per day of service is much higher with the Smartphone cards than with the Pay As You Go cards. You can keep service active by adding a $19.99 Pay As You Go card every 90 days, which works out to about $80 a year or $6.67 per month or 22¢/day. It will cost you at least $125 a year or 34¢/day to keep to keep service active using only smartphone cards. That's an increase in over 50%.

To make matters worse for most users, the $125 /year option is only available on the TracFone web site. The only TracFone smartphone cards available in stores are the $10 data card, $5 text card,  $15 200 minute, 30 day card and the $35 750 minute, 60 day one. The minimum cost per day using any of the smartphone cards available in stores is with a $15 card, every 30 days. That will cost you $180/year, a 225% increase compared with adding a $19.99 Pay As Yo Go card every 90 days.

You can get the cost per year down to as low as $65/year by combining a Smartphone card with the $50 Supersize option, which  adds a year of service to any TracFone refill that includes minutes. But the Supersize option is not well known. It's not promoted or advertised by TracFone and is only available when buying airtime on the TracFone site. The many TracFone users who top up by buying minute cards at a retail don't know about Supersize and are going to be paying a lot more if and when they are forced to use smartphone cards.

The goal of this change seems to be to increase TracFone's ARPU (average revenue per user) and to encourage customers to buy their airtime online, where TracFone doesn't have to share sales revenue with retailers.

Price Type 1 Mins Cost / Min SMS Cost / SMS Data Cost / MB Days Cost / Day
$5 Smartphone Text none NA 1000 0.5¢ none NA none NA
$9.99 2 PayGo MVP 150 6.7¢ 150 6.7¢ 150 MB 6.7¢ 30 33¢
$9.99 2 PayGo 30 Min 90 11¢ 90 11¢ 90 11¢ 30 33¢
$10 Smartphone Data none NA none NA 1 GB 0.98¢ none NA
$15 Smartphone 200 7.5¢ 500 200 MB 7.5¢ 30 50¢
$19.99 PayGo 60 Min 180 11¢ 180 11¢ 180 MB 11¢ 90 22¢
$19.99 2 PayGo MVP 375 5.3¢ 375 5.3¢ 375 MB 5.3¢ 30 67¢
$20 2 Smartphone 300 6.7¢ 1000 1 GB 30 67¢
$25 2 Smartphone 500 1000 2.5¢ 500 MB 60 42¢
$29.99 PayGo 120 Min 360 8.3¢ 360 8.3¢ 360 MB 8.3¢ 90 33¢
$29.99 2 PayGo MVP 600 600 600 MB 30 $1
$35 Smartphone 750 4.7¢ 1000 3.5¢ 1 GB 3.4¢ 60 58¢
$39.99 PayGo 200 Min 600 6.7¢ 600 6.7¢ 600 MB 6.7¢ 90 44¢
$50 3 Super Size none NA none NA none NA 365 14¢
$79.99 PayGo 450 Min 1350 5.9¢ 1350 5.9¢ 1350 MB 5.9¢ 90 89¢
$99.99 PayGo 400 Min 1200 8.3¢ 1200 8.3¢ 1200 MB 8.3¢ 365 27¢
$125 2 Smartphone 1500 8.3¢ 1500 8.3¢ 1500 MB 8.3¢ 365 34¢
$159.99 2 PayGo 1000 Min 3000 5.3¢ 3000 5.3¢ 3000 MB 5.3¢ 365 44¢
$199.99 2 PayGo 1500 Min 4500 4.4¢ 4500 4.4¢ 4500 MB 4.4¢ 365 55¢
MVP denotes a Monthly Value Plan (auto-pay required).
2 Only available online at tracfone.com.
"Supersize" option is offered when buying another top up on the TracFone site. It's not available separately.

Source: Turk Forums

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44 comments:

Comment Page :
  1. Tracfone is should change their model to the be more like Tello. They're plans were great in the dumb-phone days, but the smartphone plans are pretty expensive if you talk/text a moderate amount. There are much cheaper plans from Boom, RedPocket, Ting, USMobile, UltraMobile, or even the new Xfinity Mobile plan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I looked at things like Tello and they don't even come close to what TF offers for my usage pattern. Maybe for very light users which is not me. And many of those other providers are on lousy networks like Sprint and T-Mobile. They also are monthly plans without forever roll over. I insist on owning the service paid for, and NEVER have a monthly payment!

