August 12, 2020

Tracfone Beginners Guide - New to Tracfone? Start Here!

How to Get Started with Tracfone Prepaid Service

Updated August 2020

If you're new to Tracfone, or want to know more about how it works, this is the place to begin!
how does tracfone work
How Tracfone Works - Beginners Guide

Learn the basics of what Tracfone offers, the  phones and airtime available, and how to get your phone up and running!

Also get a general overview of the different kinds of prepaid minutes, from add-on to unlimited, we've got all the details to get you started with Tracfone here.

Let's get to it!

What is Tracfone?

Tracfone Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that provides both prepaid service and a variety of branded smartphones to use with their service. They do not have any contracts and all airtime has unlimited carry over for talk, text and data.

If you would like more general information on Tracfone, go check out our page, About Tracfone (and then come back).

What Does Tracfone Offer and How Do Minutes Work?

Tracfone offers prepaid cell phone service in the form of airtime cards, with values ranging from 30 minutes to 1500 minutes. Some options are only available online at the Tracfone website, but many prepaid minute cards, like the 60, 120, 200, 450 and 400/1 year cards are available from many different retailers, both in stores and online. (You can find cards at stores like Walmart, Target, Dollar General, Amazon, and eBay)

Tracfone now offers four different types of cards:
  • Regular airtime cards - Can be used with regular phones or smartphones, comes with varying amounts of airtime and service days
  • Smartphone only airtime cards - Can only be used with smartphones, comes with a certain amount of talk, text, data and service days
  • Unlimited smartphone cards - Only for smartphones, comes with unlimited talk and text, a certain mount of data (1-3 GB) and 30 service days
  • Add-on cards - Only for smartphones, comes with either talk, text or data in a specific amount and no service days.
The Smartphone airtime cards can be used with any smartphones, and offer specific amounts of talk, text and data (plus service days) on each card. Most smartphone cards come with 60 service days.

Unless otherwise marked, the Regular airtime cards come with 90 days of service. So, for example, if you buy a 60 minute card (which usually costs $20), you get 60 minutes for calling and texting, and also 90 days of service time. The regular airtime cards come with either 60, 120, 200 or 450 minutes. When you add a regular airtime card to a smartphone, the airtime is automatically split into talk, text and data. With the 60 minute card, that would be 60 talk, 60 texts and 60 MB Data.

If you use all the 60 minutes, you can't make any more calls or texts. And if you go beyond the 90 days without renewing, you also can't make any more calls or texts. So you don't want either to run out!

The nice thing is that minutes and service days roll over. So if you already have 100 minutes, and 10 service days, when you add a 60 minute card, you will end up with 160 minutes and 100 service days!

So its good to keep track of your minutes/service days because you don't want to run out.

Many Tracfone devices come with either Double Minutes for Life or Triple Minutes for Life. These are great bonuses that make it so every minute you add to your phone will be either doubled, or tripled. Look carefully at the descriptions for Tracfone devices to see which they include. Most newer Tracfone's come with Triple Minutes for Life, including many of the Android phones (except those using Android 6.0 or newer, and released after April 2017).

Tracfone has recently Changed their Triple Minutes for Life policy, and new phones released after April 2017 may not include that feature. Follow the link to learn more about these changes.

Tracfone service can be very low cost, as little as $10 a month (even less for some!). And there are prepaid plans that automatically add airtime and service days so you don't have to worry about it.

Tracfone also provides its own branded phones to use with its service. These include both smartphones and regular phones. They have a number of options, ranging from $10 flip phones, to $100 Android powered smartphones and even several different Apple iPhones. We will cover more details on the phones offered by Tracfone a little further below.

Airtime is deducted for sending or receiving calls, for sending or receiving texts, and also for using the web (when not connected to WiFi).

On Android smartphones, airtime is split into three pools, one for calling, texting and data. Learn more about how minutes work by reading our Guide to How Minutes Work with Tracfone Smartphones.

Now, let's move on to activating your Tracfone.

How to Setup Your First Tracfone

Setting up a new Tracfone devices is very easy, and can usually be done in a few minutes, with it taking a few hours to fully activate.

Each Tracfone device should come with a small red card that includes instructions, and the phones serial number which you will need to register the phone.

