WOW Framer
Jul 24, 2001
Buffalo, New York, USA/Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada
I have finally decided to break down and buy a cell phone for emergency use ONLY in my car (for when I get lost, mostly).

I have seen the ads for this Tracfone thing and it sounds exactly like what I have been waiting for - pay as you go, no plans, no bills, etc. I am not a big talkonthephoneallday kinda person.

Anyone had any experience with this kind of phone - it is a Nokia and only $20 for the phone itself - I guess you buy little cards for the minutes you need. I imagine the minutes expire once they are activated, after a certain period of time, like "old-fashioned" phone cards.

$10 would probably last me several months, if not a year.



Bueller??? :confused:
Wow - I guess if something sound too good to be true...

Who needs a cell phone anyways???

I'll just arm myself with more maps and the AAA which is now offering a premium service where they will help you find your way if you get lost...


Except I'll need a cell phone to call them.


Whatever happened to those nice pay phones that used to dot the landscape?
I found one site with lots of complaints about tracfone (to be fair a few folk had no complaints).

The main one was discrepancy with time of calls.
Folk would talk for a minute and lose 10 minutes of time etc.

Also they'd use a lot of pre paid time waiting to talk to customer service to complain !

Here in Aus, you can get really good monthly capped deals . . . for example pay (AUD)$49, get $230 worth of calls, and the calls aren't overcharged like one might think.
You can even get pre paid deals like this.

I use my mobile for local calls and to mobiles up to just under the cap limit, and use
voip phone for interstate calls.

Has trimmed the home and office bills a treat.

I wonder how long land lines have got ?
5 - 10 years maybe ?
Tracfone can work for you, but you can't buy a $10 card and just sit on it for a year.

The minutes don't go away if you don't use them, but you need to add a minimum amount every 60 days to keep the plan active unless you buy one of the one-year cards.

The simplest way to do that is to buy a 1-year card that includes 150 minutes. I'm not sure, but I think it might cost about $70. Then you don't have to do anything for another year. If you don't use the minutes, they'll roll over to the next year, but you need to buy another card then.

Tracfone leases services from other cellular services. Depending on when and where you sign up, you might find that your primary carrier is US Cellular, for example. The good news is, there are very few places in the U.S. where you won't get a signal, though you may be roaming if you are very far from home. You need to check on Canada, though.

The reason I know this stuff is because I've used Tracfone myself for at least five years. I got it after I got disgusted with Verizon ("Can you hear me now?") which wouldn't get a signal in several locations in the city I live in. One of those locations was the dog park. :eek:

The way I buy minutes, I end up paying about ten cents a minute. I'm not a heavy user and it's worked out very well for me. Mine is one of the few phones and services that will work inside the building I work in every day.

Any questions, let me know.
I have 3 elderly relatives that use the TracFone service, and theyre very happy with it. (very light users, maybe 5 mins/month) They get the year cards, so the minutes dont expire.

The quality of the sound is terrible on the phones they were given(Kyocera I think), but they were free. (they give the phones away often.) Theres a deal now for a free Nokia 1100 if you buy a $99 one year card with 250 minutes, including long distance. For emergencies, thats good enough.

Mike (I use Verizon and Nextel, the #1 and #5 companies)
We got my high school son a Tracfone because we didn't want him to be tempted to use it for fun. So far we are very happy with both the phone, the service and the price. However, my brother has one and says that 75% of the time when he is in his "home" area it shows that he's roaming.

I bought a Tracfone in Nov. and it has been great for me. I got basic Nokia phone for $19 at Wal-Mart. I have had no problems with getting a signal and I've used it on vacation in San Diego and out in the country. No problems with minutes. They actually call them units. Sending text costs .5 units, regular call 1 unit per minute and roaming, 2 units per minute. I don't seem to get charged extra units when roaming. I guess it has to do with the phone being GSM.

The cards come in unit packs that are 60 days or 1 year. If you don’t use up the minutes in a given period, they roll into the next period if you get buy more minutes. They can only roll over one time.

I just bought a 250 unit 1-year card for $100. They always have promotions for more units and I got an extra 200 units. I got the card over the weekend and it expires on 4-1-07, so I get 13 months. That is about $7.70 per month for a cell phone.

Of course, the whole idea is basic communication. If you like to chat with friends for 30 minutes at a time, Tracfone is not for you. I use 30 minutes a month, so it is great for me.
I got my mom set up with the Tracfone, and she has had no problems. She uses it for emergency purposes. Has worked out for her, cost was good for someone on a fixed income and no desire to have a phone stuck to their head!
You are supposed to be able to use any phone for an emergency 911 call. Keep an old non active phone charged and in the car. Now if you end up in a storm where there is no power to the towers the cell is useless.

If you have a family member who has a cell you could add another line to it, for $10 a month. More like $20 when you add caller id and pay all of the taxes etc. We did this, unit to unit mintes are free, nights and weekend minutes are free with 1200 anytime minutes and it has saved both of us money. Check out the plans with a local company.
I got one last week because I'll be travelling a little in the upcoming weeks, and had a family situation arise which makes me want to be easy to reach. I needed the phone to be activated in less time than it's going to take me to figure out which plan to choose.

I've only made a few calls but yes, the "Units" seem to run down faster than I expected.

I don't talk enough to pay for both a cell phone, and a land line at home, so when I was making that choice about a year ago I chose land line. A friend of mine chose the opposite. I'm still weighing the pros and cons, but am thinking I might switch.

I used to be a cell phone hater, but there are times when they are darned handy. And free nights and weekends - that's when I make the most calls anyway.

I chose TracFone over Sprint's pay as you go deal because the phone itself was significantly cheaper.
The features and call quality are going to depend on which phone you buy. I'm using a Motorola V60 and I love it.

The retailers usually carry only the most basic Nokia for Tracfone, but if you go to the website, you can see the full range of what's available.

The only time I ever had to call them was when I was trying to port my phone number and remaining units from an old phone to a new one. It took a couple of calls, and I'm pretty sure I was talking to someone in Pakistan, but they got me through it and solved the problem.

I would NEVER call anybody's customer service from a mobile phone unless it was the only phone within 50 miles.

I got Sarah a Virgin wireless phone for Xmas 'cause it was a snazzier phone and had more plan flexibility than Tracfone. If your calling habits change, you can change plans accordingly. There are some gaps in Virgin's service areas, though.

Most of the traditional cell services require a contract. I don't do contracts. Joby signed up for one with Verizon after they swore there would be service both at home and college and all points in between. It didn't work on campus, and it was nearly impossible to break the 2-year contract. He finally unloaded the phone on eBay two years later.

He switched to Sprint and he is what I would call a heavy cell user since he travels a lot and rarely uses the regular phone in his dorm.
AY! What a lot to think about - it would seem that Tracfone has cleaned up its act a bit since 2003 when they got all that bad press. But I still don't know what I am going to do! EEEEK!

Are Tracfones what the bad guys use on the TV cop shows when they talk about "untraceable" phones? Or does that just mean any phone without a contract?

What I really need is OnStar... but I'd probably have to get a new car for that and that would cost a bit more than a cell contract! Yikes.

The last time I got lost and had to hunt down a pay phone I ended up in a Scottish pub in Cambridge, Ontario and the bartender called me "Lass." I bet nobody on a cell phone will ever call me "Lass!" LOL!

Thanks for alll the info, everyone!
If all you're concerned about is getting lost maybe you should consider getting a navigation system. If you already have a laptop you can get a GPS receiver and mapping program for a hundred bucks. If not, or you don't want to carry a laptop around, you can get an in-car/portable one for five or six hundred.