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A Review of TracFone
Pre Paid Cell Phone Service for Truckers

Truck drivers who need a telephone for work purposes may consider TracFone, a pre paid cell phone service, to meet their needs. We have used several TracFones over the years and even provided one to a relative to use in case of emergency or on trips. In this article, we will cover the pros and cons of using not only the phones but also the service -- from the perspective of a professional truck driver and his or her home support team.

Disclaimer: Before we delve into specifics, we acknowledge that our use of both the phones and service was years ago. For this reason, you will need to use your own best judgment and most likely want to do further research on www.tracfone.com before buying this product.

As of February 2011, the company's website says that theirs is "America's largest 'No-Contract' cellular service provider in the U.S. with over 17 million subscribers." (Obviously, the number of subscribers varies over time.)





Anyone who travels can benefit from having cell phone service. As we stated on our telephone services page, we became aware of a non-work situation many years ago when we needed a phone with us in the truck and didn't have one.

It used to be that cell phones were considered a luxury. We don't consider them a luxury any more. In fact, if you live in your truck full time and no longer have a residence, you will most likely need to have some form of telecommunications device or service in order to have other kinds of accounts (like financial accounts).

Many different kinds of cell phone service are on the market today. In fact, quite a number of pre-paid cell phone services are available.

Display of prepaid cell phone services available at a truck stop, including TracFone. This is a photo of a banner over a display of prepaid cell phone services available at a truck stop, showing the names of the services offered. The TracFone symbol is the fourth image from the left on the top row.

On the display of prepaid wireless phone services available at some truckstops, you will see cards like the one pictured at right.

In the case of this service, you can buy one of several number of minutes or plans to use, such as:

  • 60 minutes
  • 120 minutes
  • 200 minutes
  • 1 year + 400 minutes
  • Double minutes and
  • 1 year + double minutes + 800 minutes.
Close-up of a TracFone advertisement at a truckstop, which is not valid until scanned.

This service provider splits up service by requiring users to buy airtime separately from the number of minutes of service. This is an important distinction when using TracFone:

One can have all the airtime in the world but without minutes, one can't call; similarly, one can have all the minutes in the world, but without airtime, one can't call.

Display of various cell phones and services available at a truck stop. This is a larger display of cell phones and service options at one truckstop we visited.

The photo below shows a TracFone section of a display of prepaid cell phones and service options being sold at a truck stop.

The photo below is a close-up of the different models of cell phones being sold with this service.

TracFones and service display at a truck stop. Different cell phones to use with TracFone service.

It is typical that prepaid cell phones (of any brand) may be displayed such that a store associate must unlock the display hanger to release the product.

Notice the different models, brands or styles of pre paid cell phones available. There are four here. Depending on where and when you get your product, there could be more or different models, brands or styles from what are shown here.

  • When we purchased our first phone through this service provider years ago, there was but one model available.
  • Later when we purchased our second, the model had changed. With the change in model came a change (upgrade) in technology. It was impossible for the upgrade in technology to apply to the first phone.
  • The last phone we bought from this service provider was yet a different model from the other two.




If you're looking to buy TracFone pre paid cell phone service, you will want to evaluate which combination of airtime and minutes will be most cost effective for you based on your usage.

A sign showing the highlights of the TracFone prepaid cell phone service.

The sign pictured on the left lists this service provider's "Rate Plan" and what is included with each type of rate.

They state that the "Best Value" is "1 Year + Double Minutes."

It must be stated that pre paid cell phone service can be very desirable from the standpoint that one can never go over on the number of minutes on one's plan (and hence rack up huge overage charges).

Vicki had heard horror stories about people who got slapped with an exorbitant cell phone bill, like the guy who racked up an $85,000 whopper, and she wasn't about to put her family in that kind of situation.

Of course, we realize that that particular article speaks of data transfer on a phone with a contract for voice service, so it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but we have personally gone over on the number of minutes on a contract voice-only cell phone plan in the past, so we know that it's possible.

For years, Vicki adamantly resisted having any kind of wireless phone service with a contract with overage charges past some usage limit. We dabbled around with BellSouth Mobility/DCS/Cingular for awhile but didn't feel that it was cost effective for the usage we had. That led up to us going a pre-paid cell service.

With TracFone, you won't have to worry about your wireless bill being about ready to explode, as one May 12, 2010 article described.

On the other hand, we were so excited to be able to reach each other by phone during the day (instead of waiting for Mike to park at a truck stop and call home from a pay phone) that we really started to eat up the minutes. One month, Vicki figured that between roaming and non-roaming coverage, we spent over $400 on minutes. (Ouch!) It was not long thereafter that we decided to bite the bullet and get contracted cell phone service. Still, the service worked well while we had it.






Pros

From our perspective, here are the pros or positives of using a TracFone device and service.

  • Pro: You can buy a prepaid phone in many locations, including some truck stops.
  • Pro: The service (airtime and minutes) is prepaid, so there are no surprises.
  • Pro: There are no bills (and hence no payments to have to keep up and no late fees).
  • Pro: There are no contracts (like those aggravating multi-year sign-ups with penalties if you break it).
  • Pro: There are no hidden fees (like can often be found in the small print of some contracts).
  • Pro: You can make and receive calls.
  • Pro: The service is good for short conversations.
  • Pro: You are not required to have or use a land line (in other words, it is portable).
  • Pro: If you call from or in a roaming area, it is shown on the phone.
  • Pro: The only limit on your usage once you have airtime is the number of minutes you have.
  • Pro: You undergo no credit checks in order to get the service.
  • Pro: There are no activation or cancellation fees.
  • Pro: The service is provided by a proven company with many years of proven service.
  • Pro: TracFone's promo codes let you get more minutes or more airtime.





Cons

From our perspective, here are the cons or negatives of using this device and service.

  • Con: Using TracFone requires both active service and minutes (two separate services, which can be a little tricky to keep up with).
  • Con: The non-roaming coverage area is limited around your home area. If you travel a lot, you may be in the roaming area a lot.
  • Con: If you're the talkative type, you have to continually buy more minutes.
  • Con: TracFone has no "friends" or network for "free" minutes or user-to-user-for-free calls.
  • Con: There are no free nights or weekends.
  • Con: Calls made on some phones in roaming areas use minutes at twice the number of units per minute.
  • Con: Your phone number can be reassigned if it is not used within a certain period of time
  • Con: There is no headset on the models we bought (this may have changed).
  • Con: There were no local phone numbers at the time we bought them, so using the service required twice the long distance charges (this may have changed).
  • Con: Voice mail calls go against minutes (this may have changed).
  • Con: Minutes are "lost" if not used within specified activation time.
  • Con: When we wanted to give an older phone to an out-of-state relative, we could not because the network wouldn't allow it.


Conclusion

TracFone provides a quality service to those who agree to their terms.






truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: Compare the quantity of airtime combined with minutes -- or minutes by themselves -- to get the best value for the money you can afford to spend. Look at dollar-to-unit conversions on their website.

If you become a "heavy user" of minutes through this "no contract" pre paid cell phone service, consider whether or not a contracted phone service will work better for you.

Don't forget to use the "promo code" to get more value for your money.

When you're considering adding any part of the service to your account, bear in mind what kind of tax (if any) will be charged. Will you be better off ordering more time online than in a retail store?

Did you know that you as a professional truck driver can write a review -- like the one on or linked from this page -- to help other truckers in the worldwide trucking community? You can even earn money in so doing.








Return from A Review of TracFone Pre Paid Cell Phone Service for Truckers to our Telecommunications page or our Service Reviews page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.







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