At first sight, TracFone appears to be a no-frills prepaid cell phone provider: its cell phones are basic and it has no unlimited monthly plan. And while T-Mobile's prepaid minutes don't expire for 90 days, TracFone minutes expire in 30 days. But TracFone sets itself apart for its international long-distance service: TracFone customers can call over 60 countries and are charged at the local calling rate. In addition, TracFone is one of the few carriers to offer a family plan to share minutes.
TracFone piggybacks on several national cell phone carriers, and a top consumer survey finds that its call quality rivals Verizon's and outclasses AT&T's and T-Mobile's -- at a fraction of the price. TracFone offers two types of no-contract prepaid phone plans: Monthly prepaid plans start at $10 for 50 minutes, and you can opt for a family plan to add additional phones at reduced prices. Pay-as-you-go plans allow you to add minutes only as you need them, for as little as $10 for 30 minutes. Unused minutes will roll over as long as you add a new refill before the old one expires (between 30 days and one year, depending on the price of the refill). Rates for text messages vary.
The 60 available long-distance destinations include countries in all parts of the world. For most of these countries, calling to a cell phone is not included in this feature. However, the countries to which you can call cell phones include the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
TracFone's no-frills service gets high marks from customers in major nationwide surveys, including those at J.D. Power and Associates and PCMag.com.