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Tracfone vs Straight Talk: Both are owned by Verizon, but how do they differ?
MVNO carriers are more popular now than ever before. Naturally, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have all sat up and noticed this trend. In order to win over prepaid customers, traditional carriers have mostly resorted to either making their own prepaid brands or buying out existing carriers. For Verizon, that meant the creation of Visible as well as the purchase of several once-independent brands like Tracphone. What makes matters more confusing is that Tracphone has its own sub-brands like Net10 and Straight Talk. In this quick guide, we take a brief look at Tracfone vs Straight Talk to better explain the differences.
I’ll be honest about my experience up front: I’ve used both carriers in the past, but it’s been a while. I’m very familiar with the network they run on, but obviously, the plans and pricing have changed. I also have family and friends on both of these services. I spoke to them briefly about their experiences to better help inform this article.
Tracfone vs Straight Talk: Similar coverage and prioritization
This versus is going to be a little different than my usual format due to just how similar these brands are. Both Straight Talk and Tracfone are going to have the same coverage maps and the same prioritization. Both run on the Verizon network, as GSM networks have been phased out. Neither is going to see the speeds you’d get with Verizon proper, but it isn’t a bad experience. Expect similar to what you’d get from Visible Plus in terms of deprioritization. In other words, its data should always be usable, but you might see speeds below 10Mbps in areas or times with high traffic.
Tracfone vs Straight Talk: A tale of two very different strategies
If we’re talking about value for the money, Straight Talk gives you more data and features for less cash. There is just one limited data plan with 10GB of data, but there are many different unlimited options. Some include extras like international calling, others are designed for more than one phone line, and there are even discounts for paying for more service in advance — similar to Mint Mobile’s structure.
Tracphone’s pricing isn’t very good in comparison. For example, Straight Talk gives you 10GB of data, unlimited calls, and texts (including calls to Mexico and Canada) for just $35. The closest match on Tracphone is the 8GB plan which includes unlimited talk and text but no international calling and costs $40 a month.
So why would you ever consider Tracphone in the first place? Honestly, the main appeal is for those who don’t use their phones much. Tracphone began its life as a burner phone company. It was also targeted towards those who only needed a phone for emergencies. This hasn’t changed much.
Most Tracphone owners are either subscribing because the brand is known to them and they aren’t educated on better choices, or they simply have limited phone needs.
Tracfone is best for emergency/limited use
While most prepaid carriers have limited or no basic phone selections, Tracphone still has tons of plans targeted at so-called dumb phones. It does offer smartphone plans, but there are no unlimited options. Its best deals are going to either plan with very low amounts of data or those where you pay for long-term service upfront. For the former, there are a few decent plans if you don’t use your phone much:
- 2GB of data for $20 a month: You also get unlimited talk and text with this plan.
- 500MB of data for $15 a month: You also get unlimited talk and text with this plan.
- Basic phone service for $10 a month: You also get 500 minutes and 500 texts with this plan.
None of these options are amazing, but they are perfect for those who keep a spare phone in their car or really only turn on their phone when away from home in case someone really needs to get ahold of them.
Tracphone also sells long-term plans that range from 60 to 365 days. This might sound similar to Mint, but don’t be fooled. If you were to buy a Mint plan with 5GB data and pay for a year in advance, you’d get 5GB every single month. With Tracfone, you get a tiny pool of minutes, texts, and sometimes data. If you were to use them all up in a few weeks, that would be that.
Here are just a few long-term Tracphone plans to give you an idea:
- 90 days of service for $50: this gets you 750 minutes, 1500 texts, and 2GB of data.
- A year of service for $125: This gets you 1500 minutes, 1500 texts, and 1.5GB of data. You can use it anytime, but it expires within a year.
- A year of service for $199: This gets you unlimited talk, text, and a total of 24GB (2GB a month roughly)
Tracfone vs Straight Talk: Which should you get?
So who wins in the Tracfone vs Straight Talk debate? Neither really. Tracphone is better for emergency use, and for those who need basic service; Straight Talk is better for those who want more data. They are very different services and target different folks.
I’m not going to mince words here, I feel like there are way better options than Tracphone for most users. The brand has been around forever and has a following, but it’s mostly older folks (for example, one of my parents uses it with a long-term service plan) that are clinging to their landlines for the majority of their phone needs. It’s also sometimes used for those who want a cheap emergency burner for their kids.
If you were interested in Tracphone for its long-term plans, Mint Mobile’s long-term plans aren’t going to cost you much more than Tracphone but will give you more for that price. A good example is the 5GB plan. You’ll get 5GB of data every single month alongside unlimited talk and text, all for $180. That’s $19 cheaper than Tracfone’s yearly plan, which includes unlimited talk, text, and the equivalent of 2GB a month.
For those who want a low amount of data and mostly want a device for emergencies or when you leave home? Tello is a great choice, with options as low as 500MB and yet with pricing as low as $5 a month.
What about Straight Talk? If you want the option of actual customer service (though it is limited), Straight Talk has an arrangement to sell its phones at Walmart and even provides basic customer help and repair at a cost. This makes it appealing to those who are less tech-savvy. Its actual plan pricing is okay, but nothing amazing. Unless you’re really set on Straight Talk, we’d consider Visible for those who want great pricing and great data.