The Low-end: How $100 Got me a Smartphone and Service for the Year
This plan has become my choice pick for cheapest plan, but keeping within the (very low) limits of this plan is not without its challenges. I first heard of this deal around Black Friday and it seemed too good to be true – a smartphone via Tracfone piggybacking off of the Verizon network, with 1-year service, for $100. 1200min/1200txt/1200MB seemed like too little for me, but I researched my usage over the past year and decided to pull the trigger. While my exact deal may not appear again, deals like it (a Tracfone smartphone bundled with a 1-year service card) pop up from time to time. And the price not-on-sale for these offerings is not much more anyway.
So what’s the deal?
Tracfone offers “Triple-minutes-for-life” pay-as-you-go Android phones that will triple any refill cards that you add to it. Adding a 60-minute card, for instance, would give you 180 minutes. These cards typically have an expiration, say 30 days for the 60-minute card. The longest time you can extend on a refill is 365 days, and for that length of service you will need one of the higher minute cards, such as the 400-minute card. The 400-minute cards will not just triple your minutes to 1200 minutes, but also come with 1200 texts, and 1200 MB of data. That comes out to 100min/100txt/100MB a month. Got it? Okay.
While that is not much data… that’s the cheapest you will be able to keep a line active for a full year by a wide margin. And for some (myself included), I can live within those minutes no-problem. I use Google Hangouts for making and receiving calls at home, and can even dial out from the Tracfone over wifi without touching my minutes or data. So, those 1200 minutes are really for me 1200 while-I-am-away-from-wifi minutes. Staying under 1.2GB, on the other hand, requires a lot more trade-offs, and a few tricks, but it is possible to do (while still enjoying chat, email, and occasional maps usage).
Where to find?
So those are the basics of the pay-as-you-go arrangement. Now, how do you find a deal on a year of service for only $100. The key is to find the bundle deals. I will post them as I come across them in our deals section. The deal that I got last time came with the Moto E, a low-cost but still very functional smartphone, and a 400-minute refill card good for one year of service. The bundles are appealing because they are often cheaper than the price of the 400-minute refill card alone.
If you go the pay-as-you-go route through Trac, your hardware options are going to be limited. I am happy with the Moto E, but make no mistake, it is a cheap phone. Still, for what is essentially a $10 phone you do get a lot of bang for your buck, 960x540 screen, latest bluetooth LE standards, FM radio, etc.
The biggest selling point of this plan is that it piggy-backs on the Verizion network. Plans at this level are always MVNO, there aren’t any ‘real’ network options, so whatever you choose you will inevitably end up connected through Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T. For me, trying all of these services in my area over the last few years, I only really had one option - Verizon, which worked on my commute, in my office, and at home. Historically, low-end options on the Verizon network have been very limited, so finding this plan for me was a huge savings.
While Trac uses many MVNOs, all of their Android phones are running on Verizon at the time of this writing.
Data Refill Cards
My goal has been to live on 100MB a month included with the refill, but Trac does offer added data if you run out before the 365 days of service. Those costs at the time of this writing are below:
1200MB of data for a year of service is unrealisticly low for most users, but with the low initial cost and refill options, everyone should consider this plan. $200 would buy you the year of service and 5.2GB, and is still way under the cost of most monthly post-paid plans.
Reviewed by Cheapest Data Plan on
A cheap option for keeping a line in service, but you will be stretched depending on your usage.