You can activate your phone by following the directions, and either calling Tracfone or going online to their website. You can choose to either activate your phone with a new number, or transfer your number from your old phone.

The process for activating phones with Tracfone is usually very easy, and doesn't take much time. But occasionally, and especially with BYOP phones or some smartphones, you might run into problems that cause it to take longer. The key is to be persistent and patient.

Once your phone is activated, you will be able to manage your minutes on the home screen (except for the smartphones, where you can use the Tracfone My Account App). You can also check your minutes by signing in to the Tracfone website and going to your account page. Learn 4 Ways to Check your Tracfone Airtime for some additional methods!

Visit our Guide to Activating Smartphones and BYOP devices for more information on these newer phones.

Now that your phone is all set, you can add minutes to it, and start enjoying the freedom and flexibility of a no-contract phone.

Cell Phones Available with Tracfone

As we mentioned above, Tracfone sells their own branded devices for use on their cell phone network. They get these phones through partnerships with many major cell phone makers like LG, Samsung, Apple and others.

Tracfone cell phones generally cannot be used on other networks or unlocked (you can check if your Tracfone can be Unlocked in our recent guide), but you can bring a variety of smartphones to use with the Tracfone 'Bring Your Own Phone' program (BYOP).

There are three general categories of Tracfone devices that we will explain:
  • Feature Phones (non-smartphone)
  • Tracfone Smartphones (Android and iPhone)
  • BYOP Phones (Unlocked smartphones)
The Non-Android or Feature Phones are the cheapest, and usually include flip phones, some touchscreens, and other 'basic' phones which do calling and texting well, but might not have internet capabilities. These phones may have double or triple minutes included, and often have long battery life.

These phones have been around for a while, and are generally durable and get the job done. Some examples include the LG 530G and LG 306G. The LG Classic Flip is a newer option that has 4G LTE capability for those who like basic flip phones.

Feature phones are best used as a backup phone, or for people who just want to call/text.

See these and many more phones on our Cell Phone Reviews page.

tracfone smartphone
Tracfone J7 Crown
Android Smartphones and Apple iPhones - Tracfone sells a variety of Android powered smartphones ranging form $20 to several hundred dollars for newer, better phones. Android devices have access to over a million apps and can be used for many things. See what phones are new with our List of the Latest Tracfone Smartphones. 

Tracfone also recently added several Apple iPhones including the iPhone 5S, 6, 7, 8 and iPhone SE. These devices use Apple iOS and have access to the Apple App Store.

Smartphones are great for daily use and Tracfone offers Smartphone-only airtime cards that are a great deal for most users (smartphones can also use the regular airtime cards).

Remember that airtime is split up into talk, text and data with all smartphones.

See some of the latest smartphones on our Cell Phone Reviews page. Also learn How to Add Texts to your Smartphone and How Data Works on Tracfone Smartphones for more in depth information.
unlocked smartphone
Unlocked Moto G7

'Bring Your Own Phone' or BYOP, is a program Tracfone offers that allows users to bring their own device to use with Tracfone service. In general, an unlocked phone is required, but some locked devices will also work. There are a wide variety of unlocked smartphones available that offer great performance at a reasonable cost. The Moto G6 and Moto G7 are popular options currently.

To activate a phone with the BYOP program you just need your device and a BYOP SIM kit. Learn more about what phones will work and the activation process on our BYOP page.

The BYOP program is great for users who want to get the most out of their phone or enjoy shopping for bargains on unlocked phones.

Tracfone Promo Codes

If you are new to Tracfone, you might not know about Tracfone Codes! Basically these are codes provided by Tracfone which will give you extra minutes for free whenever you add a new prepaid minutes card. There are certain codes that work for different Cards.

Visit our Tracfone Promo Codes page for all the codes, and more details.

Additional Tracfone Resources and Helpful Links

We want to share a few more additional resources for learning more about Tracfone, and getting the most from your device. So browse the following links and take advantage of the information.

For the latest deals and sales on Tracfone devices, head over to our Deals and Discounts category which features periodically updated blog posts that share the lowest prices on Tracfone devices and minutes.

If you have a new smartphone, two posts which are great resources are The Best Android Apps for Tracfone, and Tracfone Smartphone Cases and Covers.

Debating about buying a smartphone? Our list of 6 Major Differences Between Android Smartphones and Non-Android phones may help you with that decision!

