What Is the Difference in Buying Airtime & Adding Airtime with a TracFone?

By Ann Goss

Many TracFone prepaid cellphones are Bluetooth compatible for hands-free use.
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TracFone is a no-contract cellular service provider in the U.S. that, at the time of publication, has more than 18 million subscribers. Instead of monthly plans, TracFone requires customers to purchase and add time to their phone. To get the most from your phone, it's imperative that you understand how the phones use time. You must know how to add time to your phone because it doesn't happen automatically.

The Basics

TracFone uses a system where every call or text message deducts time from your phone. Phone calls you make within your calling area costs 1 unit per minute. If you stray from your local calling area, then you're charged roaming rates of 2 units per minute. Texting rates depend on the phone, but with many phones, you pay .5 unit per text message. Calling and texting rates count whether you make or receive a call.

Importance of Adding Airtime

Failure to add time to your TracFone disables your phone. Until you add additional time, you cannot make or receive calls. Cards with 30 minutes provide you with 45 days of coverage. TracFone cards with 60 to 450 minutes provide 90 days of continuous coverage. One-year service cards provide you with 800 minutes for an entire year. If you need additional time, then supplement your one-year service card with additional time cards. If you do not add additional time before the service ends date, your remaining time will not roll over and you lose your cellphone number.

Buying TracFone Airtime Cards

Many retailers sell TracFone airtime cards. If you do not have a credit card, then you can buy these cards at grocery stores, pharmacies and department stores with cash or a personal check. Find the cards in the racks with gift cards. If you have a credit card, then many online retailers sell the cards, but you do have to wait for them to mail the card to you. After receiving the cards, you must enter the code manually to add the time to your phone.

Buying Airtime by Phone

Rapid Refill is a way to add time to your TracFone. Using Rapid Refill allows you to purchase time directly over your phone from the prepaid menu. With Rapid Refill, no additional steps are necessary in order to add time.