      Delete
    2. Royer, if you're rolling over service, you're already paying for units you don't use. TF forces you buy service days which means you have to front load your plan to keep in running. $50/year for 12 months service is $4/month monthly payment. That's throwing money away. If you don't send SMS, you're forced to buy minutes and texts bundled together. If you want data only, you're forced to buy bundled service days. Tracfone is not smart in 2017. Take Tello pay-go for example, if you use nothing you pay nothing (no fees).

      Delete
  2. Us mobile seems to have the best prices on data as far as T-mobile mvnos go.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If they're jacking up rates without improving customer service, it's basically comeuppance for anyone still bankrolling Shady Slim's Customer Circus™.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lm**o @ Customer Circus™

      Delete

  4. Get your slide rules out and sharpen your pencils because these plans will make your eyes cross. Maybe I just like less complicated tiers of service. I thought the big announcement would be less confusing plans. Maybe this model works for some, but I couldn't tell you if you were getting a great bargain or being fleeced. Me thinks the latter is what is happening. I'd just stay away from América Móvil and its tentacles from lifting your wallet as you speak to undertrained and understaffed customer service representatives.
    BEWARE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The rates have actually gone down with many of the smartphone "plans". I say "plans" because true PayGo like TF is not a traditional plan where the seller completely controls how you use it. It has been too complicated to the inexperienced, and that is TracFone's fault.

      Delete
  5. So basically they're trying to lose even more customers than they already have.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a MotoG4PLAY activated in January of 2017 with a previously activated sim from a MotoE. I also have several 60 minute cards from the FD bonus round. Am I correct in assuming that these cards will still triple in this sim/phone?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Based on what little I know at this point you should be grandfathered and will continue to get triple-triple as long as you keep using your current SIM.

      Delete
  7. Good-Bye TracFone go back to Mexico.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Any tricks to get an offer to buy the $50 "Super Size" for the 365 day service extension? I try to buy a $5 text card or $10 data card and not offer. Not sure it ($50 Super Size) is still being offered.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Supersize is only offered if you add a card that includes minutes like the $9.99 PayGo card or the $15 Smartphone card. You won't see it if all that's in your cart is a data or text card.

      Delete
  9. Thanks, I found that by playing with the system. Also learned that you can delete the minute card (and even the $5 text card) from the order and still have the $49.99 Super Size separately.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracfone closed that loophole. You are not allowed to remove all but the supersize item.

      Delete
    2. Once/If TF relaunches the upsell it will be possible to get a year of service for $50

      Delete
  10. my wife and i just switched to TF a few months ago. our plans are staggered, but we each have the $25/60 plan, which is right in line with our usage patterns and is REALLY nice with the unlimited rollover. First period was a little tight but after rolling over, we're both sitting pretty and our bill is only $25/month for 2 people. that's a great deal, down from the $40 we were paying with consumer cellular.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I manage the four phone in my family. Periodically I go out and evaluate the plans of other carriers and MVNOs. I have yet to find a better/cheaper alternative to TracFone for our usages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. T-Mo MVNO SpeedTalk... 250T or 250T or 250Mb... $5.00
      375T or 375T or 375Mb... $7.50

      Dale

      Delete
    2. I've had the same experience. I'm constantly evaluating my other MVNO alternatives and nothing comes close to the $35 per month I'm paying on a TF family monthly value plan for 5 lines. Yes you can find better deals and customer service for single lines of service on other MVNOs but for a family of 3, 4, or 5 lines nothing even comes close.

      Delete
    3. How many minutes/texts/Mb per phone do you get with the $35/5=$7ea plan?

      Dale

      Delete
    4. I get 150/150/150 min/text/MB for the 1st line ($10) and 120/120/120 for all other lines ($6 per line). All unused balances roll over from month to month. And the best part is it's on either Verizon or AT&T network which has much better coverage than T-Mobile especially in western US.

      Delete
    5. Re: "Unknown May 25th"

      What is the "TF" family monthly value plan for 5-lines @ $35/month?

      If "TF" is TracFone...there is no such plan!

      Delete
  12. "The goal of this change seems to be to increase TracFone's ARPU (average revenue per user)"

    When you lost 1.3 million customers last quarter you have to do something. Too bad the decision was to fleece customers more vs. making the service more attractive to new suckers.