Well we hope this information will help you out, and be sure to leave a comment if you have questions! Also share this along with a friend who could also use it!

And if you want to keep up with us and the latest news and info, follow us on Facebook.

Thanks for visiting!


Anonymous said...

Wow! Good info! Didn't know about the byop option, but the free minutes from those codes are great! Are there any tracfone phones you think are like kinda comparable to high-tech modern phones like galaxy s4? or could you bring something like the s4 in on the byop?

Alisha McAdams said...

Can anyone tell me why some Android phones say they won't work in certain areas? I'm interested in upgrading from the ZTE Valet, and when I search my zip code, none of the new phones come up. It even says the Valet won't work in my zip code, but I'm currently using one. I live in a good sized city, too. If I buy one of the new ones, will it work?

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me how to add Promo Codes to the UMX maximum pro?

222BoogieBoogieAvenue said...

You don't add promo codes to the device itself- you fill it in when you are adding the minutes thru your online account. At the end of the form there is a question asking "do you have any promo codes?" I just added it there and BAM got a few extra minutes. The minutes were tripled to begin with (so I'd purchased 60 mins which turned into 180 then the promo code bumped it up to 230- so that was a good deal)

Anonymous said...

I currently have a Trac flip phone and would like to switch to a Trac smart phone, but having difficultly finding a retailer locally that has phones that do NOT require a plan.
What would be a good phone that I can do that with?

Unknown said...

how do you get music on lg phone, so frustrated

Anonymous said...

Have a new TracFone LG Ultimate 2 that I got through QVC and have finally gotten it connected ... but phone and texts only are working. I'm having a really hard time trying to get internet service, and cannot seem to find any information anywhere. Doesn't it automatically work for internet? They certainly made it sound like it does. The Wi-Fi sources that come up as available all require a password...well, I don't have the passwords for any of them, so I still have no internet service. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me a tracfone model that is NOT a smartphone that will display the sending and receiving texts on the same screen? I have one that displays the text messages on separate screens and I don't like not being able to see the entire conversation on one screen. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Did you get an answer? I have the same problem,do you or anyone know of a real
person or number that I can talk to?

Unknown said...

To get data working on the QVC tracfone once your home page is there,put your finger up top and swipe down. look to top right where you see "Data" tap it with your finger to activate e-mail etc........assuming you have e-mail/internet g-mail etc it should star to download

Anonymous said...

Why do I have to redeem a code to get messenger for Facebook ? Then when I try to to put one in, it tells me I HAVE NO INTERNET ! This Android is a pain & I have no service at my house. Loosing patients fast !

Floridananny said...

I would like to have a cover for my new LG Power L22C Tracfone. Would appreciate your help.

Anonymous said...

*Best* feature of tracefone you don't have to create account /register; ~register~ phone yes, but not yourself.

Anonymous said...

How do I transfer my remaining minutes on my non android phone to an identical phone which has never been activated? Please reply. Thank you!

TracfoneReviewer Team said...

Go on the Tracfone website and activate your phone, transfering your number/airtime over

Katie said...

What do you think of auto refill. Are there any cons. I see you get a 10% discount and they already have your credit card information?
Next question, I went with the BYOP and when on my account showing different options for purchasing airtime, ex if signing up for auto refill it asks if you have a promo code. I thought you couldn't use promo codes with smartphone?
Thanks for all your helpful information, I really appreciate it as I find Tracfone's site and customer service, user unfriendly.

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Are there any Tracfones that can connect to my computer via the USB so I can download photos and upload music?
Great site, thanks for the effort.

Allan Damon said...

Is the tracfone reconditioned Samsung galaxy e5 any good or should I stay anyway from it?

TracfoneReviewer Team said...

It depends on the price, if it is available for under $200 it might be a good deal. It is a less expensive version of the Galaxy S5, and it doesn't have some same features. The original version, priced at $350 new, seemed a little overpriced for what you got, but a refurbished version might be worth the money. Other options might be the LG Stylo 2.

Unknown said...

Whenever I get a group text message I get an alert that says I have a text but when i try to read it it says "can't download now..." Can this be fixed?

Anonymous said...

Smartphones will!
Just install a micro SD card in it. (64GB)
Plug the charging cord into your computer.
Go to and treat it like
it is a flash drive !!!
I wish You Well;

Unknown said...

