Friday, October 17, 2008

On Track with Trac

I'm something of a Luddite when it comes to cell phones. I didn't even have one until my oldest daughter gave me a Tracfone for Christmas, 2006. She was so excited for me, she actually snapped a picture as I unwrapped it--capturing forever a shot of me with my best "What the heck am I supposed to do with this?" look on my face.

Over time, I have come around--no longer would I want to be without my cell. I particularly like the idea of having it available for emergencies.

Still, I'm not one of those folks you'll find chatting away on the bus, on the street, or even (much!) in my car.

I pretty much use my cell only to keep track of my kids (or to be more accurate, they call me to keep track of me!) or when I'm running late for appointments, or to be in contact with my office.

I don't routinely give out my cell phone number.

I apparently have the capacity on my Tracfone to text. I wouldn't really know because I've never done that.

I don't have a fancy phone--the $9.99 price for the Motorola phone is the first clue! It doesn't take pictures, it doesn't have fancy ringtones and I can't have George Clooney as my wallpaper.

But what it does do, it does well. It gets reception virtually everywhere. I notice that when I return to my old hometown on the coast, my daughter's Cricket phone stops working about an hour out of our city. And in spite of all those "Can You Hear Me Now" ads, her husband's Verizon phone doesn't get reception in many places in that town either.

Another of my daughters has replaced her phone three times while mine was only replaced once and that's because I ran it through the washing machine. (This is NOT recommended). Then, of course, my replacement was still $9.99. I have dropped the phone innumerable times and even cracked the back plate, but a small piece of duct tape later, it still works just fine.

The per minute price is high. A 60 minute phone card retails for $19.99. There are always codes to be found on the internet that will add anywhere from 20 minutes to 60 minutes to this time. The nice thing about the codes is that you can "try them out" if you use Tracfone's online site to refill the minutes. You can ignore everything Tracfone says about codes being 'only good for one use' or the dates they say the codes can be used. I always try the old codes and often, they continue to work. Oddly, last month, when I couldn't get my minutes credited on the website, I called Tracfone. The operator used the bonus code I gave her, which was supposed to give me an additional 30 minutes, and it gave me an extra 60 minutes. Go figure.

Target sometimes offers the 60 minute cards for $18.99. E-bay is often cheaper than that. My lowest price on E-Bay was $14.50 but that was some time ago. Lately, I haven't been able to get better than $17.50 at auction. I have never been burned buying cards on E-bay for my Tracfone. After the auction, and once my paypal account makes the payment, the seller e-mails me with the code off the card and I use it. I don't bother asking for the card to be mailed because that adds to the cost and so far, it hasn't been necessary.

But with any Tracfone, and even with discount prices and bonus codes, the per minute price remains high, around 16 cents a minute.

That would never work for my kids and some of my colleagues, who seem to run around with their cells glued to their ears--literally, for those addicted to Bluetooth!

However, for me, not having a two year contract or overage charges, actually saves me money. I've been tracking my expenses since January of this year. During that time, I've spent $74.50 for four 60 minute cards that have actually given me 400 minutes. Depending on my use, I need a new card every six to eight weeks.

Trac is keeping me on track with my money.


Living Almost Large said...

I think trac fones are fantastic deals for most people. I am addicted to my phone but I lived without a landline for 2 years apart from my DH in a long distance relationship. We were always on the phone about 2-3 hours in the night just talking while at home alone. Plus when I lived alone I always used the phone while commuting because my mom and DH would worry if I worked late and walked home/bused it.

But it's a great deal for people who barely use a phone. For my grandmother that's how she started. Emergencies, especially if a car broke down or something happened. With the $10/month extra line, my mom just added her on, but she still rarely uses it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review Grace. Looks like this is what I need. How do you get a phone number? Does Tracfone assign one? I assume you can get incoming calls and are not just limited to outgoing ones, right?


Grace. said...

The initial phone number comes with the sim card on the phone (which has ten minutes on it when you buy it for $9.99). Then if (or for me, WHEN) you run the phone through the washing machine and have to get a new phone, you can call Tracfone and ask them to restore your former number to the new phone. BTW, when it happened to me, they also restored all the time left from my phone card on the old phone as well.

Amber C said...

We also use a prepaid plan. We have two phones so both of the boys will have one when they are out. Both are teenagers and I like to be able to stay in touch. I think for both phones we average around $10 per month. They never use all the minutes so we just have to keep the service going.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for responding to my questions. Much appreciated.


Jennifer said...

I love my tracfone too! The per minute price goes down a lot if you purchase larger quantities of minutes at a time. And I bought one that included double minutes for the life of the phone, so everytime I purchase minutes, I automatically get double the amount for no additional charge. A great purchase for anyone who doesn't plan to use their cell phone for "chatting".

Anonymous said...

Wow! I really need to look into this trac fone thing! We pay $65.00 a month for our cell phone service for DH & I - I go weeks without using the phone, but I like to have it on my "just in case."

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