    Perfect typical Carlos Slime / America Movil / Trashfone decision, emblematic of the customer circus disservice ethic that rules Slime Shady's businesses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like any other company, TracFone is in the business to make money. For my needs, I still find them to be competitive enough that I'm staying.

      Delete
  13. More American Movil tomfoolery.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Long time TracFone customer here, and like many others, I've done the math and based on my families usage and banked up balances from rollovers, we're staying with TracFone.

    As usual, any TracFone article here attract more posts from TracFone haters than from satisfied customers like the few who have posted so far.

    We should all go to the provider that gives the best value for our needs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >>"As usual, any TracFone article here attract more posts from TracFone haters than from satisfied customers like the few who have posted so far."

      For every satisfied tracfone customer there are 5 who are not and have fled.

      You are only satisfied if A. You are too stupid to realize that most likely you can get better service for less elsewhere. If you don't think so you probably have not looked thoroughly enough. Or B. For the rare instances where tracfone is competitive price wise you have had the good luck to not yet be cheated BT Trashfone systems/accounting/billing. Don't worry, it will happen, your time will come and the customer disservice will be no help, just a source of frustration. Every America Movil relationship ends via A or B. Better to leave and join the millions who will be fleeing with you.

      Delete
    2. There's a reason customers are fleeing in droves.

      Delete
  15. Anonymous 2:42, I'm no fanboy of America Movil but your broad brush bashing and claims you can always find better deals elsewhere are disingenuous at best and outright lies at worst. See my earlier post about the TF family plan I'm on for $35 per month. If you can find me a better deal on Verizon MVNO I'm all ears.

    ReplyDelete
  16. If TracFone is so awful, it's amazing that they're still in business after all these years. They must be doing something right. As a current and longtime customer, there's no disputing that they have plenty of room for improvement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They must be doing something right..
      Or they have learned from Chrysler how to do just enough to stay afloat while putting out the worst product year after year after year...

      Delete
    2. Sucker born every minute. Lots of marketing to the gullible in big box and dollar stores. Customers who don't realize or feel they could do or deserve better.

      Bottom feeder company stays alive despite huge churn.

      Delete
  17. Anonymous May 25th @ 2:42 PM, Tracfone provides the convenience of purchasing prepaid usage at any & all retail outlets/fuel stations. Most other MVNO's require Debit/Credit card purchases over the internet which many people are still not comfortable with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AT&T and Sprint MVNOs also flood the retail market.

      Delete
  18. Can someone please recommend me a cheaper alternative to the $100 TracFone 1 year of service which includes 1200 voice minutes, 1200 texts, and 1200 MB data. It has to be Verizon or AT&T based. I'm not interested in Freedompop and don't want to provide a credit card number that can be billed when the provider decides I've crossed some usage threshold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Redpocket Essentials plan includes 500 minutes, 500 texts and 100 MB of data for $10 per month. It's also available from Redpocket's eBay store for $99 for 1 year which is only $8.25 per month. There is no rollover and no overage, but should be more than enough minutes and texts to cover that usage compared to the 400 minute Tracfone card. The only issue is if you push data usage over the 100 MB per month. With Tracfone, if you have some months over 100 MB and some months under and average less than 100 MB per month, you're OK. And you can add data easily at $10 for 1 GB and it rolls over. With Redpocket, you can add additional data, but it will expire with your monthly renewal.

      Also, Redpocket's plan is available on all 4 carriers, including Verizon or AT&T.

      Delete
    2. Thanks bw1. With current low usage and TracFone's rollover, I've been able to accumulate so much reserve. It's good to know about Red Pocket as plan B if my usage pattern changes.

      Delete
  19. Will Tracfone sim cards purchased in March (but never activated) still accept triple triple triple cards once the sims are activated?

    Also, about the new sims.....will we still be able to take advantage of tripling on the family value plans with new tracfones & new sims?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BYOP SIM kits currently sold in retail stores are the same ones as previous. Someone posted on a forum yesterday that a recently purchased 3X SIM kit and standard 60 minute/90 day airtime card activated the GSM SIM with triple values. That was supposed to not happen after April 1.

      Not sure about the monthly value plans with the new phones. Dennis posted a URL for that page earlier, but I have not found a way to find it on the new website.

      Delete
  20. I will give you 15000 minutes,text and 20GB if someone can show me how to transfer Partial minutes/data/text
    (not all) ... cheers Leave a way dor me to contact you if you can show me correct instructions.

    ReplyDelete
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