By Cindy Quarters
A TracFone works differently than many other cellphones in that the user purchases time in advance, rather than signing a contract. This eliminates hidden charges, roaming fees and credit checks. The customer pays for only as much time as he needs. When he makes a call, he uses or spends his minutes. In addition to getting basic cellphone service, TracFone owners can tap into some beneficial programs just by knowing a few handy "secrets."
International Long Distance
TracFone owners can make international calls to dozens of countries around the world for the same cost as that of making local calls. In some cases you can call cellphones in other countries, but in other cases you can only call landlines. The official TracFone web site has a list of which countries can be called under this program, including which ones you can call with cell phones. The list is updated on a regular basis as TracFone adds countries.
In order to call an international number, a user must first dial a TracFone access number. This takes the call into a phone menu which provides dialing directions. After a brief wait, the call is connected. To make connecting easier, you can store the access number as a speed dial number. All TracFones can use this service, so there is no need for users to sign up again. New users need to wait 48 hours for the service to be available to them.
Mexico and Canada
Users with friends and family in either Canada or Mexico can apply to be issued local numbers for different regions of those two countries. For example, if a TracFone user in the U.S. has relatives in Mexico City, he can request a number for his TracFone that is local to Mexico City. He can then provide that number to his family in Mexico City. When they dial this number they will be making a call which is local to them, but it will ring the user's TracFone in the United States. This does not replace the original TracFone phone number, but instead is programmed into the phone as a second number.
TracFone owners can get up to three different numbers for either Mexico or Canada, issued to the user at no cost. This means that if the user described above also has friends or family in Mazatlan and Cancun, he can request additional local numbers for those areas as well. The cost to the caller is the same as it would be to call that number if it were within the country of origin. The incoming call on the TracFone uses the same number of minutes as would any other call, including a local one.
Pre-paid minutes can be purchased for the TracFone through retail and discount stores, as well as online through the TracFone web site. The cost per minute goes down as the number of minutes bought at one time goes up. Double-minute cards are also available. These cards double the minutes of all minute purchases for a period of time, usually a year.
One of the best ways to get a good deal on minutes is to buy one of the special TracFone deals from the web site. Although the exact features of the deals may vary, typically a customer can purchase a TracFone which has doubled minutes for life for under $20, including shipping. Any minutes added to that phone will automatically be doubled.