How does auto refill work? How does one end it?

Is it possible to speak with a human for support?

Anonymous said...

New problem with TF today,

I used the website to add data to one of four phones I manage. I know how to do this as I've used the website many times before.

The data was put onto the wrong phone. TF absolutely refuses to move the data, and refuses to refund the money. Do I cancel the transaction on my credit card?

I noticed that there is a serious defect in the website, during the checkout and confirmation it does not once again list either the phone number or the MEID that the data/minues/texts will be applied to. This is a serious web design error, there should be a last minute confirmation of this detail.

TF said to me there is no one who I can bring this up with. When thing go wrong with TF it is a mess!

Anonymous said...

I called customer service with 3 different reps for tracphone because my calls were suddenly being forwarded and tracfone customer service nor myself could get the phone to stop doing it, nor could they ascertain where the calls were going. The phone, LG306g was also giving very poor sound quality. After the service rep said, "now you can have a phone that is only for you and not shared," I was given a reference number for a replacement phone. When a few weeks passed and I didn't receive the phone, customer service said they had no record of the reference number I had been given and I was then also told, I could not have a replacement phone. I'm also charged twice a month but receive minutes for only one of the charges. Please adivse.

Anonymous said...

Would be nice if Tracfone assigned funds to the phone owner's account instead of to individual phones, so if we want to swap phones we could do it without deactivating & activating, we would either move the SIM card like AT&T used to let me do when i was with them, or choose the phone we want to use from a list registered with Tracfone. When upgrading or swapping it would greatly save time because the funds would be credited to a single account no matter what the devices on the account were. It would save Tracfone lots of customer service time they currently use for swaps. The SIM card swap with AT&T is so easy, fast, it makes sense but their 25c per minute talk rates on the basic plan were a bit much. 10c per minute was do able but 25c rates sent me to Tracfone.

Anonymous said...

I've has my ZTE Zfive tracfone for about 3 months, and I think it's the worst piece of garbage I've ever had. If you as much as breathe on it, it will dial someone's number w/o me realizing it. The thing that really makes me mad as hell is that you can't disable the voicemail. When I get an incoming call, it never gives me enough time to answer, and the call goes to voicemail. It even says on Tracfone's website that voicemail cannot be disabled and that "if you don't want voicemail, don't set it up".

CrackleGator said...

"Tracfone has recently Changed their Triple Minutes for Life policy, and hew phones released after April 2017"

It appears that "hew" above is a typo.

Please acknowledge . . .

yogaRN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yogaRN said...

Anyone know if there is a maximum amount of minutes TF will allow you to transfer to a new phone? I want to BYOP but have about 5000 minutes of talk/text/data. I know they used to cap it at 1500. I hate my little crapper phone which is why I have so many minutes. I haven’t been able to find this anywhere on the site and am loathe to speak to the reps. Thanks!

Murphy Daniel said...

I also carry a large number of unused minutes to my HSN Tracfone of the year - each and every year. With no issues. Until this year. Everything transferred over to the new Fiesta 2, however the unit will not place or accept calls. On-line and phone reps were unable to resolve the issue. They are sending a new SIM card through the mail. Anyone else have this problem?

PT56 said...

I recently purchased a TracFone in Oregon. When I was traveling in Alaska, the telephone would not make any calls. Text messaging worked most of the time, but one text message took 3 days to arrive at its destination. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions on how to fix this issue in the future?

Anonymous said...

Maybe not necessarily a beginner question, but I was wondering...for those Tracfone models that support Voice Over LTE, does having this feature turned on use data and does the data on/off on the phone need to be on for it to work?

Stanley said...

I just bought my first smartphone, being a Tracfone. I bought a regular (white) 120 min. airtime card (as a starter) and it seems to have loaded in fine. I do have phone service but not internet service. Question: Is there one more step to get internet service? Or do I need to buy a gigabyte card too?

Unknown said...

I bought my tracfone from QVC four months ago. I love the phone but TracFone does not have unlimited data, tax, and phone. So, it gets very expensive. I have called almost every company I know of in order to find someone that is compatible with TracFone but so far consumer Cellular is the only one. Does anyone else know of another company I could go to besides consumer Cellular? Thanks